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VPN security: How VPNs help protect your data online

With the digital world being filled with various threats, VPN security is a must. Learn how this technology protects you during online ventures.

person typing on laptop. VPN showing on the screen.
Image: Unsplash

The dawn of the digital age has brought many benefits to our lives.

Benefits include accessible communication, vast entertainment possibilities, the ability to get various material goods from all over the world, and much more.

And yet, it also came with a set of drawbacks.

It’s straightforward to become a victim of scams, phishing attempts, and engineered cyber attacks if one is not careful while exploring the internet.

And with hackers becoming craftier by the day, even users aware of the dangers can get compromised.

And you can’t forget about the constant monitoring.

online security data protection for domain name laptop
Image: Unsplash

Everyone wants to know your browsing habits, whether your internet service provider (ISP) or big corporations, which is an invasion of privacy.

That’s why it’s not enough to know about the pitfalls – you need to arm yourself with the appropriate tools.

One of them you should be aware of is virtual private networks.

This technology masks your online identity by encrypting all traffic and hiding your IP address, considerably boosting your privacy.

Of course, this VPN security comes with other benefits as well. Let’s learn about them below.

Are VPNs safe?

iPhone next to a laptop showing VPN on the screen
Image: Unsplash

In essence, VPNs route your internet through a remote server. There, all data gets scrambled and encrypted, so nothing can be traced back to you when it reaches the destination.

Hence, no third parties or snoopers can see what you’re doing online or collect info about you.

There is a caveat here: VPN providers technically have access to your data. So if the company doesn’t have the best intentions, it could be logging and selling it.

Worst case scenario, some government decides to seize their servers, and everything is out in the open.

Because of this, it’s crucial to pick VPNs with strict no-logs policies, as they choose to uphold complete user confidentiality by refusing to collect & store information.

The most trustworthy ones have undergone independent audits by reputable entities to verify there’s genuinely no shady business happening behind the scenes.

Why should you use a VPN?

vpn on laptop
Image: Unsplash

VPN security offers plenty of perks for a tool with a simple purpose – encrypting internet traffic. And with the right provider, you can also expand your horizons in the digital world.

Identity protection

The most obvious reason to get a VPN is, naturally, to shield yourself from identity theft. Unfortunately, anyone with the right means can track and collect information about you.

It can be your ISP, the government, big corporations seeking to make a profit, malicious users – the list goes on.

Virtual private networks make it highly impossible to do away with encryption. It scrambles all data according to a set of rules determined by a specific cipher.

Those who don’t have the appropriate key to decipher it only see gibberish. And the best thing about encryption is that it’s tough to crack.

Public Wi-Fi security

We all know the dangers of using publicly available Wi-Fi networks as they usually lack proper protection measures.

They are perfect places for hackers to run amock and exploit various weaknesses to spread viruses and gain access to your devices. But what if you have no other choice?

preference threat protection screen showing settings
Image: KnowTechie

These people can’t target you if they can’t see you using the Wi-Fi network. Some VPN providers even take it up a notch by offering malware blockers.

These prevent you from entering suspicious websites or downloading files infected with malicious software, which takes care of the potential cyber attack aspect.

Bypassing restrictions

Those who have been on the internet long know plenty about blocked content. Be it services, websites, or even whole platforms, sadly, not everything is freely accessible to everyone.

Some restrictions are applied on the network level by the ISP, and in certain countries, it’s done on a massive scale by the government.

VPNs work like magic here as well. You can easily connect to any other region where the content you want to see is freely available.

This applies to streaming platforms like Netflix, which has plenty of foreign libraries.

Want to explore what Japan has to offer? Pick a server from there, and your Netflix selection will change accordingly.

What are the drawbacks of using a VPN?

online shopping with a vpn
Image: Unsplash

Let’s establish a fact – you’ll be better off using this technology than browsing the web metaphorically naked.

Still, no matter how helpful VPN security is, you also have to be aware of certain disadvantages:

  • Reduced speeds. Because your internet gets routed through another server and encrypted, things will load slower than usual. Depending on the provider, it can range from barely noticeable to detrimentally slow. A proper VPN will have the latest tunneling protocols to mitigate this.
  • Not always legal. Some countries outright ban VPNs, so if you happen to live or visit Iran or Turkey, you will be breaking the law by using them. And punishments vary from fines to prison time. But you have to get caught doing so, and, fortunately, most services have additional features like Stealth VPN to avoid detection.
  • Not completely risk-free. You are not 100% invulnerable to hackers, even while protected by a VPN. Furthermore, it’s not an all-encompassing solution that covers all potential threats, so you can still be affected by social engineering attacks if you are not careful.

Practice online safety

Building upon the last point, VPN security can only do so much.

You also have to do your part and stay vigilant. What it entails:

  • No blind trust. It’s surprisingly easy to fall for phishing attempts since they tend to look so legitimate. Double-check URLs and validate links before clicking them. Also, remember that official organizations and banks never ask people to provide personal information via emails or links.
  • Avoid shady websites. Some websites are outright dangerous to visit and can compromise your security. Avoid entering your data on pages that don’t seem legitimate. It’s also a good idea to look for a little lock icon in the URL field. It indicates the website has an SSL certificate, meaning the connection is encrypted, and the owner is verified.
  • Never download random files. If a thing seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Furthermore, we strongly advise against downloading any file you stumble upon since it’s the easiest way for hackers to spread viruses.

Conclusion

person on laptop using a VPN
Image: Digital Trends

Those needing enhanced security and virtual anonymity will find VPN services especially useful.

Furthermore, encryption goes a long way in regaining some semblance of data privacy.

The fact this technology is handy for breaking down restrictions and unblocking the world wide web is the cherry on top. Just don’t forget to be wary of other potential cyber threats.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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