VPN — Privacy on the Surface Web
Privacy is a Human Right. But the Internet provides very little to enforce this basic Human need.
Even if we factor out malicious users trying to steal other’s data,
there are so many websites and trackers that “legally” collect our data for numerous purposes.
If that isn’t scary enough, even your ISP (Internet Service Provider) knows everything you are doing on the internet.
If even that doesn’t concern you, very well.
“Privacy isn’t for the passive.”
But if you have chosen to be concerned, here is VPN, a technology that promises to protect our privacy.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that allows users to
protect their identity and data on the internet from hackers, trackers, and everyone between the user and website via an Encrypted Tunnel between the user and the VPN server.
The original VPNs were created for remote work environments to stop data theft.
This means the infrastructure for Work from Home was present long before the COVID crisis.
VPNs allowed Remote Users to securely connect to the Office network, ensuring no one was sniffing on their communications.
The modern VPNs are public VPNs that allow users to not only protect their data but also their identities and locations.
When we access a website via a VPN, it also works as a Proxy for us.
The Website thinks that the VPN machine is accessing them and not us.
VPN is like a mediator between us and the website, entrusted to protect our data and identity.
What is an Encrypted Tunnel?
Encrypted Tunnel refers to a virtual Tunnel built by using a certain Tunneling Protocol.
This tunnel keeps our data encrypted and safe from sniffers.
When we send Data over network, the Data is first converted into TCP Packets and then sent.
With Tunneling Protocol ON, our packet is first Encapsulated (hidden in another packet), encrypted and then sent as a New Packet with Destination set to our VPN Server.
Whoever intercepts this packet, will find the destination to be VPN Server and not the True Destination.
Encrypted Tunnel for Reinforced Security
The Encrypted Tunnel doesn’t only help hiding our identity. It also provides for encryption.
But above that, it does a really complicated task to save us from unprotected websites.
Unprotected websites are sites on the Internet that still use unencrypted/unsecured protocols like HTTP, FTP, etc.
If we enter our data in such sites, our data can be easily intercepted and read.
VPN can help you in securing half of the Transaction, atleast.
Say for example, a website www.xyza.com running on HTTP. Connecting here can be risky.
However, the Encrypted Tunnel will run on HTTPS only.
When we send a packet to www.xyza.com, the Tunneling protocol will encapsulate it and convert it into a disguised HTTPS packet.
This HTTPS packet will go via the Encrypted Tunnel till it reaches VPN.
The VPN will recover the original packet and Resend it to the Destination via HTTP.
Assuming, only we are in a compromised network and the VPN is safe, our data will remain safe in the Encrypted Tunnel.
What is Proxy?
In the first part of our VPN transaction, our disguised packet has reached the VPN Server.
What happens next is, the VPN server now unpacks the disguise and finds the Actual Packet.
The VPN Server then forwards the Actual Packet to the Destination.
But, before sending, the VPN server will remove our IP from the Source and attach its own IP as the Source.
This disables the destination server from knowing who we are and where we are located.
Here, the VPN acts as a Proxy in our stead.
Another use of proxy is accessing Geographically locked content.
Because the VPN is acting as a Proxy, the website will not know where we are.
We can access whatever content is available in the VPN server location.
The Return Journey
The Destination Server on receiving the packet, will send a reply to the VPN server.
The VPN Server will pack this reply with a new disguise and send it back to us via the same Encrypted Tunnel.
The same level of anonymity and encryption are ensured in the Return Journey as well.
Merits and Demerits
VPN gives its users significant advantages over others, even if the others are using HTTPS.
- Disables ISP and others from tracking your location.
- Ensures all your data are Safe, even when server side uses unencrypted protocols.
- Access Geographically exclusive content.
- Stops intruders from reading our Data.
- Gives us a secure passage in a compromised network.
And while VPN may provide us all these advantages, the disadvantages we could face are:
- Our speeds will depend on VPN server speed and traffic.
- Not suitable for streaming and multiplayer gaming.
- VPN server acts as SPOF (Single Point of Failure).
This will be a 3-article series. The next article will focus on more details of VPN. Stay Tuned.