As you know, the Internet has long become a window to the world for billions of people around the globe. And, like through any window, you can look out from it, but at the same time, using it, somebody can get into your house. Yes, of course, we all know this saying: “My home is my castle.” But to keep this fortress impregnable for sure, it is better to protect places potentially vulnerable to intruders’ activity with bars in advance. In the digital world, the role of such lattice is successfully performed by the programs which provide VPN-based protection for our computers. VPN technology exists for a quarter of a century already. To be exact, since 1996, when Microsoft introduced the first virtual personal network.
It goes without saying that during this time, digital technologies did not stand still. The principles and algorithms based on which the VPN is built have evolved new solutions that increase throughput and improve security have appeared and integrated into operating systems. In recent versions of Windows, VPN elements are implemented at the core level of the system.
In particular, these elements include the TUN/TAP virtual network drivers. To be short, TAP creates a network bridge, and TUN provides routing of network data.
Of course, the situation when some third-party programs install their elements (often the malicious ones) without the user’s permission is quite common. Regularly checking your system for any unauthorized programs or services is undoubtedly a wise and useful habit that has the most beneficial effect on your digital security.
Therefore, it is pretty understandable that the discovery, one might say, in the very heart of the operating system of an element with some incomprehensible name can cause absolutely justified concern. Nevertheless, right in this particular case, that there is nothing to worry about.
TAP virtual drivers can be installed by many programs – from specialized VPN applications up to some antiviruses. It is understandable: creating a secure connection most often requires the involvement of the same or similar approaches.
Let’s summarize the introductory part of this article. If you suddenly find in the list of your programs or services a previously unknown element with a name like this: “TAP-Windows Adapter V9” (or something similar), you should not immediately call the cyber police or blame your antivirus for the loss of vigilance. Almost certainly, this is an important part of your operating system. Let’s say more: its thoughtless removal can significantly complicate (or even make it impossible) establishing of any network connections.
Now learn more about NordVPN Network TAP
As should be clear from the previous part of this article, virtual TAP drivers provide a secure network connection. Naturally, such a specialized application as NordVPN cannot but have such a diver or something like that by default. So everything said above about such drivers in general, in the most direct way, applies to NordVPN Network TAP in particular.
Yes, you read that right: NordVPN Network TAP is responsible for establishing and maintaining reliable, secure communications with its servers. This program, through the virtual TAP driver, implements the task of encrypting and anonymizing your traffic.
Of course, NordVPN Network TAP is far from the only element in the complex security system provided by NordVPN, but its role in this comprehensive solution is extremely important.
Let’s try in general terms, with a dotted line, to outline the scheme of interaction between your computer and the VPN application using the NordVPN Network TAP virtual driver. Omitting complicated technical details, let’s say that each time when NordVPN finds among its numerous servers the one that suits your current tasks the best, it is NordVPN Network TAP that ensures your computer’s connection to this server.
You certainly know that the fundamental principle of any VPN application is to create an encrypted virtual tunnel from your computer to its final destination. So, it is the virtual TAP driver that is responsible for the creation and operation of such a tunnel.
Since the virtual TAP driver is a prerequisite for the functioning of NordVPN, the application automatically installs it on your system during the general installation of the program. Thus, it may turn out that several virtual TAP drivers will be installed on your computer – from the native Windows one to the NordVPN’s.
This approach of software developers is fully justified. On the one hand, the TAP driver, as already mentioned above, is necessary for the functioning of a large number of specialized programs. On the other hand, each developer strives to make the installation and further use of their application as convenient, enjoyable, and intuitive for the user as possible.
Therefore, firstly, the creators of each program customize the TAP integrated into their software to best suit specific goals and objectives, and secondly, they relieve the user of the need to search, install and additionally configure the necessary drivers.
“Virtual” is written with V. “V” – as in “vendetta”
Let’s return for a while to the description of the basic principles of the TAP virtual driver’s work. The word “virtual” already explains a lot. In particular, everything that happens thanks to TAP is a pure software solution. No additional equipment other than your own computer is used to perform these tasks.
