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What Is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) VPN?

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P2P VPN Meaning: What Is P2P VPN?

A peer-to-peer (P2P) virtual private network (VPN) is a type of VPN that is compatible with a peer-to-peer network. A peer-to-peer network enables users to transmit and receive data across the network through several nodes rather than a single place because every member or peer acts as a potential point of connection. In this way, data can be transferred from numerous sources, resulting in quicker and more effective downloads.

In the context of this P2P VPN meaning, you can think of a peer-to-peer VPN setup as a regular P2P connection but with VPN features as well. In a P2P network, individual devices connect to each other directly. In a regular network, there is typically a server that multiple users connect to, and the server then forwards messages from one user to another. In a P2P network, the messages go straight from individual users to other individual users.

A VPN creates a secure tunnel through the internet and encrypts the data flowing through it. Therefore, a P2P VPN connects users directly while also encrypting the data they send to each other.

Difference Between P2P and VPN: Is P2P Just as Secure as a VPN?

As the name suggests, a P2P connection is a network of two or more users (peers) that does not need a centralized server. A P2P network can be small, such as an ad hoc USB connection between a few computers. It may also involve an extended infrastructure that uses ethernet connections to connect numerous machines in an office. You can experience the true benefits of P2P when you establish a network on a much larger, global scale, where unique protocols and applications provide direct links between users over the internet.

A VPN, on the other hand, enables users to access the internet through an end-to-end tunnel that is securely encrypted. It increases online security and privacy while making it look like your computer is anywhere in the world. For example, a VPN is useful for watching content only designed for users in the United States when you are in a different country.

A P2P network, on its own, is not as secure as a regular VPN. Although it allows direct connection between users, a P2P network may not have the encryption capabilities a VPN has.

For example, suppose your company has set up a P2P network with several different campuses across the world. Each computer connected to the P2P network has a P2P client installed on it, which facilitates connection with the network. A hacker can obtain the login credentials to the P2P client using a phishing attack. At that point, all the hacker has to do is wait for someone on the network to upload the kind of information they want to steal. Since the data moving from one computer on the network to another is not encrypted, the attacker will have no difficulty intercepting and reading it.

On the other hand, with a VPN, the information sent from one person to another is encrypted. If a hacker intercepts data between two people from different campuses, they will be unable to decipher the information, making it useless to them.

How a P2P VPN Works

A P2P VPN works like a regular VPN. It establishes an encrypted tunnel through which data can pass, keeping it safe, thereby making it impossible for malevolent users to intercept it.

What Makes a P2P VPN Unique from a VPN

A P2P VPN allows access to peer-to-peer networks, which makes it unique. Users can quickly download large files from numerous sources at once—and even torrents, which are sometimes linked to risky downloads of media like movies, music, and other types of content. (Torrents themselves are not illegal or unethical. They just happen to be used for illegal activity.)

Examples of P2P VPN

  1. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 uses both client-server networks and P2P networks to transfer files between users. The objective is to reduce network traffic to Windows update servers, so users can get updates fast.
  2. To distribute huge files, game producer Blizzard Entertainment employs peer-to-peer network architecture. It has used P2P to disseminate updates for StarCraft II and World of Warcraft.

P2P networks also enable businesses to deliver content for less money. Companies can use peer bandwidth instead of client servers, which can get expensive.

Are P2P VPNs Safe?

A P2P VPN keeps your online activities hidden. This guarantees that no one—including your internet service provider (ISP), applications, websites, or government organizations—will have access to your data. For example, if you are worried that a hacker employed by a rival company will intercept communications sent to or from your organization’s network, using a P2P VPN can make that nearly impossible. The bad actor, if they intercept anything at all, will merely get jumbled, illegible text that contains no indication of what it was before the encryption.

Also, a VPN adds an extra degree of security. It safeguards users' identities and what they do, including the files they download, within a peer-to-peer network. This makes it extremely difficult to trace any activity back to a user. For example, if you work on an IT team’s threat investigation unit, you may use a P2P VPN when looking into the activities of threat actors. In this way, you can conceal your true identity, instead of using a company IP address that a hacker may be able to spot right away.

However, a P2P VPN can only protect data from compromise. It does not protect users against harmful files. A peer-to-peer network may expose users to someone who may send them malicious files, which can cause serious problems.

For instance, your VPN will not shield users from malicious software if they download a file that has been purposefully mislabeled, such as a virus. Also, if a downloaded file contains any other harmful software that can be executed on a computer, a P2P VPN will not identify and discard it. In other words, a VPN protects data, but it will not protect your organization from malicious data.

Best VPNs for P2P Traffic

There is more than one P2P VPN solution that can encrypt data and maintain users' online privacy. Some of the most popular options include:

  1. NordVPN
  2. Surfshark
  3. ExpressVPN

All three of these services support P2P architecture. They also offer regular VPNs, and users can subscribe to either for relatively low monthly fees. Even though NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN are often used by individuals, they have business tiers as well.

How Fortinet Can Help?

The Fortinet VPN solution offers users a secure, encrypted, and safe connection to the internet. In this way, organizations can prevent breaches and keep their data secure as it moves from point A to point B. In addition to connecting users to the internet, it can also connect users with each other, just like a P2P VPN. A Fortinet Crypto VPN also serves as a powerful integration tool that connects machines with each other, making it easier for machines to split workloads or transfer large amounts of information.

While regular P2P VPNs may leave you exposed to malware, Fortinet VPNs integrate with the Fortinet Security Fabric, which gives you access to a range of cybersecurity tools that enable cloud security, secure networking, and zero-trust access, to name a few. 

FAQs

What is a peer-to-peer (P2P) VPN?

A peer-to-peer (P2P) virtual private network (VPN) is a type of VPN that is compatible with a peer-to-peer network. It connects users directly while also encrypting the data they send to each other. A peer-to-peer network enables users to transmit and receive data across the network through several nodes rather than a single place because every user or peer acts as a potential point of connection. 

What does P2P VPN mean?

You can think of a P2P VPN setup as a regular P2P connection but with VPN features as well. In a P2P network, individual devices are connected to each other directly. In a regular network, there may be a server that multiple users connect to, and the server then forwards messages from one user to another. In a P2P network, the messages go straight from individual users to other individual users.