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What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A virtual private network, or VPN, is an encrypted connection over the Internet from a device to a network. The encrypted connection helps ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted. It prevents unauthorized people from eavesdropping on the traffic and allows the user to conduct work remotely. 

Why do I need to use VPN?

The majority of Lab services are already easily accessible from any place on the Internet, with no special configuration required. You can access Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, and the rest of the Google Suite with no special setup. You can access many other Lab web applications, such as Training and LETS without special configurations. However, there are a few cases where you will need additional technology in place to work from home. The most common cases are using applications that are only accessible from the Lab network (such as FMS) or accessing files on a shared drive.

Typical VPN use cases at LBL include:

  • Anyone working at home who needs to access resources at LBL that are not available on the internet, such as shared folder, or protected web sites.
  • Users on travel or on remote assignment who need access to otherwise restricted LBNL network resources.
  • Any LBL remote user who wants their data to be encrypted across the Internet.

How do I use VPN?

The instructions for setting up Cisco AnyConnect can be found here.

Can I use VPN on a personally-owned computer?

Yes, you can. Use of VPN is recommended when accessing Lab resources from any computer, including those that are personally owned.

Be advised, however, that while connected to LBL's VPN, all of your computer's network traffic will be routed through LBL's network. When you connect to Netflix, for example, your request is encrypted, tunneled to the Lab, decrypted, then routed to Netflix. For all practical purposes, you are "on site," and for that reason you may want to review the Lab's policy for appropriate computer use:https://commons.lbl.gov/display/rpm2/Acceptable+Use+of+Information+Technology.  It is highly recommended that you review what is running to running on your computer before you connect to VPN. 

Is it possible for me to choose when my traffic is tunneled through the Lab, and when it goes out "in the clear"?

No, it is not possible. While connected to LBL's VPN, all traffic will be routed through the VPN "tunnel", and subject to monitoring by LBNL.
If you do not want traffic to be tunneled, disconnect from VPN and access the Internet directly through your local provider.

Note: Due to this restriction, local area network devices, such as printers, will be unavailable to you while connected to LBL-VPN. 
However, directly connected devices (e.g. via USB), should continue to work. 

When my VPN tunnel is enabled, will network performance decrease?

While there is some overhead associated with VPN security features, end-users typically do not detect any performance degradation.