Have you ever wandered around a café or a high profile showroom just to use their free Wi-Fi? Well, connecting to such public networks can prove to be a not-so-good idea. Such public networks are not very secure and are prone to virus attacks and let us not forget about the hacker intrusion. Privacy on the internet is a myth, yes, but some precautions when taken appropriately can allow you some privacy after all. How terrible would it be if someone on hackers on such public networks got hold of your personal data like your bank credentials, account passwords and innumerable selfies and GIFS? That does sound terrifying, doesn’t it? How do we protect our precious data from the meddling hands of a hacker? The answer is simple – by using a VPN, or a Virtual Private Network.
What is a VPN?
VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. Simply put, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a private network which uses a public network to provide secure access to the private network. This function is common to many other digital ways, but Virtual Private Networks are the easiest and sought after ones. Creating and using a Virtual Private Network is not only stress-free, but also the end result is a super secure network and device.
A Virtual Private Network lets you connect to the internet through a dedicated server. The information and other data communicating between the connected device – be it computers, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc. – and the VPN server is completely secured and safely encrypted. In other words, the possibility of a hack over such data or device is reduced to a bare minimum level (Well, you cannot give an absolute assurance for anything, can ya?)
Why should I use a Virtual Private Network?
There are various benefits and advantages of a Virtual Private Network. Some of them are:
- Protection against hackers when the device is connected to a public network
- Allows you to access a private network remotely (for example, networks of a particular organization, school, etc.)
- Permits secure peer – to – peer transfers
- Offers privacy by not disclosing your activities over the network even to your Internet Service Provider (the ISP can only see that the device is connected to a Virtual Private Network)
…and many more.
How does a Virtual Private Network function?
When using a Virtual Private Network, the device is connected to a VPN server through a reliable and encrypted connection. This ensures that the data traveling to and fro from such device to the server is not ‘visible’ to any unauthorized personnel. It is simple, safer and secure network for privacy mongers.
Another consequence of a Virtual Private Network is that when connected, even potential malware infected public networks will not be able to invade and access your encrypted data. In other words, if by chance you connect your device to a mischievous public Wi-Fi or hotspot, if your VPN connection is switched on, the intruder will not be able to crack your protected data. It’s a smart way to protect your device from hackers and ensure the safety of your data. (Looks like antiviruses are not the only savior of your electronics, eh?)
What makes a good Virtual Private Network?
The quality of the Virtual Private Network can be described in three definite factors, they are:
- Scalability: As the word suggests, the Virtual Private Network should be such that it’s able to handle the growth of the organization in which it’s used without any major alteration in its structure.
- Secure: The basic function of the Virtual Private Network is to provide a secure private network to work around a public network. Hence, a good and effective VPN should be secure so that the data exchanged or transferred over the network is safe and not ‘read’ by unauthorized personnel.
- Reliable: This is one of the major requirements of any organization using a Virtual Private Network. The information communicated over such network is expected to be reliable and trustworthy at all times.
How to set up a Virtual Private Network?
Now, when we know the amazing advantages of this network, let us see how to set it up on our Android mobile phones. A Virtual Private Network is extremely simple to set up. It can be done in two ways – either by downloading a third party application and using its functions to set up the network, or using the inbuilt features of the Android to set up the network without any hassle.
Now, how do we set up a Virtual Private Network on an Android device without any third party application? Let us find out in a few easy steps!
Act 1 –
Open the ‘Settings’ application on your Android phone.
Act 2 –
Select and open ‘Wireless Settings/Controls’, subject to your devices’ version of Android.
Act 3 –
Tap on ‘VPN Settings’ to open it. You will be faced with a blank white screen saying ‘No VPNs added’, if this is your first ever VPN creation. Tap the ‘+’ symbol at the top right of your screen or select ‘Add VPN’, as per your device.
Act 4 –
Consequent to Act – 3, a dialog box titled ‘Edit VPN profile’ would have opened. In the dialog box, under the drop down option for ‘Type’, select they type of VPN you prefer.
The two basic options available are:
- PPTP VPN – Point – to – point tunneling protocol
PPTP VPN is a method with works its way around several common security issues. It uses a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) channel and a Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) tunnel to capture PPP packets. PPTP specification does not illustrate the security and encryption; instead it relies on the Point – to –point protocol for implementing security.
- L2TP VPN – Layer 2 tunneling protocol
Layer2 tunneling protocol is a tunneling protocol that supports Virtual Private Networks. It relies on the encryption protocol that passes within this tunnel to ensure privacy, rather than proving encryption itself.
