As each year passes, the internet offers us more ways to manage our lives through the use of technology. Consider your banking, for example. For many people the need to visit a physical bank on the high street has been negated by the development of banking apps for smartphones. Our lives have become easier as a result but many people appear to live under the false notion that as long as you have physical control of your computer or phone, the data sent will also be safe and secure.
This is not true. It’s a dangerous misconception and one that hackers take advantage of on a daily basis.
One easy way to protect your data is by the use of a VPN and you don’t need to be a technical whizz to get it sorted.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a service which encrypts your web traffic and protects your identity online.
What happens to my data without a VPN?
Put simply, when you want to access a web site on the internet, you type the website address into your browser and this request is sent to your router and then on to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP contacts the website on your behalf, finds the information you need and sends it back to you.
Of course, this works fine but, if you care about your internet security you need to read on.
As your internet traffic passes through the ISP, they can see everything that you do online including being able to track your behaviour. Your IP (Internet Protocol) address which identifies your device, your location and your activity online are all visible to your ISP. Depending on the company, they may also hand over your online history to third parties, including government agencies and marketing companies.
What happens to my data with a VPN?
A VPN redirects your web traffic through a specially configured VPN server which hides your IP address and encrypts any data that is being sent and received, making it impossible to read while your data is in transit.
Essentially, you can think of a VPN as a hacker-safe, encrypted tunnel through which web traffic flows. The information you send to your ISP gets encrypted before even leaving your device, so the ISP can’t see what you’re doing. Your information then travels from the ISP to a VPN server that changes your IP address. Now, the website’s servers won’t see your original IP, but instead will be seeing the IP and location of your VPN server.
No one can look through the tunnel and obtain your personal internet information allowing you to relax every time you use public WiFi, access personal and job accounts on the road, or want to keep your browser history for yourself.
How safe is my data when I am using a VPN?
A lot safer than when you aren’t using one however let’s look at the key vulnerable points when you are searching on the web.
Before the information leaves your device, it gets encrypted by the VPN app. If anyone manages to snoop on your traffic, all they’ll see is incomprehensible gibberish. They cannot decrypt that information without having an encryption key, which is only available on two devices – yours and the VPN servers. There’s only one way to get your sensitive information at this point – by compromising you or your device.
If you’ve already caught a virus, used a weak password or fell for a social engineering attack, a VPN will not be able to protect you. Hackers will already have access to your device and as a result will be able to see everything you do on it.
If your device is secure and your VPN is on, your message or inquiry will be encrypted when you send it. One of the only ways to read it now would be by cracking your encryption protocol. However, strong encryption is what makes VPNs so reliable, so it’s not as easy as it might sound.
The encryption key is a huge string of characters that are used to scramble and unscramble your data. To find the encryption key, hackers would need to try every possible combination, which is called a brute-force attack however there are so many combinations that it would take the most powerful computer about a billion years to find the right key.
The VPN Server
The security of VPN service providers can vary wildly. For example, if you are hosting a VPN on your own server, then the server is only as secure as you make it. It will be your responsibility to ensure the server is regularly updated. Additionally, as it will usually only be yourself using a self hosted VPN, you will still be quite easy to track online. Using a commercial VPN provider will give you above average security.
The Websites You Visit
Once your data leaves the VPN server to go to the website, it’s again out in the open if you visit websites with unsecure HTTP connection. You should always look for sites with https:// rather than http:// The addition of the “s” indicates the website is using the secure version of http – the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website to which you are connected.
There are a number of ways in which cyber criminals can intercept and collect your details, and the worst thing about it is, you won’t know until it’s too late.
- Unwarranted Surveillance
- OS Loopholes
- Insecure Wi-Fi Networks
- Clickbait & Phishing
- Unreliable Downloads
- Insecure e-Transactions
- Spyware and Adware
- Malicious Content
- Compromised Browsers
- Firewall Breach
Choosing a VPN service which eliminates these threats is the only way in which you can be sure that you’re not vulnerable. NordVPN is the best VPN solution in my opinion (I use it every day on my Laptop and Mobile devices) and that of many others including CNET and it’s the editors choice at PC Magazine.
Additionally, a VPN can also be used to anonymize your geographical location, which is more commonly used to gain access to websites and media that’s geo-locked i.e. If you’re in the UK, you can gain access to Netflix USA which has ALL of the available titles.
VPNs also remove the dangers of open WiFi networks, so why are you still on that free wifi hotspot with no VPN protection?
As such hotspots can be easily hacked or spoofed by a cybercriminal, securing your connection with a VPN is simply a must. NordVPN protects your data with very strong encryption and has a whole bunch of extra security features to keep you safe from hackers, annoying ads, malware and other security threats to boot!
Why I chose NordVPN
NordVPN have over 5400 servers worldwide using Military Grade Encryption, they also support DOUBLE VPN, P2P (Bit Torrent), TOR, Obfuscated Servers.
Best of all they offer a 30 day money back guarentee!