Any connection that involves TAP begins with the exchange of descriptors between the user’s computer and the servers along the entire route of your data transmission. This is similar to the friend-or-foe identification system used in the military. Actually, this is not surprising – after all, the best VPN applications use the army’s standards for encrypting your data.
As soon as the exchange of credentials has taken place, the friends are identified and the others are rejected, TAP creates a temporary interface in the core of the program that uses it to receive the data stream from the computer, securely transfer it to the NordVPN servers and carefully maintain it through a secure tunnel to the endpoint.
The fact that the virtual TAP driver creates just a temporary interface that exists for a critically short time only in the core of the program, is highly significant for the security of the transmitted data.
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So, this is the solution: the lifetime of the temporary interface is limited only by the time of file transfer (or, rather, its fragments, each of which is separately encrypted), and both – the interface and the transferring data – is stored only in the RAM of the device. Such an approach allows to irrevocably destroy any traces of the operations performed. Thus, obtaining information about the transmitted or received data becomes physically impracticable, even in the case of access to the user’s computer or any of the provider’s servers.
What NordVPN Network TAP is necessary for is already clear. But what if it suddenly stopped working?
I hope that from all of the above it is more than clear how necessary a virtual TAP driver is on any computer whose owner is seriously concerned about its security. And now we have enough knowledge to assume that if your NordVPN suddenly stopped working properly, it may make sense to look for the cause of this failure in the settings of the virtual driver. More precisely, since NordVPN configures all of its drivers by itself (not excluding manual debugging, if the user prefers to do everything with his own hands), we should check the functionality of TAP.
Since NordVPN Network TAP is an integrated part of the NordVPN program, it makes sense to use this application to diagnose the virtual driver. To do this, we recommend you follow the steps below.
- Launch NordVPN and access from the menu at the top of the Settings window.
- In “Settings” select “Advanced” to open the section for experts.
- See the “Diagnostics” section almost at the very bottom of the advanced settings page? There is a link called “Run Diagnostics Tool”. Do as suggested – run it.
- Most likely, after running the diagnostic tool, you will see a pop-up window asking for permission for NordVPN to make changes to your system. Of course, allow it.
- The required permission has been granted, and now the driver diagnostics window opens in front of you. Select the top-left button called “Collect Diagnostics” and feel free to click on it.
- At the end of the diagnostic process, you will receive a report file. If you have not changed anything in the default settings, then the archive with it will be saved here:
- Don’t feel qualified enough to understand the received document? Don’t worry, you are reading this article to learn how to understand such reports. Just unpack the archive first.
- After you extract the file from the archive, you will receive a document similar to the following: “service-2021-06-10.nwl”.
- Open this file in any text editor (don’t be confused by the extension), and see if there is a line like this: “FATAL All TAP-Windows”. If so, then the problem is really in the driver. We will fix everything now.
- Right-click on the Windows icon in the lower-left corner of the screen and select “Device Manager”. In the window that opens, open the line “Network adapters” (click on the triangle to the left of this line, it will expand into the list).
- Find what we need in this list: TAP-NordVPN Windows Adapter V9. Select it and right-click there. Now select the line “Disable device” from the pop-up menu.
- Now repeat all the same, but with the opposite result: select the line with the name of our driver, right-click on it, but now select “Enable device”. Basically, we just reloaded the driver.
- Of course, we cannot give you a 100% guarantee that everything will work now. However, this method works 90 percent of the time. A simple reboot, although done in this multi-step manner, usually fixes driver problems.
- After all these operations, restart your computer and launch NordVPN. Everything should work.
And one more for the road
At the end of this article, I find it helpful to make a few short remarks.
Chances are, if you have been using NordVPN for a long time, the issue of removing it is not relevant for you. As the saying goes, there is no sense walking away from a good thing. However, if you do decide to uninstall it, keep in mind that after removing this program from your computer, the NordVPN Network TAP virtual driver will remain on your system.
Since it stays at system startup, it will run every time Windows starts and may cause a software conflict if you decide to install another VPN application.