Virtual Private Networks or VPNs have been popular for businesses because they protect advanced security without compromising convenience.
The recent increase in cyberattacks has led to a surge in demand for security solutions like VPN services. VPNs provide end-to-end encryption of every device connected to a company’s network, which means no bad actor or internet service provider (ISP) can access corporate data or device location.
How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN connection hides the IP addresses by letting the network redirect them through a specially configured server run by the VPN host. This means the VPN server becomes the data source when employees access the internet. This means ISPs cannot see which websites employees visit or what data is sent or received online. A VPN works like a filter that encrypts all data into an unreadable format.
Encryption is the process of scrambling data so that only authorized users can understand the information. It takes all readable data and alters it so that it appears random to attackers or anyone who hijacks it.
A VPN works by establishing an encrypted connection between devices. All devices connecting to a VPN possess encryption keys to encode and decode all information sent between them. This process may introduce a small latency, a slight delay before data transfer begins, which slows network traffic.
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Types of VPNs
There are broadly two types of VPNs:
- Remote Access: A remote access VPN connects a device outside the corporate office. These devices are endpoints such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Advances in VPN technology have allowed security checks on endpoints to ensure they meet a certain posture before connecting.
- Site-to-Site: A site-to-site VPN connects the corporate office to branch offices over the Internet. Site-to-site VPNs are used when long distances make it infeasible to establish direct connections between offices. Companies often need dedicated equipment to establish and maintain connections.
Why Do Businesses Use VPNs?
The relationship between employees and the workplace has changed over the years. Workforce mobility has given the flexibility to work from remote locations, and BYOD policies have resulted in the need for additional security. The threat of cyberattacks alone has led many organizations to use business VPNs to protect their data.
If employees want to connect to company-related applications, resources, or data, they must connect to the VPN maintained by their employer, generally from their company-owned laptops, mobile phones, and other managed devices. Employees can also connect to the corporate network from their mobile devices if they have a VPN agent deployed on them to provide the connection.
Benefits of VPNs
Today, about a quarter of people use VPNs for business reasons, according to a study conducted by security.org:
- Secures communications and browsing: Although an increasing number of websites are upgrading to HTTPS, others still operate on HTTP. Employees can easily land on such web pages while browsing, potentially exposing sensitive data such as passwords and business details
- Secures data transfer: Remote workers must access important files and applications on the company’s network. VPN services connect to private servers and use encryption methods to reduce the risk of data leakage
- Stops data throttling: VPN services stop data throttling as it hides the data from ISPs. Data throttling occurs when ISPs slow down the internet. ISPs won’t throttle everyone—it depends on various factors such as network congestion, data caps, or paid prioritization. Since VPNs encrypt traffic, they won’t be able to slow down specific websites or services
- Prevents Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks: An MITM attack occurs when a threat actor positions itself in a conversation between a user and an application, either by eavesdropping or impersonating one of the parties, making it appear as if a regular exchange of information is taking place. VPNs provide substantial protection against MITM attacks
- Prevents unprotected access: If a VPN connection is abruptly interrupted, the secure connection will be too. Business VPNs can detect such downtime and terminate preselected programs using a Kill Switch. A VPN Kill Switch is an advanced security measure that prevents data from leaking to the web, reducing the likelihood of compromised data
VPNs are a part of cyber hygiene for businesses of all sizes, so it is advisable to keep pace. As a matter of fact, VPNs are one of the most affordable services and don’t require a big IT budget or training.
Plenty of cloud VPN providers don’t require major installations on servers. Before onboarding a VPN tool, businesses should check for services with no-log policies. When a VPN vendor mentions it has a no-log policy, it holds no records of what users do online while using a VPN. This means it can’t hand over data to third parties because it doesn’t have it.