How to Use a VPN to Strengthen Your Web Security
Cybersecurity around the world is an increasing concern. On any given day, someone is successfully hacked every 32 seconds. It's no wonder then that companies are boosting their cybersecurity spending.
It's also clear that antivirus and anti-malware programs are not capable of getting the job done themselves. If they were, we wouldn't see cybercrime figures shooting up annually.
The next question then is how to bolster your cybersecurity at home and work. You know all the basics already:
- Choose strong, unique passwords.
- Enable multi-factor authentication.
- Check for software updates regularly.
- Don't click on links in emails.
- Be careful which sites you visit.
- Improve your router security.
Open any article about cybersecurity, and you'll see these tips printed over and over again. That's why we're not going to talk about them any further. Instead, we'll focus on a different solution and using a VPN to improve your web security.
What Is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a set of protocols that keeps your web browsing anonymous. You'll sign up with a service provider who runs server centres locally or abroad. They'll then create a virtual IP address for you.
Should someone try to track you down while you're online, they'll only find your virtual IP address. If you've chosen a service provider with servers abroad, it'll seem as though your computer is in a different country.
Secondly, the VPN service provider carefully encrypts data that you transmit or receive.
The advantage of using a VPN is that you're able to surf anonymously online and that your data is heavily encrypted. The only one who can determine your true identity is the VPN service provider.
Is a VPN Legal?
VPN services are perfectly legal. Where it becomes a grey area is when you start to use it to disguise illegal activity. Downloading movies, circumventing censorship laws in your home country, or using the VPN to access digital services not available in your home country are all illegal applications of the technology.
Say, for example, that you live in a country where Netflix is not available. You could use a VPN service to make it appear as though you were in the United States. This is highly illegal and not recommended.
Bear in mind that the VPN service provider might be compelled by law to release the details of users that are breaking the law.
For now, let's focus on legitimate reasons to use a VPN.
Legitimate Reasons to Use a VPN
There are a few different legitimate reasons to use a VPN:
- For maintaining your privacy when you want to surf anonymously.
- To improve your cybersecurity over a public network and a private one.
- To get around restrictive and unfair censorship of the internet.
Can I Ditch My Antivirus Software?
A VPN is a valuable part of your security measures. On its own, though, it only keeps you anonymous and encrypts your data. It doesn't scan for or defend against viruses and other malware.
One thing that all of us must realize is that cybersecurity relies on using a system of defences and backups. If your antivirus software is breached, encryption protects your data from prying eyes.
Choosing the Right VPN Service Provider
Before signing up for any plan, you need to consider the following.
Situations When You'll Use the VPN
If you just want to use it when accessing your work files, then an average VPN service provider should be just fine. If you're going to watch Netflix, you'll need a stable provider with a high-speed connection and no limits on bandwidth.
Bear in mind that routing your data through a virtual private network means that the data must travel further. Your data may be bounced off a few different servers before it makes its way to you.
Stick to Reputable Brands
There are many providers out there. Some are better than others. It's vital to vet the companies carefully before signing up. What kind of encryption protocols do they use? Are they well-established? Have there been complaints about them?
Understand the Terms and Conditions
Is your VPN valid all over the world? Can you use it on one device or several? Where will you receive coverage, and where won't you?
Ideally, you should sing up with a company that requires as few of your details as possible. Using a cryptocurrency to pay might stand you in good stead here.
Be wary about those companies offering free services. Last year, we learned the danger of using free software when the Avast scandal broke. Avast has, for many years, provided free antivirus protection.
At least, it seemed free. As it turns out, Avast was tracking our movements online and selling the information on. The company maintains that all identifying information was removed, but we're taking their word on that.
Steer clear of free services. Companies in this range must make money in other ways. They might do so by selling your data. If they've got no money coming in, it might also be hard for them to pay for reliable protection.
Once you've done your homework, you can select the company that you want to work with. From there, it's just a case of setting up your VPN.
How to Set Up Your VPN
It's straightforward. Find a reputable service provider first and sign up for the service. Your service provider will give you all the details that you need to set up a virtual network. After that, it's just a matter of setting up the new network.
We'll go through the process for Windows users below.
Go to the search bar and type the word "VPN" and then hit enter.
Choose "Add a VPN Connection."
In the first box on the screen, you'll see a drop-down menu. There's only one option available—Windows Built-In. Click on it, and you'll see the VPN Type near the bottom changes to "Automatic."
The Type of Sign-In Info box will default to Username and Password.
Everything else is information that your service provider must give you.
Let's take a leaf out of a hacker's book here. Hackers use several different attack vectors. We must adjust our defences accordingly. By using multiple protective strategies, we keep ourselves and our data a lot safer.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. Do not take this as personalised financial advice or investment advice. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the opinion of BitPrime.
Last updated: 26/05/2020