All You Need to Know About VPN Security: Encryption, Decryption, and Leaks

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There are several advantages to having a VPN or virtual private network. It creates a secure virtual tunnel through the internet and keeps your data private. Though it is very difficult to hack a VPN, it is possible. Hackers rely on two things to compromise a VPN: encryption and VPN leaks. Here’s how both work.

VPNs use a protocol to block browsing activity and data from third parties. Protocols are all a little different from each other, but they work by encrypting, transmitting, and decrypting your data. Encryption involves making your readable data (plaintext) unreadable. This way, it can’t be understood if it’s intercepted or accessed by a third party on the internet. Decryption occurs when the encrypted text is restored to its original version. An open-source protocol allows you to look for and patch vulnerabilities in this process.

Each protocol is based on the cryptographic algorithm built into it. Some VPN providers give users the option to choose from different kinds of algorithms. There are three kinds of algorithms: Symmetric, asymmetric, and hashing. The symmetric algorithm uses one key to lock (encrypt) and unlock (decrypt) data. Asymmetric encryption uses two keys, one for encrypting and the other for decrypting data. Hashing, a one-way type of encryption, is mainly employed to protect transmitted data like passwords.

When a VPN is hacked, the hacker has used one of two methods. He/she/it has broken the encryption by finding out and exploiting the vulnerabilities of the algorithm or has stolen the key. Breaking encryption without a key is difficult, time-consuming, and takes a lot of computational resources. Even so it can recover plain text from the encrypted version. Most VPN security is compromised by a spy agency stealing a key through unethical methods.

Another way the security of a VPN is threatened is a VPN leak. A leak reveals data to a third party when the browser releases your real IP address. This has been known to occur during data transmission. The third-party will be able to use this to track your location. In some cases, browsing data can also leak while using a VPN, which will give your ISP access to what you viewed and which device you viewed it on.