Women's Society of Cyberjutsu – Cyber Security For All
Today we are talking about Virtual Private Networks or most commonly known as VPN.
VPN’s are a huge topic, so here’s what we are going to be discussing. First, we’ll define a VPN and we’ll talk about the pros and then the cons. We’ll look at how you can get a VPN and compare some of the more common options available. Finally, we’ll discuss why you should think about using a VPN.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
So, what exactly is a VPN? A VPN is a virtual private network which basically means all of your internet traffic, whether you are doing online banking, using social media, or playing video games, all of that traffic becomes encrypted. Imagine a tunnel, a secure tunnel where all of your internet traffic flows through. This tunnel protects your internet traffic, and specifically sensitive information such as your banking information, social security numbers, and anything else you want to keep secure. The VPN will make it so that anyone snooping around your network can’t see any of it. Companies or individuals that want to maximize their online safety tend to rely on VPN’s to hide and protect their data. I think VPN’s are pretty cool. I’ve used them before in the past and next, let’s discuss some pros and cons when it comes to using a VPN.
A VPN can keep you and your data safe when using the internet. A VPN can also allow you to unlock content that is blocked to your region because you can basically be anywhere in the world. A VPN keeps you anonymous as you can specify a different location to be online. You can also save some money because websites that track your IP address will not be able to see your real IP. This is perfect for websites with paywalls or airlines that like to increase prices on return visitors. Some anti-virus service providers now offer VPN’s as part of their yearly payment.
Not all things are glorious with VPN’s. While they are safer, they are not 100% immune to cyber attacks. Just this week, hackers started exploiting a zero-day bug on Pulse Secure VPN which allows hackers to bypass 2FA and breach defense contractors. Some companies also block the use of certain VPN’s. This means that you might not be able to access those services if using a VPN on the blocked list. Some VPN’s are difficult to configure and might require some research and finer tweaking to get just right.
How to Get Your Personal VPN?
Now that you know what VPN’s are and a few pro’s and con’s, let’s talk about how you can go about acquiring a VPN for personal use. If you’ve been on YouTube recently, your favorite tech YouTuber might have mentioned NordVPN. Nord has been actively trying to get folks to use their VPN service and even provide a 30 trial. I’m not sponsored by NordVPN yet, but feel free to check out any VPN service that your favorite tech YouTuber might be promoting. Opera browser, an open source browser, also offers built in VPN right in the browser. The VPN is free and you are not limited by how much or how long you can use the VPN service. Finally, if you have Norton Antivirus and you have the Standard subscription or higher, you can get smart VPN through them. Norton also offers other services as part of their standard package that go beyond just a virus scanner service. Mcafee also provides you with secure VPN on all their subscription packages. If you do not want the total protection package, they also offer a standalone VPN service for a couple dollars a month. As you can see, there are many different ways of getting a VPN service. Do your research to see what works for you and your specific needs.
Why Do You Need a VPN?
But, when do you need to use a VPN service? If you are at home, you’ve probably never worried about using a VPN. Unless you need to do something really private, your home network is usually private enough. But, I can think of two major reasons why you would want to use a VPN. First, if you are not at home, and you are on a public WiFi such as at a hotel or a coffee shop, you should really consider using a VPN then. Public WiFi’s are prone to man in the middle attacks which could not only jeopardize your privacy, but also your data. The next reason would be to bypass tracking on websites. So, if you are not sure you want to make that trip and you are just window shopping, using that VPN is going to give you that peace of mind knowing that the website cannot track you. I’m sure there are other good applications, but for most folks, these are the two that I think would apply to you. If you are a business owner however, you might want to have all your employees VPN into your business network to ensure all traffic is encrypted regardless of where an employee might be connecting from. At work, your IT department can keep an eye out on your network for anomalies or intrusions. When your employees are working from home, you have no idea what is going on in their networks. As a peace of mind gesture, you should enable VPN for your employees.
There you have it. Your VPN 101 guide. I hope you take my advice here and go protect yourself. If you really want to make sure your internet traffic is protected, using a VPN is one of the better things you can do. VPN’s also slow down your internet connection. If you are wanting to do things quickly online, just know that things will slow down quite a bit when using a VPN.
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