Network World has recently reported that a Japanese PhD student has created a project as part of his thesis called ‘VPN Gate’. I first heard about this when I watched episode 50 of The Tek, a show from Tek Syndicate, which you can view above. The segment on VPN Gate starts at 14:15.
What does VPN Gate do?
VPN Gate allows a user to connect to the Internet through a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) server, so it appears to the websites you’re browsing that the traffic is coming from the VPN server, rather than coming from your computer. This is a very brief, simplified description of it, but if you want a more thorough description of it, you can take a look at the website for the project or this article from CNet.
This allows you to get around restrictions imposed on what you can and can’t access on the internet by making it appear that you are in a different location, but only if you connect to a server in a different country from where you are physically located. If you connect to a server in the same country you’re located in, it won’t make a difference to what you can access. This could allow you to get around restrictions imposed by geographical limitations, such as being able to access services like Netflix that are only available in a limited range of countries, or restrictions imposed by the local government.
In the episode of The Tek that I mentioned above, Logan (the presenter) mentions that this project has some similarities to the TOR project. TOR works in a similar way to VPN Gate, but there are some differences in how they work.
TOR works by sending your request through many different computers before it gets to its destination, rather than just through one computer like VPN Gate or other VPN services. In the case of TOR, each computer within the TOR network only knows about the links of the chain that it connects to directly. It doesn’t know where the request originated, or where it’s going, unless it’s an exit node. An exit node is the last link in the chain between you and the server you’re trying to connect to, as your request is exiting the TOR network.
Why does this technology matter?
This technology matters because it will allow people in countries with restricted internet access to get around the limitations imposed on them, among other things. It also affords its users some level of anonymity when they’re browsing online, which can have some big implications for people who don’t want their actions traced.