A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is used to encrypt data destined for UIC while it travels over the Internet. While connected to the VPN, the client software works with the operating system to determine when you are accessing an Internet location that the client should protect. When you are accessing such a location, the VPN client encrypts the data and sends it to ACCC's VPN gateway. As your information is flowing across the Internet to reach UIC, it is securely encrypted and is only decrypted once it reaches the VPN gateway.
For example, if you are at home and have started the VPN client to connect to the gateway (this is technically referred to as a tunnel) and use your Web browser to visit www.uic.edu, the portions of the connection that are encrypted are:
The web browser request from the VPN gateway to www.uic.edu and the reply from www.uic.edu to the VPN gateway would not be encrypted.
If you are doing any sensitive work that requires any information to be sent to UIC computers and this information isn't encrypted some other way, this would be a good way to protect that information as it travels over the Internet.
Also, some protocols are disabled at the UIC border which means that you cannot access these from off campus. Microsoft Exchange email servers and on-campus Windows file shares are both blocked at the UIC-to-Internet border. The VPN is a solution in these instances as the traffic from your home computer is securely tunneled past these blocks. NOTE that in order for the VPN gateway to be of use to get around these port blocks, the administrator of the server at UIC must have specifically requested the ACCC Security office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to allow this traffic.
April 18, 2012