Tuesday, April 23, 2024

What is a VPN and why do you need one?

2020 has been a momentous year for plenty of reasons and whilst we all struggle with the effects of Covid cybercriminals have been stepping up their attacks.

One of the ways to protect your computers and devices against attack is by using a VPN but that begs the question – what is a VPN and why do you need one?

In this post, we’re going to look at why ordinary users really need to consider investing in a small piece of technology that could make a massive change to their security.

What’s the problem?

Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who are only too happy to take advantage of security lapses and with most companies using professional anti-virus or anti-malware software, the attention of the cybercriminals has moved to personal devices.

Back in the day life was simple, phones used the phone network and that was that but today with smartphones in every pocket and public wifi networks to connect to in every street there are some serious issues that need confronting.

Cybercriminals can cause problems for you by;

  • Intercepting your connection with public Wifi
  • Loading malware onto your device
  • Setting up ‘middle man’ web browsers
  • Using your device to access work computers

Some malware will constantly serve ads on your device but others will have much more sinister motives and with most people doing pretty much everything on their phone from banking to booking doctors appointments the potential for harm is clear.

This means that it is vital that your devices are secure and that you are able to surf safely.

How criminals can access your device

Imagine the scene; you are sitting in your favourite coffee shop. Maybe you are working on your laptop or tablet or perhaps you are just surfing the web on your phone.

You like this cafe because they offer free public wifi and it is fast and easy to access.

The problem is that it is the speed and easy access that provides vulnerability.

The first issue is that in many cases the connection isn’t encrypted at all, meaning that someone can effectively ‘eavesdrop’ on everything sent to and from the wireless access point.

Called ‘snooping’ or ‘sniffing’ this allows cybercriminals to log all of the information you send and receive from the internet and this can include bank details, passwords and emails.

Secondly, it is easy for someone with the technical knowhow to set up what is known as an ‘ad-hoc’ attack. This is where a device that has an open and unencrypted connection method is connected to by the criminal’s computer, allowing the download of information and uploads of worms, trojans and malware.

A ‘man in the middle’ attack is where the user logs on to the network and accesses what they think is a legitimate website but is, in fact, a spoof site cleverly designed to mimic the real site.

If you think of accessing a site that looks exactly like your bank and entering all your connection details then this gives you an idea of how this can be used.

 An  ‘evil twin’ attack is where the wifi at a particular location also has a twin that has a name that looks very similar to the wifi that the user is expecting to see. 

For example “Joes_cafe_Wifi” may become “Joes-cafe-Wifi” with the user connecting unwittingly to the suspect twin.

Once connected they are then at risk of a variety of attacks including malware, worms and man-in-the-middle.

VPN – the way to secure all of your devices

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is a method of securely accessing the internet using an encrypted connection.

This means that it is impossible for cybercriminals to break into your connection or read what you are doing.

Protection is provided through end to end encryption, meaning that the data is encoded before it leaves you machine and can only be decoded by someone who has the legitimate key, in other words, your VPN provider.

The benefits are clear, protection from snooping, sniffing and evil twins.

For a business, it makes complete sense to have their people using VPN at all times, especially if they allow Bring Your Own Device on their network.

And for private users, the small cost of a VPN makes subscribing a real no-brainer.

VPN gives you web anonymity

Over the years we seem to have become used to the fact that we are being tracked across the web and that companies we visit and even our own internet provider can track, use and sell our data as they see fit.

One of the key benefits of a VPN is that it restores our anonymity, making sure that our information stays secure and is only given to people we trust.

When you link to a VPN service you are accessing the web not directly through your device but through the provider’s servers. This means that to the website you are visiting you could be anywhere in the world.

This is helpful if you want to access geo-blocked services where information and videos aren’t available in your country. This gives you a much wider range of content on your favourite streaming service!

The main benefit though of VPN is to provide device users with much-needed security and if you value your information and want to continue to use public wifi then you absolutely need to subscribe.

Claire James
Claire Jameshttp://www.firedigitaluk.com
Claire is an accounts manager at Fire Digital UK, an online publishing and content marketing company based in the North West.

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