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I am trying to understand how NordVPN works, from the IP side of things.

After establishing a VPN tunnel, my public IP address becomes :

$ dig +short myip.opendns.com @resolver1.opendns.com
138.199.16.59

And the following new routes are created :

0.0.0.0/1 via 10.8.3.7 dev tun0 
128.0.0.0/1 via 10.8.3.7 dev tun0
10.8.3.0/24 dev tun0 proto kernel scope link src 10.8.3.7
138.199.16.57 via 192.168.1.1 dev wlp2s0

I understand all but the last one (138.199.16.57 via 192.168.1.1 dev wlp2s0). It seems NordVPN needs to reach directly (e.g., without going through the tunnel) a public IP address (138.199.16.57) from the same range as the public IP I received (138.199.16.59)

What's the purpose of this route ?

2 Answers 2

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Once you establish the VPN connection, there will be two types of applications that run on your machine:

  1. the NordVPN application
  2. everything else (e.g. your web browser, your email client)

"Everything else" needs to go through the tunnel. This will provide the network encryption to all your applications.

NordVPN IS the tunnel. In your case, 138.199.16.57 is the other end of the VPN tunnel (somewhere out on the Internet) and your machine needs to know how to get to that IP address without using the tunnel itself.

Thanks, Deric

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Well, your encrypted data has to flow through the internet to the VPN endpoint somehow. So, everything but that endpoint needs to go through a tunnel. But the communication with the endpoint must happen "directly" over the unencrypted network.

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    OK I think I understand. All my traffic is encrypted, then sent to 138.199.16.57 through my ISP.
    – ChennyStar
    Jan 6 at 14:40

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