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What Is SSL VPN?

Posted on January 26, 2013 @ 4:14 am

Secure Sockets Layer allows you to connect to external computers using a secure and encrypted communications channel, while Virtual Private Networks allow you to connect to external networks, such as your business network, in a secure and private fashion. Therefore, using the SSL VPN protocol, you can add extra security to any connection you might make to a network that needs to stay protected.

Secure Sockets Layer

Traditional encryption methods work by encrypting a single message or piece of data, and require that the receiver of the data have the means to decrypt the information. SSL, on the other hand, works by automatically verifying a server and negotiating an encryption method to be used during an encryption session. This means that SSL connections are encrypted for the duration of the session, and all data passing between the two computers is also encrypted.

Virtual Private Networks

Virtual Private Networks function as a way to extend access to a secure private network, such as allowing you to work on your corporate network from home. A private network using VPN allows you to use the VPN protocol to access the network privately, as if you were on the local network itself. This means that you can use network resources as if you are "on site" in the office while at home, while the connection used between you and the network remains private and encrypted.

SSL VPN

The VPN protocol does not include an encryption method, and since these private networks are usually private for a reason, encryption must come from some other protocol. Because of the way it functions, SSL presents a convenient way to encrypt VPN sessions. Therefore, an SSL VPN connection allows you to access the private network as if you were part of that network, while maintaining SSL encryption for all data transmissions during the VPN session.

Security Benefits

The benefits of encrypting VPN connections seem pretty obvious. If the network remains private, anyone listening to your communications -- such as hackers or those engaged in corporate espionage -- will only see encrypted data. You can then work from home securely at any time of the day, as long as the network is up. However, you must still maintain updates to any VPN and SSL software you implement in order to do this, in particular as the SSL protocol has been updated to the Transport Layers Security, or TLS, protocol, to address some security weaknesses in SSL.