Act 5 –
Subsequently, fill the other information, following the given example:
VPN Name: XYZ (Anything of your choice)
VPN Server: vpn.sample.com (for example). You can set the server address in words, as shown or use a mathematical IP address consisting of numbers.
To summarize, in this step, you have to enter a name for your VPN (choose a suitable name that you can easily remember and identify), select the type of VPN server you wish to connect to and enter the server address for the VPN (this could be alphabetical or numerical).
Act – 6
After filling and double checking the details entered, tap on ‘Save’ option on the dialog box. As soon as you save your VPN settings, it shall appear on the list on the VPN screen with the VPN name (that you had set in Act -5).
Act – 7
When you tap on the VPN name, you will be prompted to put in your username and password to connect to the VPN. You can enter the desired username and password and select ‘Save Account Information’ to remember your credentials.
(From Android version 4.2 onwards, an option called ‘Always-on VPN Mode’ was introduced. When this option is selected, data will not be transferred from your Android device except over your chosen VPN. This feature is greatly useful to secure your data and device on a public network.)
Once you enter the username and password into the dialog box, your VPN login will be completed. The notification panel of your Android will display the running VPN service. In case you wish to disconnect from the network, just tap on the notification and select the ‘Disconnect’ option.
Voila! You just created a Virtual Private Network for yourself without the hassle of using any third party applications. You can now restfully access and use your secure and reliable private network and explore the applications or websites that were blocked on your public network! It is really this easy; just 7 simple steps to create a network for yourself! Besides, it also aids in securing your Android from potential hackers, to a decent extent (Android is a powerhouse in itself, y’all!)
Technologies behind a Virtual Private Network
The different technologies that a VPN uses are listed below:
- Remote – access VPN – This technology permits individual secure connections to connect to remote computing devices. The users of this Virtual Private Network can access the resources on the server system as if they were actually plugged in the system.
- Tunneling protocols – These protocols provide basic infrastructure for setting up a Virtual Private Network. It uses transmission protocols, encapsulating technologies and creates tunnels for transmitting information over a network. The tunnels act as a secure path for the data to travel without being decrypted by unapproved personnel.
- Site – to – site VPN – An organization may have several offices located in different places. A site – to – site Virtual Private Network allows for creation of a connection between such places or sites. It encourages sharing of data between the officials at various working locations. It is based on two types of site – to- site VPN:
- Extranet based: As the name illustrates, it helps in creating Virtual Private Networks between organizations. For example, when an organization is in works with a different organization, it may create a Virtual Private Network with this other organization to share data for their mutual benefit. It is a secure means of collaboration.
- Intranet based: In this type, an organization works with its various branches located in different places by creating a Virtual Private Network between them, so as to share data and communicate safely and effectively for enhancing their activities. This is the basic essence of site- to- site virtual private network.
Privacy in a Virtual Private Network
There are various ways by which a Virtual Private Network ensures privacy. They are:
- Encryption and Security– Encryption is the process of encoding the required data such that only the authorized personnel are able to decrypt it and read it. The key required for decrypting the data is available only with the required personnel and hence makes it almost impossible for anyone else to read it. It makes use of public and private keys. The data is encoded such that it can be decoded only with the help of the private key available exclusively with the authorized person. Thus, any mischievous hacking is restricted with the help of strong encryption technologies.
- Trusted delivery networks –Another effective way to ensure privacy over a Virtual Private Network is through trusted delivery networks. The individuals or organizations rely on one, single network. The reason is that the security in such network systems is handled by only one service provider, thereby reducing the risk of losing data. This process secures the data on the network even without the help of encryption keys.
Virtual Private Networks are secure by themselves, and can provide security with their in – built features as well.
To conclude, in this diverse internet era, privacy of communication and information is an extremely challenging issue. There are many ways to tackle it, and Virtual Private Network is one of them. It is simple to set up, costs barely anything, and delivers what it promises. It can be said that a Virtual Private Network is one of the supremely reliable tool to regulate privacy. However, it is just a link in the massive chain. Security on the internetwork should not be taken for granted and should be dealt with caution. This internet era is tremendously volatile and should be treaded on with careful restraint, rest it invades into unwanted data and causes havoc to your information.
The need to create a Virtual Private Network is not always necessary. Actually, majority of the Android users go about their lives without ever creating or using one. But, as they say, a little precaution never hurts. It is better to know how to protect your data and device against hackers. Knowledge never hurt anybody!