Why Virtual Private Networks (13th December 2022)

Ref# T2022_25 | Date: Dec 13th 2022

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? 

Virtual Private Network (VPN) refers to the creation of a secure network connection when utilizing public networks. VPNs mask your online identity and encrypt your internet activity in real-time. This makes it more challenging for outside parties to monitor your internet activities and steal data. 

How does a VPN work? 

By allowing the network to route your IP address through a special set-up remote server operated by a VPN host, a VPN can conceal your IP address. In other words, if you use a VPN to browse the internet, the VPN server becomes the source of your data. As a result, neither your Internet Service Provider (ISP) nor other parties will be able to see the websites you visit or the data you transmit and receive online. A VPN works like a filter that turns all your data into “gibberish”. Even if someone were to obtain your data, it would not be useful. 

Benefits of a VPN connection  

Your online data transmission is concealed by a VPN connection, which also shields it from prying eyes. Anyone with network access and the desire to examine it can access unencrypted data. Hackers and online criminals are unable to decode this data when using a VPN. 

  • Secure encryption: A key is required to decrypt the data. Without one, a brute force attack on a computer to crack the encryption would take millions of years to complete. Your internet actions are concealed with a VPN, even on public networks. 

  • Disguising your whereabouts: VPN servers work as your proxies on the internet. Your precise location cannot be identified since the demographic location data originates from a server located in another nation. Also, most VPN services do not keep records of your actions. On the other hand, some services track your behavior without disclosing it to outside parties. This implies that any record of your user behavior is kept secret forever. 

  • Access to regional web material: Not all locations always have access to regional web content. Services and websites frequently include content that is only available in specific regions of the world. Standard connections use national local servers to pinpoint your location. This means that neither domestic nor foreign content can be accessed when you are away from home. You can “alter” your location by switching to a server in a different nation using VPN location spoofing. 

  • When working remotely, you might need to access crucial files on your company”s network. This type of information needs a secure connection for security reasons. A VPN connection is frequently necessary to connect to the network. To lessen the chance of data loss, VPN services connect to private servers and employ encryption techniques. 

Functions of a good VPN  

Your VPN should be used to complete one or more tasks. Additionally, the VPN should be secured against hacking. You should look for the following characteristics in a complete VPN solution: 

  • IP address encryption: A VPN”s main function is to conceal your IP address from your ISP and other outside parties. This eliminates the possibility that anyone besides you and the VPN provider will see any information you send or receive online. 

  • Protocol encryption: A VPN should also stop you from leaving traces, such as your browsing history, search history, and cookies. Because it prevents unauthorized parties from accessing confidential data, including personal information, financial information, and other website content, cookie encryption is particularly crucial. 

  • Kill switch: Your secure connection will be lost if your VPN connection is abruptly terminated. A strong VPN can identify this brief downtime and stop processes, lowering the risk of data compromise. 

  • Two-factor authentication: A powerful VPN verifies each person who tries to log in by employing several authentication techniques. For instance, you might be asked for a password before a code is delivered to your mobile device. As a result, unauthorized people find it challenging to access your encrypted connection. 

Types of VPNs 

Company VPNs 

Although end-to-end encryption would seem to be a smart idea, much depends on where those endpoints are. In the past, VPNs have been used to facilitate remote working; in this case, the employee”s device and the company”s network serve as the first two endpoints. This style of VPN has been successfully utilized for many years and establishes an encrypted “tunnel” between the employee”s computer and the business network, thus integrating the employee”s computer into the network (virtually). This is an example of a safe connection between reliable computers owned by the same company. 

Consumer VPNs  

The customer”s computer and the VPN provider”s servers act as the ends of this form of VPN, respectively. Therefore, these providers” claims of “secure end-to-end communications” only apply to their own facilities. Any insecure communication you send is shielded by the VPN from your device to the VPN provider”s computers, but once there, it resumes being insecure to finish its journey. This means that by utilizing this type of VPN, you are putting a lot of faith in the provider”s integrity. 

This means that your VPN service provider may be able to see everything you do, every website you visit, and the content of every message you send. They will not be able to see the content of any data you provide in the case of secure communications, such as those that occur via a secure website (one that starts with “https” and displays a green padlock). For instance, if you logged into online banking, they would not be able to view your username, password, or account information. However, if you use their service, they would be able to identify who you bank with and receive a list of every website you visit, every computer you connect to, and the email providers you use. Because of this, when utilizing a consumer VPN of this kind, you are putting your trust in the provider that they will not misuse your data in a way that you find objectionable. Many of these services assert that they do not record your online activity, but they cannot back up their claim. You trust them to not keep the information and not use it for things like profiling and targeted advertising, either on their own behalf or for third parties, given that they could have a record of all the websites we visit and could have seen the content of any other insecure communication. 

Are VPNs really secure?  

It is vital to remember that VPNs do not operate like full-featured antivirus programs. A VPN connection does not shield your machine from outside intrusion, even while it protects your IP and encrypts your online history. You should obviously utilize anti-virus software to accomplish this. Because using a VPN alone will not shield you from malware like Trojans, viruses, bots, or other threats. 

Whether you are using a VPN or not, once the malware has gained access to your device, it can destroy or steal your data. To maintain the highest level of protection, it is crucial to utilize a VPN along with a thorough antivirus application. 

It is crucial that you select a VPN service provider you can trust. Your VPN provider can view your internet traffic, however your ISP cannot. You are also at risk if your VPN provider is compromised. To ensure the best level of security as well as the concealment of your internet activity, it is imperative that you select a reputable VPN provider. 

There are now also many providers of VPN connections for smartphones which keep mobile data traffic anonymous. You can find certified providers in the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store. However, remember that only your data traffic on the internet is anonymized and protected by using a VPN. The VPN connection does not protect you from hacker attacks, Trojans, viruses, or other malware. You should therefore rely on additional trusted anti-virus software. 

The Guyana National CIRT recommends that users and administrators review this tip and implement them where necessary. 

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