Just this evening, I went to my neighborhood Tim Hortons, to order some food, but also to use their public WiFi hot-spot, in order to log in a session with the VPN server I have on my LAN, that uses the ‘OpenVPN’ protocol. This is a type of test which I perform periodically, just to make sure that the server does work, after certain upgrades. The test was a success.
But I would like to point out several things which this action does not imply.
In the world of today, many people pay money to rent a VPN server, the only purpose of which is to fool the geo-blocking of certain services offered in the USA. In this context, they may expect that to install ‘OpenVPN’ on their clients, will give them free access to a VPN.
This would be False.
The way I have OpenVPN set up on my LAN, I can use the compatible Android client, named “OpenVPN For Android”, to make my computers behave as though my tablet was physically on my LAN. From there, I can ping computers on my LAN. This could be useful to me if I need to access certain resources that specifically exist on my LAN here at home.
In general, I do not use this service to redirect any Internet traffic through my VPN, so that Internet traffic continues to flow directly from the tablet which is my client, through the WiFi that I have used separately, to gain access to my OpenVPN server.
Some people have suggested that I may be taking quite a chance with my data, by connecting to my VPN from within a WiFi hot-spot. But contrarily to what the name of this protocol may suggest to some minds, this protocol has robust encryption techniques in place, in addition to password challenges, which will not only prevent unauthorized access, but also prevent any data from being gleaned from the connection, in the event that the entire session might be monitored.
My main fear in this scenario tends to be, that certain hot-spot operators may not differentiate, between a person who connects to his VPN at home, and one who connects to a VPN across the border, simply because either type of session typically uses the same port numbers, only on different servers. If they did not differentiate, my access to any VPN might be blocked regardless. It was not blocked this evening.
There is an observation about Tim Horton WiFi however, which I may mention. I pinged another computer tonight, which was physically on my LAN. This represents a low-bandwidth scenario. The ping times were slower than before, averaging maybe 200ms. In the past I sometimes obtained ping times of 30-50ms. Yet, if I was to do the same thing from a non-public WiFi hot-spot, my ping times should also be back to normal…