No matter which side of the internet you’re on, the main focus is on security and breach prevention. Developers want to maintain their reputation, and average, everyday people just want to be able to enjoy the digital world without being scammed, harassed, or robbed.
For nearly as long as the internet has been around in the public domain, virtual private networks (VPNs) have been the go-to defense against cyber criminals and government spies.
But, are they enough to keep your information secure?
Each day, millions of malicious attacks are unleashed on consumers and businesses alike. In fact, there’s a cyber attack launched every 39 seconds. The recent Equifax breach alone affected 147.9 customers and cost the company $4 billion in mitigation, not to mention what it did to diminish consumer confidence.
Unfortunately, anonymous hackers aren’t the only problem.
We also have to worry about disgruntled employees, exes with an ax to grind, and government intrusion.
Developers and other IT pros can always deploy tools to monitor their systems. Governments are trying to do more to protect consumers. But, what can the average person do to guard their identity and data, and is it enough?
How VPNs Work to Protect Your Privacy
When most networks were hardwired through cable or fibre optic networks, it was a little easier to protect them. You had a physical line in a physical location, and fewer ways for malicious actors to penetrate the network.
Growing use of wireless networks, open public internet access points, and mobile devices increased the attack surface and made it easier for hackers to remain hidden. They could strike computers from anywhere in the world and take control of them remotely.
Virtual private networks allow you to surf over any network in relative safety and anonymity. They work by scrambling your information as it passes through your connection, making it indecipherable to anyone trying to access code or track your online activities. This makes any internet connection private.
But, VPNs do more than just keep your identity and information private.
They also hide your login details, protect messaging systems, and keep snoops from seeing what websites you visit, how long you’re on a website, and what files you download. This is not only important for security, it makes it possible for people living in oppressed regimes to enjoy some of the same freedoms that the rest of us take for granted.
Considering that our emphasis is on public networks and remote access, you may wonder if you really need a VPN at home.
The answer is yes, for several reasons.
For the average user, it’s enough to have a fast, reliable connection. But, while your internet connection gives you speed and access, what is your service provider doing to offer more security?
We take for granted that our information is safe in the privacy of our homes. But, relaxed regulations allow your ISP to sell your information to marketing firms and other third-parties. They claim that this information is provided anonymously, but it still puts you at-risk. All it takes is one unhappy employee to open the list and expose the information of the entire customer base.
Then, there’s the added problem of remote workers doing business on home computers and personal devices. Add in the potential privacy violations of IoT devices like Alexa, which has already led to some unintentional eavesdropping, and you’ll see why it’s essential to route information from your home network through an encrypted tunnel.
How to Beef Up Your Personal and Professional Cybersecurity
Installing a solid VPN from a reputable company will go a long way toward protecting you online. Just make sure that you’re not relying on a free service, which is no guarantee of safety or privacy. They have to make money to support their service somehow, so they’ll make it by selling you out.
When paired with security best-practices, VPNs give a higher chance of keeping your information and identity safe from criminals and prying eyes.
Make Sure to Protect ALL of Your Devices
Most of us no longer access the internet from one device or location. When considering VPN services, look for companies that offer multiple lines and a high number of connections per account. This will keep the cost down and protect your smartphone or tablet when you’re using it on the go.
Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings
We’ve all witnessed people walking into walls and posts because they can’t keep their eyes off their phone. Maybe you’ve even done this yourself.
Just as you would in any sketchy neighbourhood, be aware of your surroundings and who may be watching you. It only takes a second for someone to look over your shoulder and watch you login or read your personal messages. If you’re using a public computer or accessing accounts from an internet cafe, make sure to sign out of your accounts before leaving.
Control Access to Your Devices and Networks
Use two factor authentication for logins, never use the same login for different accounts, and segment your networks. That means if your home network is also being used for business, configure your router for separate lines. At work, segment lines for your own use and guest use. Just make sure that your VPN is also configured for more than one line or device.
Not all of us have the time to learn about cyber security. That’s why we have to rely on companies and technologies to keep us safe while we surf and work.
The above recommendations are designed to provide everyday people like you the information you need to make every trip on the information superhighway safer and more productive.