Network and Computer Security Section: VPNs

The "Hamachi" VPN

Until recently, VPNs were complex, cantankerous, and generally confusing to set up (many people think that the political powers of the world, afraid of too much encryption, liked it that way). Setting up communication protocols, encryption algorithms, and cryptographic cipher keys identically at all ends of a VPN used to demand familiarity with a lot of jargon, unusual attention to detail, and a lot of patience. But in late 2005 or early 2006, Internet users began to see references to a new, free set of VPN software for Windows that was remarkably easy to set up. It was code-named "Hamachi", and it could traverse the complexities of NAT routers and manage generation and configuration of complex encryption keys without even involving the user at all. Easy VPNs became available for Windows and LINUX computers.

 

Since that time, Hamachi has become very popular. Thru corporate merger, the product is now owned, developed, supported, and marketed by "LogMeIn Inc.", headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts, USA, and the product is now known as "LogMeIn Hamachi". The company makes the basic version of the software available free of charge for non-commercial use, while business users pay a modest license fee and have access to additional features.

When Hamachi is installed and active on a Windows computer, users see a "Hamachi Client" frame like the one shown here. At the top of the frame, the prominent numeric field reveals a private IP address (always beginning with 5. something) that is permanently assigned to a new "Virtual Network Interface" associated with Hamachi. Below that is a more human-friendly name representing the associated computer, and which can be used to reference that computer by other Hamachi users. Below that (in the large empty grey area of the illustration) Hamachi can list the names of any VPN Networks with their associated members of which it is aware (but in this case, none have yet been defined). Buttons along the bottom edge of the frame allow access to "Pop-up" menus facilitating configuration, etc.

The free version supports creation of named Virtual "Hamachi Networks" consisting of as many as 16 separate computers, which can subsequently share files, printers, games, media, and messages with confidence and in private across the worldwide Internet.

Click on the picture links below to view brief video clips showing how to find, download, and install the free Hamachi installation software from your Windows-based computer with Internet access. If you already know how to do this, click on the "NEXT" link to skip ahead to more sophisticated Hamachi integration and startup information.