You may have heard about VPN’s (Virtual Private Network) more often lately, even popping up in TV ads for VPN service providers. What’s behind the sudden surge of VPN’s and why would you want or need one? For those who use WiFi internet connections at home or work, for shopping, banking, or just plain fun, VPN’s provide a layer of security that WiFi cannot. Although free public WiFi is found most everywhere, it’s long been a favorite for hackers because there is virtually no online security offered when using it.
Depending on the degree of sensitive information that’s sent over the WiFi highway, rest assured there are hackers just waiting to pull you over and take your wallet and all its contents – money, credit cards, driver’s license, Social Security Number, and more. We’ve all heard of hacks big and small, knowing once your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is out there, it’s there for better or worse. It’s time to take a practical look at VPN’s as a common sense security layer for WiFi travel.
The purpose behind having a VPN is having your PII and all communications protected by encryption from end to end. VPN’s are a very important tool when using WiFi as they provide a secured highway for your PII to travel on. Whether you’re using WiFi at work, a coffee shop, hotel, or anywhere offering the service, know that hackers are ready and waiting for unprotected users to go online. Remember, whatever sites you’re visiting go through a series of connections before getting where you want to be. All of those connection points are vulnerable to hacking. Even using WiFi at a friend’s home can put you at risk. There’s no way to know if that WiFi has been compromised. By using a VPN, hackers looking to intercept your data find that your VPN-encrypted PII can’t be deciphered. At that point, a hacker will likely move on to another WiFi user who doesn’t have a VPN – there’s no shortage of unprotected WiFi users out there.
Two main types of VPN’s are available, one being work and the other consumer. Most businesses have VPN’s and also work off of an LAN (Local Area Network). An LAN is a private network for one physical location such as an office building. However, most businesses have other locations employees need to communicate with. For that, a business may have a corporate VPN to secure data sent from one geographic location to another. Often, your organization will provide you with a VPN client used to connect into its network from any mobile device you have. So check with your IT department or manager to find out if that’s an option for you.
A consumer VPN secures data and PII sent to social media sites, banking, shopping, and any other location or website one may use. If you’re considering a personal VPN, do your homework to see what protection providers offer, for how much, and check ratings and consumer feedback. There are free VPN’s and some of them are very good. However, be sure to do your own research to make sure it’s protecting your information the way you need it to, even if it’s free.
There is, however, no guarantee a VPN won’t be compromised. To date, VPN’s are currently the best way available to protect your PII on the WiFi Information Highway. Going down that road on your own can be a scary proposition and VPN’s are the best insurance to get from Point A to Point B as safely as possible.