What is a virtual private network?

A virtual private network (VPN) allows for a secure connection into a private network over the public network. Although you are connecting from a remote location, the VPN makes the connection work as if you were on a direct connection into our network.

When is a VPN necessary?
A VPN allows a user in a remote location to access information as if the computer were connected directly into the network. The secure VPN connection keeps confidential data safe as it is transferred across the public network.

Do I need a VPN connection?
If you are surfing the web, you do not need a VPN connection. In fact, you might find your web surfing slowed by a VPN connection. However, if you must access information restricted to the Duke network—like e-Reserves or other library databases, department servers, HR data or protected health information—you need to be on a VPN connection.

Who can use the VPN?
Current students, staff, and faculty of the university are eligible to use the VPN. A current student is defined as a student currently registered in courses with the university.

Do we use a VPN "client"?

Yes, the "Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client" is installed automatically when you visit portal.duke.edu, either into your program files (for Windows) or application folder (for Mac). After the first time connecting, all subsequent connections to the Duke VPN should be launched from this installed program. To add VPN capability to your Apple mobile device (running iOS 4.1 or later), follow the instructions for Duke University VPN for iOS devices.

We recommend you install the VPN client before you travel, as device app stores and VPN software downloads may be inaccessible in certain countries. 

How do I access the VPN?
For instructions on how to access the VPN:

      • Windows users: Connection Guide for Windows
      • Mac users: Connection Guide for Macintosh
      • iPhone users:
        • Download and install the free Cisco AnyConnect for iPhone application from iTunes.
        • Connect to the portal.duke.edu server.
        • Input your NetID and password to authenticate.
      • Android:
        • Download and install the free Cisco AnyConnect application from the Google Play Store.
        • Add New VPN Connection and enter portal.duke.edu in server address field.
        • Input your NetID and password to authenticate.

Please note: IT Services does not support the VPN for use with versions of Apple OS X older than 10.5 or versions of Windows older than Windows XP. However, the VPN may still work with those operating systems.

IT Services does not support the VPN client on the Linux OS. We do, however, provide installer packages for advanced users who support themselves.

Why does my Mac not connect to the VPN?
If you subscribe to MobileMe or iCloud services there may a "Back to my Mac" setting conflict with the AnyConnect VPN client. Please view this knowledge base article for more information.

Need further assistance?
Please contact the OIT Service Desk if you need further assistance.

Article number: KB0024894

Valid to: July 9, 2025