Keeping your data fully protected online is a notable achievement — a reward to those who educate themselves about internet security. One of the many useful tools available to businesses and consumers is the SSL VPN. As the name implies, this technology is a mashup of sorts, combining the encryption protocol of SSL with the portal functionality of a VPN.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you likely know the basics of these technologies, but just in case you are new to both, here are the basics:
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It enables you to connect your computer or mobile device to a private network, creating an encrypted connection that conceals your IP address. This encryption allows you to share data securely as you surf the web, shielding your identity online.
SSLs keep private information and data secure by encrypting it into an unreadable combination of numbers and letters. Only the assigned recipient can then decrypt these messages back into their original, readable format. If you have the right SSL certificate, it proves the identity of the website owner is legitimate.
Businesses in particular have a lot to protect — their own proprietary data as well as sensitive customer information. In addition to stored documents and payment information, any business communications that pass across the internet are vulnerable. For example, phone calls over a VoIP connection can be made much more secure by implementing a VPN.
What is an SSL VPN?
SSL VPNs protect your data all the way from your browser to the destination (and back again) using end-to-end encryption. This type of VPN can use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol, or most often, Transport Layer Security (TLS), to keep connections secure. TLS is an updated form of SSL, a successor if you will.
Within the world of SSL VPNs you’ll find two models, but the most common is the SSL Tunnel VPN. This tool creates a tunnel from your individual web browser to a VPN server, connecting to internet resources via SSL encryption. The server may then connect to many online resources, sending them through the tunnel that only your browser can decrypt.
Benefits of SSL VPNs
While there are valid use cases for small businesses and individuals, SSL VPNs are most appealing to large companies because they can be easy to implement at an enterprise level. Arguably the only benefit of an SSL VPN is that TLS protocol technology comes standard in all internet browsers today, such as Chrome and Firefox, so companies do not need to install client software on individual computers and mobile devices. This can indirectly reduce IT support costs, for example, as popular browsers update themselves, rather than requiring internal manual permissions.
If your operations are 100% online, SSL VPNs can easily be configured exclusively for web browsing. Of course, this also gives network administrators less control.
Depending on the service provider, an SSL VPN may require compliance with other factors before the user can go online, such as updated anti-malware software and specific configurations within the machine’s operating system.
SSL VPN vs. IPSec VPN
The biggest downside to SSL VPNs is that your data will only be protected when you’re explicitly using that browser. Other apps, such as streaming video clients, gaming apps, and any other installed browser, will not be protected. Widely adopted browsers, such as Chrome, are also highly susceptible to malware and phishing scams. If your browser becomes compromised, so does your SSL VPN.
The most common VPN protocols you hear about these days include OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2/IPSec, PPTP, and SSTP. OpenVPN is an open-source VPN technology and is commonly recognized as the best around. Because it is open-source, countless developers are continually improving the technology. Anyone can use it or adapt it to keep their data secure, whether that be individuals or companies. Its effectiveness has been put to the test many times through high-profile inspections.
While a VPN client is needed to connect using OpenVPN, it is by far one of the most popular protocols. It is considered the most secure by many, with the ability to secure all installed software on your device, including browsers, games, and messenger apps.
While all reputable VPNs create a secure, encrypted connection, you must consider your individual needs or the needs of your entire company. You can browse the internet and conduct online business while protecting your data and identity using an SSL VPN. Still, Namecheap’s VPN service, which offers OpenVPN encryption, will provide higher security levels. Up to a quarter of all internet users are now using a VPN as a primary form of network security, and choosing the right technology is critical.