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How has VPN evolution changed remote access?

VPN evolution has seen a shift in connectivity -- from point-to-point to sophisticated, multipoint connectivity systems.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, have been around for a while. Over the past two decades, VPN evolution has transitioned...

the technology from point-to-point connectors that facilitate remote access to one that's based on sophisticated security multipoint connectivity.

Every technology has a lifecycle, and VPN technology is no different. VPN evolution has taken place over the years, adapting to the networks that have been shaped by broadband connectivity, the cloud and mobility, as well as the endpoint devices themselves.

Reflecting back on the early days of VPNs and how far we have come, the evolution and the history of VPN technology can be broken down into four phases. Let's take a closer look.

How a VPN works

VPN 1.0: The beginning

In the early 1990s, VPNs were used solely for dial-up connections and to create private networks across public infrastructure. Data networks allowed VPN remote connectivity through dial-up modems operated by telecommunication carriers. As cyberattacks and data breaches were not yet a major issue or concern for early internet surfers, VPNs were not yet in demand for their privacy and security features.

However, as the internet progressed, so did cybercriminals. In the mid-1990s, computer viruses, identity theft, malware, hacking, phishing and denial-of-service attacks began to spread globally, and a more secure and sophisticated internet was now vital.

VPN 2.0: Security standards

In the 2000s, VPNs became mainstream and were essentially available to all users for remote dial-in, mobile and multiuse networks. The emergence of home computers and private email proved to rapidly increase the vulnerability of internet connections and networks. To protect sensitive information and to reduce risks of cyberattacks, internet users began using VPNs to secure connections, prevent malware, ensure digital privacy and hide their physical locations.

Security features, such as firewalls, VPN tunneling, encryption, authentication and endpoint security, were now critical to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network.

VPN 3.0: Authenticating users

The proliferation of smartphones and connected devices, starting in 2010, fueled the next wave of VPN technology and drove more sophisticated security options. Secure connections were simply not enough. The need to authenticate the user and the endpoint device required new capabilities. To ensure a new level of authentication for VPNs, advanced methods such as one-time password tokens, fingerprint IDs, iris scans and voice recognition were integrated.

As the need for VPNs grew, they needed to be centrally managed. Today, VPNs offer comprehensive automation that eliminates the need for endpoint administration or user involvement. By taking the responsibility of facilitating VPNs away from users, configuration and management are free from manual errors. Endpoint devices are also more intelligent, enabling them to communicate with VPNs and other third-party infrastructure, such as firewalls, mobile device management, proxies and other malware, and antivirus software.

VPN 4.0: Connecting IoT and beyond

VPNs are increasingly used to secure data tunnels between end devices and internal corporate networks.

As the internet of things and industrial internet of things mature, the implications for VPNs will also continue to evolve. Due to the majority of businesses implementing BYOD or allowing employees to work from home, VPNs are increasingly used to secure data tunnels between end devices and internal corporate networks. The leading VPNs can secure virtually any device using any connection medium, as well as maintain secure connections as they traverse from network to network.

With the growth of connected cars, vehicle VPNs have emerged. A vehicle VPN enables users to safely and securely access a private network from a car without compromising any sensitive information. VPNs also help prevent hacking and other potential security threats, a particularly important benefit when manufacturers roll out software updates for engine control and car electronics systems via the internet and cloud data centers.

It is worth noting that the same VPN used to secure a laptop's network connection is the same VPN that can be used to secure a car's internet connection. 

Cyberattacks are always lurking

Cybercriminals will continue to find new ways to infiltrate and attack internet connections and private networks. With over 3 billion internet users worldwide, it is crucial for every end device to use a VPN for secure and encrypted data exchange. Currently, only a fraction of internet users use VPNs. Furthermore, as more households acquire more connected devices, the risk of cyberattacks will dramatically increase.

Today's modern VPNs are versatile, cost-efficient and offer comprehensive automation. All internet users can benefit from the security and privacy that a VPN provides through personal firewalls, advanced authentication and ciphertext.

Secure communication is one of the most important foundations for our future, and it is imperative to protect data in motion with VPN evolution.

Next Steps

The evolving role of SSL VPNs

The history of VPNs

Past, present and future VPNs

This was last published in May 2017

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