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A Confidential Connection – VPN at the RWTH Aachen University

August 24th, 2020 | by

Many will already know the three big letters – V P N. This is the abbreviation for “Virtual Private Network”.
Using various available protocols, an encrypted connection, a so-called “tunnel”, is established between your computer and the VPN server. All data traffic into the RWTH network – or, depending on the operating mode, all traffic – passes through this encrypted tunnel. Only from the VPN server onwards does the data begin its conventional unencrypted path into the network. Logically, the user’s computer has moved to a subnet of the RWTH Aachen University: In the “Full Tunnel” he now appears to third parties with an IP address of RWTH Aachen University.

Secure access to the RWTH network via VPN – we explain how it works. (Foto: Unsplash)

All members of the RWTH Aachen University are authorized to use the central VPN of the RWTH Aachen University. In order for this to work, a so-called VPN client – a software – is required, which is downloaded according to the operating system used. You can find the link to the download portal on IT Center Help under “Configuration Instructions”. The currently usable VPN Client supported by us is called AnyConnect. Very important: If you want to use the VPN for the first time, you have to set a password in the self-service.

Application areas – what do I need it for?

The connection via VPN is necessary if you want to search in the catalogs of the university library or if you need access to the high-performance computer of the RWTH Aachen University. Also, access to the RWTH Aachen University intranet as well as to the instructions for RWTHonline is only possible from the RWTH network and thus from outside only via VPN. This also applies to the institute’s own data. For this purpose, institutes can have their own secure network set up at the IT Center in addition to the central VPN of RWTH Aachen University. If interested, administrators of the institute can contact our IT-ServiceDesk.

Well-established infrastructure

In general, the VPN service is in great demand and is used just as much. Especially in times like now, when many people do not work in their usual environment and have set up a workplace at home. In addition to the central VPN of the RWTH Aachen University, the IT Center is responsible for approximately 90 additional VPN access points for institutes – and the number is growing! At the beginning of 2020, the central VPN infrastructure was renewed as part of the network renewal. A new, more powerful one replaced the existing infrastructure. Compared to the old infrastructure, almost four times as many people can now use the VPN at the same time. Since the renovation, the VPN is now also fully IPv6-capable.

In comparison: The old (top) and the new (bottom) hardware as pairs, each in redundant configuration.

You can find more about VPN on IT Center Help.

Responsible for the content of this article are Linda Jörres and Benedikt Paffen.

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