Everyone should know how to set up a VPN or have someone set it up for them. Virtual private networks (VPNs) can offer an additional layer of security and privacy. Whether you’re working on a public Wi-Fi network and want to escape prying eyes, or you’re worried about privacy in general, a VPN can offer a lot of benefits.
In a nutshell, a VPN establishes a secure, encrypted connection between your device and a private server, hiding your traffic from being seen by others. Of course, the VPN itself can still see your traffic, which is why you should choose a VPN from a company you trust. (A good rule of thumb is to avoid free VPNs, because if they’re not charging you a fee, they may be monetizing in some less desirable way.) In addition, law enforcement can get its hands on your information through the VPN company. However, for the most part, a VPN offers you a way to hide your online activity from others.
You can set up your VPN through your router, which takes slightly more steps but means that any devices connected to your router won’t need individual configuration; it can also slow down all traffic that goes through.
What is a VPN router?
A VPN router works exactly like a normal VPN. Your traffic is redirected through a VPN’s servers, allowing you to browse online completely undisturbed. All your activity will be hidden from anyone trying to spy on you, whether it’s petty thieves to data-hoarding corporations.
The reason you’d want a VPN on your router is to provide network-wide online security. Once a router has been configured to download VPN firmware, all connected devices will be granted the benefits of VPN protection. That includes devices that may normally not have the ability to utilize VPN software to its fullest, like a lot of smart home devices.
How does a VPN router work?
A VPN creates an encrypted and secure connection between the device it’s installed on and the internet. It gathers all of that device’s requests to access the internet and directs them through its encrypted tunnel and VPN server so they can’t be read or redirected.
That’s easy to understand when you’re on a device with a user interface. Want to visit a website? You go through the tunnel. Want to video call your BFF? Through the tunnel. But what happens on a device with no user interface, like a router?
Once you’ve set up a router VPN, every single device connected to your router will have its traffic sent through the encrypted tunnel. Your PC, your laptop, your home entertainment system, and even your smart IoT toaster.
VPN on your router: pros and cons
Always-on security and privacy
With a router VPN, you’ll always be connected to the VPN server. You’ll never forget to secure yourself because you’ll be part of the VPN protection as long as your router is working. If any of your devices initiate any automatic connections, like account balance updates for a personal finance app, they will be secured even if you’re sleeping.
Comprehensive home security
That always-on VPN server connection will apply to every device connected to your home router VPN. It will cover new devices you get with no additional setup, and it will even cover your guests when they visit and ask for your WiFi password.
Covers devices that don’t support VPNs
There are plenty of WiFi-connected devices that don’t support VPN coverage on their own but could certainly benefit from it. Security is always essential, no matter what device you’re using.
Connect more devices
VPN allows you to connect up to 6 devices, which is already more than enough for most users. But did you know that your VPN-enabled router counts as only one device? If your laptop, smartphone, and desktop PC all connect over your VPN-enabled router, that’s still technically only one device connected. It’s not a good idea to abuse this feature because your connection speed and stability may suffer, but it’s an easy way to expand the number of devices your VPN subscription covers.
Managing your VPN settings is harder
Because your router doesn’t have its own user interface (beyond a few simple buttons), you’ll have to access it through another device in order to adjust your VPN settings. Turning your VPN tunnel on and off or changing the country it’s connected to is much more convenient using VPN’s app. It’s still possible on your router, but not as convenient.
Configuration and encryption power depends on your router
Most routers lack the power to run anything more than the most basic encryption or tunnelling protocols. You may want to upgrade to a VPN router that supports more secure protocols or simply research what your chosen protocol does and doesn’t protect you from.
Blocks some incoming connections
By its very nature, a VPN is designed to block incoming unauthorized connections. You’ll have an easier time initiating connections using your laptop, computer or smartphone to get around this limitation because they have user interfaces. Your less-accessible devices, like your router, will probably remain unreachable from outside since they can’t initiate connections. This doesn’t apply to automated processes on user devices, however – your computer will still receive emails and notifications.
Traffic between devices and the router is not secured
Because encryption occurs on the router, traffic between the device and the router will not yet be encrypted. If you have a secure home WiFi setup and your mobile devices aren’t set to auto-connect to other networks, this shouldn’t be a huge issue. This only becomes a serious security issue if random strangers are capable of connecting to your network.
Let’s take a deeper dive into setting up a VPN on individual devices.
VPN for Windows 10 – How to Set Up VPN
How to manually configure a VPN on Windows 10
Once you subscribe to a VPN service — keep in mind there are plenty of great VPN options out there — you should have access to a list of servers that you can connect to. It will differ depending on the VPN service you’re using, but you should have access to a webpage or desktop app section that lists the server’s location, the address needed to create a manual connection, and the current load of the server.
Your VPN provider should also provide manual sign-in information that can be used as credentials. This might be some sort of username and password or certificate depending on the service, and it will vary from provider to provider.
Once you have the required information to make a connection, you can jump into settings and get everything running.
- Right-click the Start button.
- Click Settings.
3. Click Network & Internet.
4. Click VPN.
5. Click Add a VPN connection.
6. Click the dropdown menu below VPN provider.
7. Click Windows (built-in).
8. Click the Connection name field.
9. Type a name for the VPN connection. (In this case, I’ll use the name of my provider and the server location.)
10. Click the Server name or address field.
11. Type the server’s address. (You can likely find this in your VPN account.)
12. Click the dropdown menu below VPN type.
13. Choose a connection protocol.
14. Click the dropdown menu below Type of sign-in info.
15. Click a sign-in method. (This will no doubt change depending on your VPN provider.)
16. Click Save.
17. Click the VPN you just set up. (It will now appear in the VPN list.)
18. Click Connect. (Depending on the sign-in method used by your provider, you might have to enter your username and password.)
How to disconnect and remove a VPN on Windows 10
If you don’t want to use a VPN anymore, or if you just want to remove a server from the list, you can disconnect or altogether remove it. There is a VPN button for quick on and off located in the Windows 10 action centre (the small speech bubble in the bottom-right corner of your display), but we’ll go through the entire process, which includes completely removing a VPN from your system.
- Right-click the Start button.
2. Click Settings.
3. Click Network & Internet.
4. Click VPN.
5. Click a VPN connection you want to disconnect or remove.
6. Click Disconnect.
7. Click Remove.
8. Click Remove again to confirm.
How to Set Up VPN…
Once you’ve got your VPN up and running, you might notice web browsing isn’t as fast as it used to be, especially if you’ve configured traffic to go through another country. Stronger encryption, or more users connected to one VPN, can also slow down your internet speeds.
And anyway, now that you know how to set up a VPN, toggling it off is easy in comparison. You just have to remember to do it.
If you need assistance setting up a layer of security for your business, please feel free to reach out to We The IT Team.