What is OpenVPN?
Using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) is an ever-rising trend amongst security-aware companies and individuals.
Establishing a VPN connection creates a tunnel (usually over the Internet) and data flowing through is being encrypted before it reaches the destination.
There are many types of VPN connections available today. Amongst them are the obsolete PPTP VPN, slightly more secure L2TP VPN but also Site to Site VPN (based on IPSEC) and OpenVPN which we are going to discuss in this blog.
All of these types of VPNs aim towards the same goal – to secure your data over the Internet. VPNs are being used to create secure connections between company branches, but also to help individuals protect their data from potential hackers or overcome geo-blocking policies enforced by the less liberal governments over the world.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk of OpenVPN but how is it different from others? Moreover, why should you get OpenVPN?
What is it?
OpenVPN is an open-source software that helps keep your sensitive online data safe from hackers and strangers on the Internet.
OpenVPN uses SSL/TLS cryptographic protocols to establish an encrypted connection over the Internet, by exchanging pre-shared keys and certificates.
In a way, OpenVPN acts similar to other VPNs – you can use it to securely connect to other devices on the Internet. You can use OpenVPN to securely share information with others on the Internet.
Using OpenVPN is similar to you and other users in the peer-to-peer network accessing a secure network that no one else knows about. When VPN peers establish an encrypted connection they authenticate by using the security certificates and pre-shared keys. For example, it’s a good practice to exchange all VPN information over the email and pre-shared key over some other medium, like an SMS message.
Rise of OpenVPN
The OpenVPN project is what developed the idea of secure point-to-point connections that allowed users to surf freely without compromising their data.
The original author for the software is James Yonan and he released the initial version of OpenVPN in 2001. It was launched under the GNU GPL (general public license).
While OpenVPN Technologies offer a VPN service, the California-based company’s project is still free and open-source in nature. Many VPN users continue to use OpenVPN’s protocol over other kinds of encryption methods. What goals did it have?
Their OpenVPN software deploys a safe virtual network software that provides users with communication services that are reliable and secure. They aimed to do more than the conventional VPN by developing something that would blow their competitors out of the water but would cater to the web’s demand for next-level services.
How did it become popular?
Despite competing against various other VPN protocols, OpenVPN gained a steady foot because of its services.
It became very popular because there are free OpenVPN solutions.
Unfortunately, there is usually a profit on the mind, so a free OpenVPN service is most likely to be slow and sluggish, going over some obscure low-end server. Of course, you can boost your VPN performance by paying a subscription. It’s really hard to find trustworthy, reliable and free OpenVPN services. Most likely you will have to pay for a fast and reliable service. Of course, if you have any other findings, please let us know.
In addition, OpenVPN gives you the flexibility to access information through firewalls on restricted websites.
Its versatility is also a reason; it is designed to work with various operating systems such as Linux, iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS.
How does OpenVPN Work?
Peers who connect to each other through the VPN have to use a verification certificate, password or a pre-shared key.
This implies that the primary mode of using OpenVPN is by means of client-server communication.
The connection between both devices comprises two tiers; where the encrypted traffic is first directed to a server somewhere on the Internet, before being released to its destination.
After a successful VPN connection is established client’s IP address is being changed to the IP address of the OpenVPN service. This hides the client’s identity and protects their data from a breach.
For authentication, OpenVPN is using SSL/TLS protocols and is capable of traversing through firewalls and NAT-ed devices.
Technical Aspects of OpenVPN
Let’s mention some basic technical aspects of an OpenVPN:
- You can use plugins and scripts from third parties to enhance features like authentication and logging. Many users prefer customized protection rather the standard package that OpenVPN offers. For this reason, they choose third-party add-ons to improve the browsing experience and increase security as well.
- OpenVPN doesn’t support PPTP, L2TP, or IPSec. However, it does rely on SSL and TLS-based protocols of its own.
- The encryption is what determines the connection quality between your device and the server.
