A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may, therefore, benefit
from the functionality, security, and management of the private network. However, contrary to common misbelief, encryption is not an inherent part of a VPN connection, but optional even though rather common.
VPN technology was developed to allow remote users and branch offices to access corporate applications and resources. To ensure security, the private network connection is established using an encrypted layered tunnelling protocol and VPN users use authentication methods, including passwords or certificates, to gain access to the VPN. In other applications, Internet users may secure their transactions with a VPN, to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship, or to connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet. However, some websites block access to known VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of their geo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developing strategies to get around these roadblocks.
A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated circuits or with tunnelling protocols over existing networks. A VPN available from the public Internet can provide some of the benefits of a wide area network (WAN). From a user perspective, the resources available within the private network can be accessed remotely.