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What is a Virtual Private Network?
A Virtual Private network allows for the secure connection to a VPN or remote server. Encryption is of the utmost importance in any environment and Virtual Private Networks are the standard for ensuring this encryption takes place. VPNs are particularly important if confidential or high risk data is moved from one point to another. This series walks you through setting up a VPN in Windows Vista, Windows XP, Macintosh and Linux.
Using ports 1723 and the protocols LT2P and PPTP, the data is tunneled to the host and secured while in transit. Although these aforesaid protocols are common the administrator should implement 128-bit IPSEC (3DES) or 256-bit AES if at all possible for the highest level of security.
Virtual Private Networks are setup through software or can be setup with nodes on your network. A Majority of hardware firewalls have integrated VPNs that connect point to point with other firewalls to further ensure data integrity and security.
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VPN Security Policies
A Security policy for VPNs should be integrated into the information technology policies. The policy should define who uses the VPN and how the VPN is used. This documentation insures that the end user uses the VPN and that the VPN is used properly. The policy should contain what protocols, ports, firewall rules and devices are used for the VPN. End users connecting to a remote server should only be allowed a connection through a VPN.
The policy should go on to define what security requirements should be met prior to connection. Elements such as Windows Updates, Anti-virus protection and other components must be up to date. This protection should be a part of the hosting server / computer and the remote users. For end users not meeting these requirements, they should be put on a quarantined network where their computer receives updates. Quarantining computers is a process that ensures security measures are met.
Further authentication and security can take place if two-factor authentication is used or if third party VPN software is used.
In the next part of this series, we will look at implementing a virtual private network in Windows Vista.