With the widespread use of Wi-Fi networks and the prolific availability of internet enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, it’s important to have a basic understanding of smart security measures you can implement to keep your data secure and identity private.
When your earning an income online, it’s especially important to know how to protect the information your employer and customers have entrusted you with.
In this this article, I’ll list the advantages of a VPN.
Definition of a VPN
For years now, information security professionals have been trying to educate the average internet user as to the vulnerabilities that exist on wireless connections. Even on wired connections, many people fall far short of common sense browsing habits that reduce their risk of identity theft and safeguard their overall privacy.
The average internet user apparently think there’s nothing that can be done to protect their virtual identity and data or simply don’t care about their privacy (think of all the intimate details of everyday life that people post on social media sites
VPN’s come in several flavors and before you know it, things can become terribly complex with technical terms flying out of nowhere, leaving the less tech savvy reader’s head spinning.
For the sake of clarity, this article will deal with VPN’s that are intended for individuals to use for the express purpose of browsing the internet in a safe and anonymous.
There are many technical components and processes that go into a VPN but at its most basic level, a VPN gives the user the ability to securely connect to remote network virtually (that is, without physically being wired to the network its connecting to) .
Here’s one example of how a VPN can be used:
Let’s say the ACME Sales Company maintains its home office in New York City.
At its headquarters, the company maintains a physical network that allows employees to securely share files, collaborate on work files, and browse the company intranet.
Several regional offices and traveling sales team need the ability to access secure documents and e-mails from the home office.
By using a VPN connection, the remote users (regional offices/sales teams) have the ability to create a secure connection to the home office even though its thousands of miles away.
In other words, by connecting to a VPN, the user has the ability to navigate the internet as they normally would; such as sending e-mails, files, browsing websites, etc., but he/she now has a secure connection that encrypts all data that’s being received and transmitted.
A consumer VPN follows the same concept. Instead of the user sending and receiving data directly from his/her computer, a secure connection is established from the user’s machine which then transmits data securely to the VPN server.
This VPN server then relays the request (such as navigating to a particular website) to the end destination. When the end destination receives the request from the VPN server, it sends a response, such as loading a webpage. The data is then transmitted back through the VPN server, and ends up back at user’s machine.
If you’re interested in learning more about how VPN’s work, feel free to read this simple guide.
Consumer VPN’s allow the user to establish a secure connection to a virtual private network even when connected over an unsecure public network such as the Wi-Fi offered at your local coffee shop. Many VPN’s also offer the ability of being able to use many different IP address. This is helpful to further help anonymize the user’s browsing experience.
Someone using a VPN browsing from San Francisco, CA could connect to a VPN using an IP address out of Beijing, China. Or someone browsing from Germany could access Hulu.com which is only available to American IP addresses.
Because the data is encrypted, even if the user connects to and unsecured network (like the coffee shop example from above) the user’s data is still secure from anyone trying to snoop around.
Think that it’s not a big deal to connect to unsecured networks?
Exploiting unsecured connections is as easy as downloading a free packet sniffer (like Wireshark) to view a victim’s web traffic or by simply adding an extension to your browser (an example includes the now famous Firesheep add-on, give it a try the next time you’re at your favorite coffee shop).
Other common attacks include rogue Wi-Fi access points, ARP spoofing and cache poisoning. Essentially, these attacks will direct victims to an attacker’s computer and capture credentials of any website i.e., Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
There are hundreds of free and low cost options available to start using a VPN. Some items to consider when searching for a VPN are speed, network reliability, connectivity encryption standards (although most VPNs are secure, some aren’t…), amount of IP addresses, logging vs. non-logging of user browsing history, ease of use with the VPN client software, etc.
Just like anything else, you pay for what you get. For some who may never leave the house, connect over unsecured Wi-Fi networks, or don’t mind being served ads, free VPN’s are a no brainer.
For those who need a reliable network connection 24/7, no ads, and top notch support to answer any questions, premium VPN’s are a must.
Most reputable VPN’s cost about $11-$15 monthly or less depending on the length of commitment.
I use Hide My Ass whenever I working online from a restaurant, coffee shop, or other public Wi-Fi location.
HMA is the best VPN available for the average user who wants to browse the web anonymously with the ability to use as many IP addresses from a diverse range of geographical locations as possible.
In addition to the diversity of IP addresses, HMA offers the easiest to use software, (simple enter your username and password and all your internet connections are secure! It also boasts over 29,000 unique IP addresses from over 47 countries.
You can learn more about HMA here.
There are also plenty of free VPN providers that are supported by ads. Here’s a few of the more reputable ones:
AnchorFree Hotspot or Expat Shield
If you ever use the internet on an unsecured WiFi network, a VPN is one tool you can’t do without. VPN’s provide secure virtual connections on unsecured and public WiFi networks.
Do you use currently use a VPN? Why or why not?