eduVPN - making the Internet safer


eduVPN offers staff, researchers and students an easy and secure connection to the Internet wherever they are
eduVPN - making the Internet safer
This service is in a soft launch pilot; limited support may be available.

We don't always have eduroam available, and public wireless networks can be unsafe: while the free, public WiFi that's available in shopping malls, restaurants, and in taxi ranks might look attractive, their convenience and popularity mean they're also very attractive to cybercriminals. Every time you use one, you might open your online activity and personal data up to a variety of threats including eavesdropping, password theft, malware distribution, and worse. There's even a chance you could have logged on to a malicious hotspot that just looked like the one you were expecting.

eduVPN solves this by creating a so-called Virtual Private Network (VPN) — a secure, encrypted tunnel between your laptop or smartphone and a central server — that protects your Internet traffic from prying eyes. It's just like the commercial VPN solutions you see advertised, but it is operated by the same people who bring you eduroam and is available for free to staff, students and researchers from participating higher educational institutions.

Why another VPN service?

While many universities in South Africa offer VPN services, they're often focused on providing secure access back to your campus rather than simply protecting your Internet access. eduVPN, on the other hand, aims to provide you secure Internet access that's fast and reliable. However, if your institution uses eduVPN internally, it can also give you access to protected resources on your institution's network such as storage, administrative systems, etc.

Like eduroam, eduVPN is developed by the international research and education community, and provided by national research and education networks around the world. Through reciprocal arrangements, with eduVPN you have the opportunity to choose which country you are in and access the Internet securely using a network close to you, without having to tunnel it back all the way to South Africa. This makes eduVPN especially useful for people who travel internationally.

What does it cost? Is it really free?

Like eduroam, the eduVPN service is available free of charge to the end-user. This means if you're a student, research, academic, or staff member at an eligible institution, you won't have to pay anything to make use of eduVPN — whether you make use of it in South Africa or abroad.

However, eduVPN comes without any of the risks associated with other "free" VPN services. Nobody is trying to find a way to monetise your data, nor are we going to enforce arbitrary restrictions to encourage you to upgrade to a "premium" offering. This is because the eduVPN service isn't operated or funded in the same way as commercial VPN offerings.

Of course, eduVPN is not free; it just doesn't rely on recovering its costs from the users of the service. eduVPN's global coverage relies on reciprocal arrangements between NRENs and educational institutions around the world, just as eduroam and identity federation do. These are organisations that have a strong history of respecting privacy and have business models that don't rely on directly charging end-users for services.

Getting started with eduVPN

You have two options:

Use an eduVPN app

The easiest way is to use an eduVPN app. The following apps are available for these platforms:

When you start the app for the first time, select South Africa. You will then be asked to log in through your institution's single sign-on portal.

Afterwards, you can select the profile (eg a country) you want. Then click connect at the bottom of the page.

When your status is green, it means that your VPN is working (takes about 10 sec.)

Use your favourite client

You can also choose to download a VPN configuration file. You'll be asked to log in with your institutional credentials, and then you'll be able to access the config file.

Then open the configuration file with your favourite VPN client (for example, Tunnelblick).

Getting help

Users of the eduVPN service that are having difficulty logging in should contact their home institution's IT service desk.

Other support-related queries should be directed to our service desk.

South African eduVPN Instances

There are two types of eduVPN servers:

  • Secure Internet Access: access by all users from all research/education institutions participating in the SA NREN, to allow for safer use of the Internet
  • Institute Access: for universities and research organisations, providing exclusive access for members of that institution to their internal network

Secure Internet Access

This service is automatically available to any South African institution that participates in the South African Identity Federation (SAFIRE). Staff and students at participating institutions can simply log into the eduVPN Secure Internet Service using their home credentials.

To make use of eduVPN's Secure Internet Access service, simply log in at guest.eduvpn.ac.za

TENET operates two guest "Secure Internet Access" instances of eduVPN, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town. Both instances are connected to our network at 10Gbps and have IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity. We have initially configured these with very few network restrictions. However, we may be forced to revisit this if we receive substantive take-down requests in accordance with South African law.

In addition, South African eduVPN users are able to use eduVPN instances in other countries when they're travelling or if they need to test connectivity from outside South Africa.

Institute Access

South African institutions that are interested in using eduVPN to provide a VPN service for access back to their campus should read through the documentation at www.eduvpn.org. You'll need to deploy one or more eduVPN instances on your campus, and then contact us to get them added into the global directory.

Once added, your users will be able to choose between Secure Internet Access and Institute Access depending on their needs at the time.

Privacy and policy

TENET's eduVPN service is established in accordance with global eduVPN policy, as described at eduvpn.org.

Use of the service is subject to TENET's standard acceptable use policy as well as the acceptable use policies of your home institution.

TENET is in the process of developing a privacy statement for its eduVPN guest service. However, a general privacy statement for all services is available.