A packet is transmitted from a client through a VPN router or gateway, which adds an Authentication Header (AH) for routing and authentication. The data is then encrypted and, finally, enclosed with an Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP). This latter constitutes the decryption and handling instructions.

The receiving VPN router strips the header information, decrypts the data, and routes it to its intended destination (either a workstation or other node on a network). Using a network-to-network connection, the receiving node on the local network receives the packets already decrypted and ready for processing. The encryption/decryption process in a network-to-network VPN connection is transparent to a local node.

With such a heightened level of security, an attacker must not only intercept a packet, but decrypt the packet as well. Intruders who employ a man-in-the-middle attack between a server and client must also have access to at least one of the private keys for authenticating sessions. Because they employ several layers of authentication and encryption, VPNs are a secure and effective means of connecting multiple remote nodes to act as a unified intranet.

OpenVPN is our preferred method of operating VPNs.