A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network that is created by using public wires or majorly the Internet, to access a private network, especially that of a company’s Internet network.

A VPN is to ensure that your connection to the private network is secure by using encryption and other security measures that only grants access to authorized users in order to protect private data.

If properly designed, a VPN should provide a secure and encrypted tunnel through which data is transmitted between the company network and the remote user. To create a VPN, the basic things needed are Authentication, strong Encryption and a secure Key Exchange method. These will be used for User authentication, then keys must be securely exchanged for encryption and finally, the data is encrypted by using the generated keys.

Authentication is for validating user identity. You can use the following methods for authentication.

**Something you have** – Authentication can be done using a key card, a security pass, driver’s license, a passport or any other similar form of identification. Any user with any one of the items listed above items can usually get their identity confirmed easily. The downside is that any of them can easily be lost or stolen, and can unfortunately used by other people.

Something you know –

Authentication can also be in the form of a password, pass phrase or some other private information that can be used to analyze function from a secret message.

**Something you are**

Authentication can be done by using a physical characteristic of the body such as the fingerprint, the retina print of the eye or the DNA. This is stronger because these things are unique to each person; No 2 is the same.

Encryption, on the other hand, is the translation of data into a secret code. This is the most efficient way of securing data. In order to read an encrypted file, you must have the password or the secret key needed to decrypt the file. Unencrypted file is known as ‘plain text’ while encrypted data is known as cipher text.

Simply put, encryption is turning plain text into a cipher text by using any form of algorithmic mapping. In order for the right person to read the cipher text, he must have the exact means of reversing the process using the same algorithm mapping. The secret keys needed to decrypt the encrypted file must be kept secure such that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Symmetric encryption

When encrypting files, complex mathematical algorithms are used in order to provide the strongest means of preventing attackers (hackers) from being able to forcefully hack into the system by successfully calculating the algorithm used to encrypt the files.

There are two common methods of encryption, which are Symmetric Encryption Systems and Public Key Encryption Systems.

**Symmetric encryption**:

This method of encryption uses an identical key for both the encryption of the plain text and decryption of the cipher text.

Simply put, the encryptor uses the key to turn the plain text into cipher text. The decryptor, on the other hand, reverses the process by using the same key to turn the cipher text back to the plain text data.

Popular examples of symmetric encryption algorithms include, DES, Serpent, TwoFish, Blowfish, CAST5, RC4, 3DES, Skipjack, AES (Rijndael), IDEA, etc. The most common one is Data Encryption Standard (DES).

Public Key Encryption systems

They also tend to depend more on mathematical equations that are mostly known as "trap-door" functions. The mathematical formula used in Public key encryption system involves making use of exponentiations to high powers, modular arithmetic and large prime numbers products. The mathematical algorithms generate an encryption method with an encryption key that can be made public as well as a decryption algorithm and decryption key that is kept secret, which is to be used only by the message recipient.

The method of encryption is so complicated that it is impossible to determine the decryption method from the encryption method alone. In simple terms, public key encryption involves the use of two different keys. One is a ‘public key’ know to many people while the other is a ‘private’ or ‘secret key’ known only to the message recipient. For instance, if Jack wants to send a secure message to John, he uses John’s public key to encrypt the message. When John gets the message, he uses, his private key to decrypt it.

One common example of public key encryption is the RSA algorithm, which uses certain tricks of number theory, especially based on the fact that it’s not easy to factorize large compound numbers with few prime factors.

In order to ensure that your VPN connection is totally secure, it is important to make use of the most secure methods of authentication and encryption. Otherwise, you would be making your company's network an easy prey for hackers who can steal the data or worse still comprise the company in terrible ways.

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