Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What is VPN? How to setup VPN in Windows 7

Virtual Private Network or VPN is used mostly by corporate employees to connect to their office while travelling or  from their home or coffee shop. However, for students, there is an entirely different usage, and that is to bypass firewall restriction in schools and colleges. My friends keep on asking me how to bypass our college firewall as sites like youtube and facebook are blocked during working hours. There are many ways to bypass a firewall, depending on the blocking mechanisms used. VPNs are the best in my opinion.

So, how does VPN work?
Simply put, the wifi or internet you are currently using is not secure. Anyone can sniff data by a MITM attack. VPN creates an encrypted tunnel from your computer to a remote computer which will pass on your information the the websites you are viewing. Just remember that VPN ensures that your information is safe from prying eyes. Now, you might ask, what is that remote computer we are connecting to? It may be your office, or a free VPN server in this case.  The diagram shows VPN connection to a corporate server.

There are several kind of VPN protocols such as PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN etc.  OpenVPN is the most secure and reliable type of VPN. However, we have to download the OpenVPN client, making it an extra step. In a corporate environment or in a situation where data confidentiality is of prime importance, you may use OpenVPN.  The most easy to setup is PPTP, which comes inbuilt in Microsoft Windows. That means no downloading is required. So, we will use this one. Please note that PPTP is not absolutely secure, but for normal browsing it should be fine.

1. Goto your free VPN providers website. My personal favourite is www.vpnbook.com
   Once there, scroll down, and you will see the IP address or domain or the VPN server, the username and password.

Since the VPN website itself may be blocked by the firewall, you may use GPRS or 3G on you mobile to first visit the site and obtain the VPN username and password. 
Note: These VPN providers periodically  change the passwords, so keep visiting the site to get updated passwords.

2. Goto Control Panel -> Internet Options -> Connections tab
  Click on Add VPN as shown.



A new window will pop up, asking for the Internet Address. This is the VPN site address which we saw earlier on vpnbook.com.  In this case, it is euro1.vpnbook.com. Leave the other fields as they are.


3. Click Next, and it will ask for username and password  Enter them as you saw on the website. Leave the domain blank.


Now, Click Connect and your VPN setup is done. Congratulations, you can now surf any website anonymously and without being logged or blocked.

This tutorial was for PPTP based VPN. PPTP can be blocked by your college or ISP, although it is unlikely. In that case, use OpenVPN. It is impossible to block OpenVPN as it can use any port.

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