- It works on Windows-based platforms like 2000, Vista, XP, Windows 7, 8, and 10. It is supported on Android, Windows phone, Maemo, FreeBSD and Linux devices. This means that you can activate VPN on your phone as well, to protect sensitive data from hackers’ attacks. This versatile compatibility is a major reason why so many tech enthusiasts praise OpenVPN.
The Pros and Cons of Using OpenVPN
OpenVPN is a great security option for individual users who simply want to browse the web with more safety, without going through a VPN provider.
Despite having a great reputation with tech-savvy users, there are still some pros and cons to using OpenVPN, just like with every other VPN.
- To start off, you should know that using OpenVPN means that you get plenty of room for extra configurations. You have an arsenal of security features you can implement, but you need to know what you are doing.
- OpenVPN’s open-source setup is what allows it to have such a large and widespread network. This only powers it further and gives you better security and stronger protection from data theft and website restriction.
- Unlike other VPNs, OpenVPN offers better encryption features so that you can even access content that has been sealed off by a firewall; you can work around them without being detected.
- It continues to improve its features instead of using obsolete encryption algorithms. Hence, you are promised advanced levels of online security every time you surf the web.
- We did mention that OpenVPN is different from the rest because of various configurations and advantages. However, you can’t really use these features unless you have the technical expertise that’s required.
- Despite offering exceptional protection for smartphones, you should keep in mind that OpenVPN only recently launched their mobile VPN to users. Therefore, you can’t expect too much freedom while browsing on your mobile.
- OpenVPN works well on its own and has standard protection with lots of other perks but if you want to make configurations on your own, you can’t rely on it. That’s because the software itself is dependent on third-party applications and plugins.
OpenVPN Router Integration
As mentioned, OpenVPN can be established from a user operating system, like a Windows PC or a phone.
It can be also implemented on a router level, encrypting the traffic for the whole network behind the router.
Many routers support the implementation of OpenVPN, but if you don’t have a powerful router, there is still a possibility you can flash your home router with an open-based firmware, such as DD-WRT or Tomato.
Creating an OpenVPN connection on a router level offers many advantages, one of them being more devices can use its benefits at the same time.
There are other benefits even though it can be more expensive (if you need to buy an OpenVPN capable router for example).
VPN Service at All Times
The first advantage is that you have online protection with a VPN service during all hours of the day, whenever you want.
The downside of a downloadable VPN is that you have to sign in each time you want to access. When the VPN is integrated to your router at home, it’s always activated so you don’t have to log in each time.
Keeps All Your Devices Safe
If you’re at home with a big family, you’re no stranger to having multiple devices being connected to the Internet at the same time.
That’s because everyone has their own smartphone, tablet or computer these days. Moreover, not everyone takes care to use a VPN to keep their information protected.
With a router and VPN integration, you don’t have to worry about the risk of a security breach when everyone who uses their device accesses the Internet through a secure VPN connection. Each device that connects to the Wi-Fi network can access the VPN without having to log in.
Despite being an easy solution for secure web browsing, integrating OpenVPN with your router comes at a cost, both literally and figuratively.
The first is the actual cost of tethering the VPN to your router, which won’t be very expensive if you’re doing it yourself.
On the other hand, it will cost a little more initially if you hire a professional to do it for you. In some cases, there are pre-configured routers on sale straight from VPN providers.
The second issue is that the bandwidth will be affected especially if you’re sharing the router with an entire household worth of devices.
You’ll experience slower Internet speeds but this largely depends on what your Internet speed was in the first place.
Looking at all the facts and features of OpenVPN, it’s safe to say that it does offer more than what you’d expect.
These days Internet surfing is everything and people rely on it for information and entertainment; this means that they’re exposing their precious online data to various issues.
Not to mention, much of the content on the Internet is inaccessible because of restrictions placed by governments and other policing bodies, which ruins the whole point getting information. Opting for OpenVPN greatly reduces the risk of cyber theft, protects your identity online, and offers a free roaming experience.