Sign In

Communications of the ACM


Everything VPN Is New Again

lock with initials 'VPN'

Credit: Den Rise

back to top 

The virtual private network (VPN) is 24 years old. The concept—cryptographically secure tunnels used as virtual wires for networking—was created for a radically different Internet from the one we know today. As the Internet grew and changed, so did VPN users and applications. The VPN had an awkward adolescence in the Internet of the 2000s, interacting poorly with other widely popular abstractions such as multiuser operating systems. In the past decade the Internet has changed again, and this new Internet offers new uses for VPNs. The development of a radically new protocol, WireGuard, provides a technology on which to build these new VPNs.

This article is a narrative history of the VPN. All narratives necessarily generalize and cannot capture every nuance, but it is a good-faith effort to (critically) celebrate some of the recent technical history of networking and to capture the mood and attitudes of software engineers and network administrators toward the VPN.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.