Whether you’re only interested in using the free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop you like, or you’re a frequent traveler, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an indispensable tool. Most top-quality VPN providers charge for the service. However, if you’re not interested in a premium VPN, you can create your own VPN server at home.
One of the most important considerations to make when deciding whether to set up your own VPN is your upload bandwidth. If it’s low, a paid VPN is your best option. Typically, the upload bandwidth offered by Internet service providers is much lower than the download bandwidth. So, check yours and if it’s high enough, then you can embark on the setup process for your DIY VPN server.
Reasons for Setting Up Your Own VPN Server
To begin with, your home VPN would serve as a secure tunnel whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi. Second, while abroad, you can use it to access services, such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer, which are only available in your home country, no matter the device or the operating system you’re using.
Additionally, you can choose who to grant access to your home network using your home VPN by allowing them to access the VPN’s servers. Consequently, you can play your LAN-based PC games over the Internet. Just bear in mind that there are easier methods of setting up a temporary PC gaming network.
How to Make a Home VPN
Method 1: Get a VPN Router
Rather than building your home VPN from scratch, you have the option of replacing your old router with a recent model that has built-in VPN capabilities. Finding such a router won’t be difficult as many router manufacturers include VPN server support on their devices.
Once you buy and setup up the VPN router, use the web interface to configure the VPN server and activate it. Before you buy a VPN router, make sure you carry out adequate research on all the options available and select one that is compatible with the type of VPN you’re interested in using.
Method 2: Get a Router that’s Compatible with Third-Party Firmware Such as DD-WRT
The firmware on old routers is not useful if you’re learning how to setup your own home VPN server. For this reason, you need custom router firmware that you can install on a router to make it VPN compatible. Popular firmware for this purpose includes DD-WRT and OpenWrt.
If your router already supports third-party firmware such as OpenWrt and DD-WRT, all you must do is flash the router with the firmware of your choice to get additional features. Thereafter, you can host your VPN server even on other routers that don’t have built-in VPN capabilities.
On the other hand, if you have an older router model that does not support VPN server software, check the manufacturer’s website to see if it has new VPN-enabled models, or consider purchasing one from another manufacturer.
Method 3: Build a Dedicated VPN Server from Scratch
The third option is using one of your machines as the host of a VPN server software. Just make sure that the device or computer you use is always on and is not a computer that you switch off when you’re done using it or when you’re not at home.
It’s worth mentioning that Windows and Apple offer built-in settings which are suitable for just this purpose. However, even though they can host a VPN, our experts don’t recommend them as they are not powerful enough to offer the right level of online security. The setup process can also be daunting before you get it right.
Your best bet is installing OpenVPN, a powerful and widely used third-party VPN server. OpenVPN is compatible with every platform: Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux. All that is required is to forward the right ports from your router to the device hosting the server software.
Another way to build a dedicated VPN for home use is rolling a personal device for the VPN. In this case, the Raspberry Pi comes in handy. Simply install the OpenVPN server software on it to make it a lightweight power-efficient VPN server. You can even make it a multi-purpose server by installing additional server software on it.
Bonus Method: A Hybrid Between a Home VPN and a Paid VPN
There’s one more method that’s sort of a DIY/paid VPN: paying a VPN provider to host your own VPN server. It can cost less than paying for the regular VPN service from the provider because the only service you’re paying for is server hosting. Thereafter, you can install the VPN server that the VPN service provides.
On one hand, this method may be a quick and easy point-and-click procedure in which you install the VPN and server software and receive an app to manage it. On the other hand, you might need to install the VPN from scratch using a command line. It will depend on the VPN provider you choose.
Securing Your Home VPN
Make sure a dynamic DNS is configured on your router so that you have an easy address with which to access your VPN, even when the IP address of your home Internet changes. Furthermore, ensure maximum security of your home VPN so that unauthorized people cannot access it. A powerful password is just the beginning. Consider using an Open VPN server that has a strong key file required for connection to secure the authentication process.
Another way of securing your home VPN is by using a VPN concentrator to create a secure connection between your VPN nodes. This device ramps up the security of your VPN by authenticating users, establishing and configuring channels, encrypting/decrypting data, assigning users IP addresses, and securing end-to-end data delivery.
Finally, steer clear of free proxies. Free proxies open you up to online security vulnerabilities because they can be used as a backdoor into your home VPN appliance by someone who wants to collect your data. This can be done by modifying the server to inject malicious files into your traffic.
The risks associated with this type of breach of security include:
- Theft of the login credentials of all websites you visit through login forms/cookies.
- Theft of your credit card or bank account information
- Forced participation in DDoS attacks
- Tracking of all your online activity
Most browsers will indicate whether a website is loading unsafe resources by displaying a lock symbol in front of the URL as follows:
Your safest best of privacy and security while online is the use of a VPN, home or paid. Free VPN services and proxies open you up to more risk.