VPN Tunnel: What It Is and How It Works
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and tunnels are two pieces of the same cybersecurity puzzle. While some of us may use the terms interchangeably, a VPN isn’t necessarily a tunnel and vice versa. There’s a little more to it than that, so let’s discuss what a VPN tunnel is and how the tunneling process works.
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What is tunneling?
In networking, tunneling is an encryption and encapsulation process used to securely send private communications across the internet or other public network. Tunneled traffic sent as encrypted packets gets encapsulated with routing information so the data can navigate the public network and arrive at its intended destination.
VPNs use tunneling to provide a secure connection between your device and the website or server you’re accessing. Because the tunnel conceals your traffic from observation, not even your government or ISP can monitor your browsing activity.
What is a VPN tunnel?
A VPN tunnel channels encrypted traffic from your device to a secure server. The process allows private communications to travel across the internet and other public networks securely. Because an encrypted tunnel shields your traffic from view, using a VPN is the ideal way to browse the web safely and anonymously.
How does a VPN tunnel work?
VPN tunnels work in several stages. First, you must encrypt data at the source and send the protected packets to a secure server where they undergo decryption. After that, your decrypted traffic gets routed to its intended destination, which returns a response. At this point, the process continues in reverse, returning encrypted information to your device to be decrypted.
Let’s discuss the concepts of VPN tunneling in more detail.
Encryption is one of the first and most important steps in the VPN tunneling process. Without high-level encryption, your private communications are vulnerable to anyone with the skills and software required to decrypt your traffic.
When you use a tunnel, your device makes a connection with a secure server owned by your VPN provider. Only that server has the ability to decrypt your data, which it must do in order to direct it to the correct destination. All return traffic also undergoes encryption — this time at the server — before returning to your device.
Evidently, a strong encryption method is crucial to keeping your tunnel secure. Ideally, you should opt for military-grade AES-256 encryption or a similarly powerful protocol when selecting and configuring a VPN.
Choosing the ideal server for your VPN connection is crucial to performance. If you select a location that’s far from where you are, the extended distance your traffic must travel could inhibit speed. Therefore, choosing a server that’s close to home is ideal when performance matters.
VeePN offers over 2500 locations to choose from, which means you can select a server that suits your browsing needs. If you need to bypass the geo-blocking tactics of a streaming service or another site, a wide range of virtual servers makes fooling the filters easy.
On top of that, VeePN’s optimal server setting allows you to quickly connect to a location that will deliver the best performance, which means you don’t need to waste time finding the best connection.
Using a double VPN — or VPN chain — adds an extra layer of security to your connection. Instead of tunneling to one secure server, your traffic also routes to a second location and undergoes additional encryption. Adding another step to the journey can decrease speed, but the added security may be worthwhile in situations where you need absolute protection.
If your VPN provider logs traffic that arrives at its secure servers, the service isn’t safe to use. Some countries have strict laws that require companies to hand over any information when requested. If your VPN provider keeps logs, your private data could end up in the hands of the nations in which its servers reside.
To truly preserve your online anonymity, you should only opt for a VPN service that has a no-log policy.
A kill switch is a fundamental part of any safe and reliable VPN. Connection issues and dropouts can leave your traffic exposed. However, when you have a kill switch active, your VPN software automatically disconnects all devices when necessary until it can re-establish a safe, encrypted tunnel to the server.
VPN tunneling protocols
While we’ve discussed the mechanics of tunnels, a VPN wouldn’t function without an underlying protocol to make the magic happen. Did you know that some VPN providers allow you to choose from a list of available protocols? Let’s discuss the topic in more detail.
What is a VPN tunneling protocol?
A tunneling protocol is the software used by a VPN to secure your connection and perform its intended function. Different protocols exist, and each one offers varying features relating to encryption, speed, and general performance.
What are the main types of VPN tunneling protocols?
Here are some of the top VPN tunneling protocols:
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol capable of providing 256-bit encryption. IKEv2, however, is more of an authentication method than a true standalone protocol. The L2TP/IPSec combination also provides 256-bit encryption but may be edging towards obsolescence.
Wireguard is a relatively new open-source VPN protocol that uses modern cryptography to secure your connection and deliver fast performance. VeePN offers Wireguard, along with OpenVPN, and IKEv2, so you can choose the protocol that suits your needs.
Split tunneling with a VPN gives you more control over your traffic and connection. If you don’t need all of your outgoing information encrypted, splitting your data into separate tunnels may be ideal.
What is split tunneling?
Split tunneling allows you to route specific traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel while sending other information directly to the open web. When using the feature, you’ll want to direct apps that contain private data to the VPN and other less-sensitive traffic to the unencrypted connection.
Do you need split tunneling?
Split tunneling is ideal for anyone who wants to encrypt certain information but preserve internet speed when dealing with less-sensitive data. For example, you could choose to encrypt your browsing activity while leaving your online games or other services open so increased latency doesn’t affect performance.
If you’d prefer to have all of your traffic treated the same — either encrypted or not — split tunneling isn’t necessary.
Everyone should use a VPN tunnel
Whenever you access the internet with an unencrypted connection, you risk having your traffic monitored by hackers, government organizations, network administrators, and your ISP. Therefore, encryption is key, and utilizing a good VPN service, like VeePN, will help keep your browsing habits and sensitive information private.
Is tunneling the same as VPN?
Generally, tunneling is the process used to secure your connection and encrypt traffic, while VPN refers to the overall Virtual Private Network itself.
What do you need for a VPN tunnel?
All you need to create a secure tunnel is a good VPN service provider and the appropriate software on your device.
Is VPN tunneling illegal?
VPN tunneling isn’t illegal in most places. Generally, you have the right to secure your connection and protect your private data whenever you see fit.
How many VPN tunnels can you have?
The number of split VPN tunnels you can use at the same time will depend on the service you choose and the capabilities of the software provided.