Written by: Bogdan Patru
Port forwarding – the most efficient way to connect one of your home devices to a remote device far away via your router. Generally, all routers are extremely secure because they make use of the NAT firewall.
Through this security protocol, streams of information are sent from the router to all the other devices, at the same time blocking any unwanted incoming data. However, while this means you’re much safer, if you want to connect to a certain device outside of the router’s range, you’ll notice that you can’t do it that easily.
Enter, port forwarding!
Also called port mapping, this technique allows you to reroute incoming connections and redirect computer signals between any LAN device and other remote computers connected to the internet. You can access resources that the VPN server is normally blocking.
At the same time, your IP and the original location of your request will remain unknown to anyone else on the network, so you’ll still be able to remain anonymous while doing it.
Let’s see how you can do this.
The process is a bit different depending on the router you’re using, but the general instructions still remain. Here’s how to do it fast and with no issues:
To put things into perspective, here’s how such a request would look like. Let’s assume that your router’s IP address is 987.654.321, and you want to connect to your laptop on port number 4444. The request that your router receives through the port-forwarding protocol would look like this – 987.654.321:4444. It’s basically your router’s IP address with the extension of the port number at the end.
Enabling port-forwarding on a VPN goes even smoother, but the process is different depending on the VPN you’re using. As such, let’s see how you would do this if you’re riding with Private Internet Access:
Once you did this, connect to one of the port forwarding gateways:
Once you’re connected to one of the gateways, the 5-digit port number will appear in the Menu Bar icon of your client or the System Tray. Type this port number in the listening port setting of any torrenting client and watch the magic unfold.
In general, port forwarding can work with VPN protocols. It doesn’t work with NordVPN though, because their apps block the majority of port communications in your device except the most popular ones.
They’re saying that they had to do this in order to decrease all the potential security risks that come with opened ports. This procedure is integral to NordVPN’s continuous functionality and excellent services, and they would surely find it impossible to keep their impeccable reputation otherwise.
Other VPN providers will have specific features allowing you to implement port forwarding and choose what port you want to use, configuring its use at the same time.
For example, you can use port forwarding with PureVPN’s add-on. This eliminates most of the security risks that come with opening a port to the digital frontiers out there.
Benefits of port-forwarding and PureVPN synchronization:
By tracking your IP address, hackers or other government agency can uncover a lot of information about you. They can monitor your private communication, messages, emails, browsing activities, and even steal private data.
With port forwarding, all of this becomes a thing of the past. All your servers are protected with the added security layers of PureVPN’s encryption protocols. More than this, the port mapping is transparent to the end user.
The port mapping protocol exists in many forms. You need to know what each of them does if you want to set up the most appropriate one for your needs.
These are the most commonly used:
Local Port Forwarding
This protocol undergoes all its operations at the Security Shell (SSH) level, allowing any application which is run from this server side to access services on the SSH’s client side. Other tunneling schemes and procedures will use this method of port forwarding to achieve the same goal.
In short, remote port forwarding gives you an uninterrupted connection at the server side of a tunnel to any remote service that’s located at the tunnel’s client side.
Dynamic Port Forwarding
This protocol gives you access to all the information and services on the other side of a NAT firewall by exploiting a so-called firewall pinhole. This method allows your client to connect safely to a secure server that acts as a middle-man sending and receiving data to a destination server or more.
The port mapping has a lot of uses and it’s very efficient in creating a connection between a device in your home network and a remote device that’s out of range. There are plenty of things you can use it for, like:
Torrenting, technically known as the file-sharing P2P protocol, is based on a system of seeding and peering. Incoming connections allow all the other torrent users to connect to your BitTorrent client and download bits and pieces from a certain file.
In short, this allows you to seed, and the more you seed, the faster your download speed will be.
The problem doesn’t cease to appear. A VPN router’s NAT firewall prevents other people from initiating unsolicited new connections. Even though further incoming connections are permitted once the initial connection is established, this severely cripples the torrenting and seeding potential.
When a BitTorrent user wants to download a file or pieces of it from you, his client will ask for permission to initiate a connection with you. The NAT firewall won’t allow this, so your system will get a notification about this. You can choose to accept the request, and the connection will be created successfully, thus bypassing the NAT firewall.
However, when both users have a NAT firewall implemented, seeding and torrenting connections are impossible to pull off. None of the two parties can initiate connections.
More and more people use VPNs to protect themselves and their private data, so this issue is not as simple as it seems. In fact, it could cripple the whole P2P system altogether.
Thankfully, port forwarding solves this issue quite easily. However, this will only be useful if both parties are working from behind a NAT firewall. In any other case, it’s useless, and it will not positively impact the download speeds.
Think of it like this – you have about 60.000 doors, and most of them are closed. No one can get access to them unless you break them open yourself. And this is what you do once you implement port forwarding and repurpose some unused ports.
The router checks the information that arrives from the internet into those open ports. However, anyone who knows the address of that port can hop over the fence and storm right in with nothing stopping them. Like a hot knife cutting butter, the intruder meets no resistance in connecting to the opened port.
If it leads to a security camera, the port will allow the intruder to see everything that the camera records, and even to control it. Weak security protocols will always be exploited, port forwarding or not.
If the port leads to your computer, however, the situation becomes a lot more complicated because a hacker can get access to the rest of your network with the admin privileges present on your PC.
As such, you need to make sure that any device at the receiving end of the opened port is encrypted with some serious cyber-protocols. Generally, manually configured ports will always remain open unless you close them yourself.
So, the greatest threat appears when you’re not using it because an occupied port is next to impossible to hijack.
However, when talking about VPNs, there are other issues to talk about. In 2015, Perfect Privacy went out with a security warning on VPN port forwarding, which it dubbed Port Fail.
This security chink makes use of a relatively simple combination of time correlation and social engineering to uncover and expose your real IP address. It’s not the victim’s fault for using the port forwarding protocol, but the attacker that uses this Port Fail glitch.
The good news is that this issue can easily be circumvented by any VPN provider by simply setting up different incoming and exiting IP addresses on its servers. The bad news is that only four of the nine VPNs that Perfect Privacy tested implemented this very basic procedure.
The other five are still suffering from same cancer, and it will eat them from the inside unless they deal with it. Now, after four years since that controversy, chances are all the VPN providers have addressed this issue.
Port forwarding is extremely useful if you want to gain access to a personal server or other LAN resources behind a VPN connection. If they are out of the range of your LAN connection, port forwarding makes them become accessible.
However, if you are file-sharing and torrenting, then you don’t expressly need to set up port forwarding. It can improve performance on eMule though, so you might want to consider this.
While there have been quite a lot of security issues with port forwarding in the past, now most VPNs implement many security patches and encryption protocols that override the native weakness of opened ports.
As for its uses, the potential is limitless, and it will make your life a lot easier by covering the distance between two devices instantly. The access to your home network is right at your fingertips, and the same goes for any VPN-protected devices.
The port forwarding protocol doesn’t work with all VPNs, but when it does, it brings about many advantages. In the end, it’s a very efficient and handy tool to have.