VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, have long been synonymous with Internet security. For some of you, VPNs are a lifeline in countries with heavy Internet censorship and surveillance. You may know what a VPN is, but have you ever wondered about the history on VPNs and how they came to exist before they became a symbol of Internet privacy?
Let us take a brief walk down memory lane to understand why Virtual Private Networks entered the market.
The history of the Internet begins with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s. It is almost impossible to pinpoint one single person to credit for its invention, but rather a collective work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers who developed the Internet that we know of today.
Nonetheless, if one single name had to be mentioned, most sources claim that a Microsoft employee by the name of Gurdeep Singh-Pall was to be credited. He invented Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), an idea that a computer could set up a secure connection, or tunnel, to a remote server, a method which backs the implementation of VPNs.
As the Internet was becoming predominantly widespread as a means of communications, companies started building local networks to speed up their businesses. But as companies developed and grew in size, so did their spreading to off-site remote locations, where their employees were able to work from home or while travelling.
A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that spans a relatively small area, like in an office building, school, or home. LANs are usually built to enable the sharing of resources and services like files, printers, games, applications, email, or internet access. One LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via telephone lines and radio waves.
For companies to connect two company local area networks at a reasonable distance, businesses would have to dedicate a real-world connection through physical infrastructure such as leased lines.
This was not a problem if a company had two short distance networks to bridge. However, the longer the distance and the more networks a company needed, the cost of leased lines would increase exponentially.
In comes the Internet; a public network, although open and visible to everyone. No respectable company would risk using the open Internet and to risk data breaches and have their company information stolen by anyone. They needed a secure connection that was fast, reliable, and cost effective.
Thus, VPNs were born. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that makes virtual connections routed through a public network. Connections through a VPN could solve many company needs, such as speed, data integrity, or confidentiality.