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The internet had taken the world by storm in the 1990s and shaped the future for generations to come. The features were somewhat limited at the beginning, but the potential was undeniable. Soon, the internet became available to more people and allowed them to communicate with each other without using the same network.

As the new millennium approached, businesses and organizations recognized the importance of the internet and began working on their websites. By the mid-2000s, people from around the globe were chatting with each other, sharing files, playing video games together, and more. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows because cybercriminals were always looming.

Identity theft, malware, and phishing were very much present back in the day, too. Luckily, those cyber threats were recognized by professionals who worked constantly on developing new tools to protect internet users. That’s how VPN was born.

The early days of VPN

In the 1960s, the US Department of Defense launched the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, which eventually turned into the internet we know today. ARPANET needed an encrypted communication protocol, so a Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol was created. Internet Protocol is considered to be the inspiration for the VPN technology.

In 1992, the US Navy came up with the Simple Internet Protocol Plus, or SIPP, which encrypts IP addresses. That was the basic version of American VPN. One year later, engineers from Columbia University and AT&T Bell Labs made Software IP Encryption Protocol. In 1994, Internet Protocol Security, or IPsec, created by Xu Wei, served as a blueprint for encrypting the data sent from one computer to another.

Two years later, Gurdeep Singh Pall, who worked for Microsoft, introduced the Point-to-Point Tunneling protocol, or PPTP. It was suitable for dial-up connection and wasn’t particularly fast. However, PPTP is the first VPN protocol and the framework for the more advanced versions of this software.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, most internet users relied on antivirus software to keep their computers free from malware. The demand for encrypted communication grew since more people wanted to protect their data and personal information.

As the internet transformed, so did the cybercriminals. The consequences of security breaches became more serious because companies and government organizations moved their businesses online. And so everyone needed an extra layer of security that would protect confidential files and encrypt important data.

VPN in the 2000s

In 2001, OpenVPN was developed by James Yonan, who wanted to access his home network while in Asia. What made this protocol quite popular was its availability and the fact that it is open source. In the years that followed, major security breaches threatened internet users regardless of location.

When Wi-Fi became available in public places, hackers saw it as the perfect way of eavesdropping on users. They were able to intercept communications and share malware, which made people reluctant to connect to Wi-Fi networks outside of their homes.

Besides cybersecurity issues, internet users in certain parts of the world were experiencing censorship and content restrictions by their governments. The need for a commercial VPN available to everyone grew daily. By 2005, internet users who wanted to improve their online safety were using the first consumer VPN.

At the beginning of the 2010s, third-party VPN providers were already a staple in the world of cybersecurity. These companies were eager to compete and deliver better speeds and connections.

The fast development in the 2010s

Healthy competition can be an amazing thing, and the perfect example is the development of VPNs in the 2010s. This decade saw a gradual shift towards remote work, which required safer connections, as well as the rise of ransomware. All this led to an increase in the public’s interest in VPNs.

VPN providers invested in developing their tools, and soon, VPNs were available on multiple platforms. Extra features followed, including multi-hop connections and a no-logs policy. WireGuard became a go-to VPN protocol.

The need for VPNs in the pandemic

The popularity of VPNs increased even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of businesses switched to remove work, which required secure internet connections. Our everyday lives became linked to the online world like never before, and cybercriminals were ready to exploit that. Luckily, VPNs provide all the necessary features to use the internet safely and keep our data secure.

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