VPNs have been around for ages. They date back to the 90s when they were first discovered by a then Microsoft employee who was working on the point-to-point tunneling protocol. Back then, PPTP became the backbone of remote workplace integration. However, 20 years later, this technology hasn’t seen any drastic changes. Sure, it has permeated the market for consumer/individual users and is more popular than ever. But the core remains the same. We have seen newer security protocols and encryption profiles and witnessed advanced features and diverse usage of a VPN. Although crude, a VPN still gets things done. But until when? Does the next big thing in VPN exist?
Unsurprisingly, any technology is prone to obsoleting if it encounters stagnation. While VPNs are not dead, as per future predictions and market data, they also can’t prevent the advent of newer alternates. We have seen this come true with ZTNA (zero-trust network access). That makes everyone wonder, “what is next for VPNs?” Let’s find out.
What does the future hold for VPNs?
We know and love VPNs for what they do. They mask our IP address and encrypt our data traffic. How? They utilize a virtual tunnel to connect the VPN client to the server that makes up the network. The provider charges for this service and spends money updating, maintaining, and increasing these servers. By employing a VPN, we keep our data safe from the prying eyes of the ISP. But what about the provider?
Recently, this business model of VPNs has raised serious doubts, and rightly so. VPNs operate on a trust model. They are a trust-based product where we delegate our data to the provider and hope they won’t break our confidence. Instead of trusting our ISP, who can bend under official pressure, we find offshore vendors who operate under no mandatory data retention and gladly hand them our data. That’s because we believe in the reputation of the vendor. We know that a VPN won’t be successful without a good standing. Thus, we find ourselves relying on them. However, there are literal examples of renowned brands that have broken trust by mishandling data.
Therefore, a subtle yet firm demand for alternate tech is taking shape. The future for VPNs seems bleak unless they can incorporate the issue of zero trust within their framework. Although, numerous providers undergo an independent audit to ensure fair play and trustworthiness. In the end, the game as a whole needs to change. Thus, we are discussing a few possible routes a VPN can take to regain hope.
What is the next big thing in VPN?
Unsurprisingly, people are trying to figure out the way forward for VPNs. They are trying to incorporate technologies to alleviate the issues plaguing this product. Furthermore, they want to make this technology future-proof. Understandably, some of these ideas are purely theoretical, while a few are operational. We will glean a few such discoveries to figure out what’s next for VPNs.
The first product on our list is what people call the next-generation VPN. Next-gen VPNs, if you may. It is an evolution of both network architecture and VPN technology. Moreover, the product can provide a greater degree of control over the network and users. It hopes to incorporate the zero trust model to strengthen security and access to central resources, be it cloud, a centralized NAS, or a hybrid of both.
The few features of the next-gen VPN that set it apart are:
- Default zero trust access to users
- Award entry on granular policies like ZTNA
- Works on a need-to-know bias
- Limited access to users, only to relevant applications, software, or programs instead of the whole network
Roles next-gen VPN must fill
However, to make this work, there will be a few requirements the technology must fulfill:
- Ensuring encryption in transit — Whether it travels from the remote user towards the centralized HUB or cloud.
- Extensive Authentication and Authorization — Proper authentication of the user, device, and privileges would be essential before granting them access.
- User End Device compliance — The end-user devices will adhere to a specific set of standards. It will legitimize quality control and prevent security breaches.
- Independent Auditing — Full investigation into the course of a VPN client from the moment it entered the network.
Tor VPN hybrid
If we talk about Tor (The Onion Router) and how it fares against VPNs, this article will not be enough to cover it. Lucky for you, we have already dealt with the topic in our previous Tor v/s VPN write-up. Furthermore, we know Tor can run over a VPN, and so can a VPN run on top of Tor. However, when we talk about a Tor VPN hybrid, we aren’t simplifying the concept by simultaneously running two distinct technologies on top of one another.
The concept behind a Tor VPN hybrid is the distribution of data traffic to ensure privacy. VPNs are a trust game. However, diversifying this trust amongst multiple providers will lower the chances for data manipulation and logging. Here, the core principle behind the product utilizes the premise of sharing a secret to prevent it from being valuable.
The service will work like Tor, where data will travel through multiple servers instead of a single one. However, each server will come under different providers to ensure secrecy.
VPN built on a blockchain
Lastly, service providers go one step further by incorporating a VPN over blockchain technology. There is already a working product available where the VPN operates on a decentralized network. Thus, it will forgo any semblance of authority. The VPN will utilize a decentralized bandwidth market for its network.
The blockchain VPN Orchid works on a decentralized network. It buys the bandwidth from a blockchain, hence users don’t have to pay for a monthly subscription. Instead, they can utilize an Ethereum based cryptocurrency, OTX, to pay for private bandwidth on the go. The currency itself is untraceable and anonymous. Additionally, with a legit spread of decentralized servers, you can be anonymous while using this VPN.
Cryptocurrencies are the future! I don’t know who said this, but surely for VPNs, it seems to hold. As more and more applications of blockchain technology will become apparent over time, I’m hopeful regarding its VPN implementation. That said, many other innovations can claim to be the next best thing in VPN. But for now, we will stick to these three practical possibilities.