The internet is a vast virtual world where almost everything happens. It’s a fast-paced world where you can connect with people thousands of miles away. Due to the advances in technology, a lot of things are now becoming possible through the internet. With the right devices and resources, you can play games with other people online, keep track of your business, manage your funds, and shop online.
Due to the limitless possibilities that the internet brings, it’s not wrong to assume that criminals can also utilize such technologies. Although there are a lot of positives online, you can just as easily find a lot of unsettling things as well. For people who aren’t careful about their browsing and spending habits online, they can risk their identities or bank accounts to blackhat hackers.
You can avoid these unwarranted invasions on your privacy online by having smart and safe browsing practices and by utilizing VPNs.
What’s a VPN?
A VPN or a virtual private network allows you to work through a secure system on the internet. Initially, the VPN was created by Gurdeep Singh-Pall, a Microsoft employee. The aim of the first VPN was to provide workers a safe and secure internet connection so they could work at home.
Singh-Pall developed the PPTP or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol and is the basis for almost every modern VPN today. Nowadays, most vpns are free while paid vpn services offer more secure and advanced features for their clients.
What does a VPN do?
Since a VPN goes through a private network, you can use a VPN to do a lot of things online such as:
- Protect your online data when using public wi-fi hotspots
- Have a safe level of anonymity when browsing online
- Hides your location
- Gain access to restricted sites
- Override Geographic restrictions on content or media
Most people also use VPNs to increase their internet speed. Certain ISPs or Internet Service Providers may monitor the browsing activities of their clients. By following their behavior online, ISPs can throttle internet speeds, place ads, and in theory, can even sell your private data to others.
How does it work?
When connecting a device to a VPN, the device or computer you’re using will act and function as if it’s on the same network of the VPN. Every piece of data and traffic then goes through a secure tunnel or network to the VPN.
Because your device recognizes that it’s in a certain network, you can have access to local resources only available on that network even if you’re thousands of miles away. Another way a VPN protects you is by encrypting information. The bits of data and traffic that you use when browsing a website online goes through an encrypted VPN, which makes it virtually impossible for snooping eyes to see your data.
A VPN is not a 100% guarantee
Although a VPN can help you ward off unwanted attention online, it isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get hacked. There are two ways on how a hacker can hack your data through a VPN. One is by breaking encryption methods through some vulnerabilities. The other would be “physically” stealing the key from the main computer.
If they do manage to do either one, it will take a painstakingly long time to analyze the data collected. In fact, a powerful computer, even with a key, can take years to break the code! This is the reason why VPNs are still a reliable way to protect yourself online. Unless you’re a high-value target by some government agency, then you don’t have to worry.
Other ways to be secure online
Of course, a VPN is only part of a multitude of ways to keep safe while you’re online. Safe browsing practices can greatly help you avoid malicious programs online. Malware and Viruses can siphon personal data, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, contact info, etc.
Here are some practices that you should observe when browsing online:
- Your antivirus programs should always be up to date. Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro, Comodo, and Avast are good antivirus programs. Even keeping your windows defender up to date can boost your protection when browsing online.
- Don’t post too much or be wary of what you post online. A picture of you on the beach while you’re on vacation can signal a burglar in your friends’ list that you’re away.
- Don’t trust easily on social media sites. Some people often use fake identities to get updates about you. Situations like the one mentioned above are just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t easily trust people you meet online.
- Be careful of what you download online. If you get your programs from shady sources, chances are it has some malware with it.
- Practice safe browsing. Don’t go for links with outrageous claims or “awesome” content. These links might lead to websites or download sites that can infiltrate your device for information.
Browsing online should be a safe space for you. However, due to the limitless possibilities on the internet, a lot of wrongdoers share this space with you. Using a VPN can help you elude these criminals through sophisticated processes. Understanding the role of a VPN and its functions enable you to browse online, access geo-restricted content safely, and protect your data.
Of course, a VPN isn’t the only way to keep safe online. Practicing safe browsing and being cautious of what you do online can help you avoid hackers and other unwanted people online.
Tyler Pack is a real estate consultant and journalist, with a passion for smart home technology. He is keen on writing about home and property security, and cybersecurity.