Are VPNs Keeping Your Network as Safe as You Think?
By now nearly all have heard the acronym VPN and almost everyone has used a VPN. With the growing popularity of remote work and home offices due to the pandemic, 2021 has seen an increase in the demand for VPNs. But what exactly is a VPN and are we safe using it?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Essentially, it helps to camouflage your computer’s whereabouts and usage by shielding your network and encrypting your data from outside threats such as cyber-attacks. What does this mean, exactly? The VPN becomes your host and effectively scrambles your data such as your IP address, allowing you to browse the Internet and open private documentation without your Internet Service Provider (ISP) watching over you.
Better said, it is designed to protect you from hackers trying to invade your space and track your location and particulars. A VPN is geared to be your backend gatekeeper and provide that extra layer of security. The question is, are VPNs truly keeping your network safe? The short answer is yes, but it needs to be chosen carefully.
According to Tech.co, there are four key tips to follow when initially researching what VPN to use:
Free is not always best – Free versions of a VPN can’t contend with what aspects and extent of security a paid version of a VPN can offer. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Some VPNs are cost-effective. The extra dollars you invest is vital for a company and especially if you have employees working from home that can be exposed more easily.
Make sure to get one with a Kill Switch – Confirm that the VPN you are using has a Kill Switch. This means that if your connection to the VPN gets interrupted or crashes, your browsing won’t just jump to your standard connection, helping to limit your exposure to threats.
Always, always check out the terms and conditions – For a VPN to do its job, it has to gather data from your network. Find out what the VPN you are using does with your data. You want to choose one that won’t store your data or use it for personal gain.
Don’t forget about public WiFi – You want to be protected when working from your home office for example, but what about when you are working outside of the home or office and using public WiFi? When you download the VPN on your desktop or laptop, make sure to also download its linked app, to ensure you’re protected on your tablet or phone when away.
Kaspersky adds that a good VPN should also include two-factor authentication and encryption of data such as protocols and IP addresses. According to Kaspersky, a powerful VPN has ways to confirm everyone and anyone who tries to log into that network.
This feature works by forcing you to enter a password for example as the first step, followed by providing a one-time code that is sent to a second device (such as your phone). This ultimately makes it more difficult for invaders to hack into your network. A robust VPN should also be able to clear your history in real-time by utilizing the encryption of cookies to stop outside parties from obtaining your private data and using it.
It is good to point out that although a VPN is a great tool for helping to protect your identity, it is not designed to be all-inclusive and does not protect you from viruses. You will need to include anti-virus software in addition to a VPN for comprehensive coverage.
So, now that you know a little about what a VPN is and how it can keep you safe or not safe, what are the types of VPNs in the market? Kaspersky provides a list of the three main types to consider: SSL VPN, Site-to-site VPN, and Client-to-Server VPN.
SSL VPN – Companies sometimes don’t have enough equipment such as computers to provide to all staff; causing them to rely on employees to use their personal computers. This was shown in increasing amounts during the pandemic when more people were working from home and using their own devices. An SSL VPN has been used for instances such as this. Kaspersky states that an HTML-5-capable browser is typically required and used to establish the company’s main login. HTML-5 browsers are readily available and supply protection by requiring a username and password.
Site-to-site VPN – Larger companies may decide to use a site-to-site VPN for their added protection. This type of VPN is useful for companies who have multiple locations or employees from different sites exchanging confidential information regularly, each with its local area network (LAN) connected to the WAN (Wide Area Network). Kaspersky notes though that these types of VPNs are complex and do not offer the same flexibility as SSL VPNs. But adds, they are the most effective way to ensure communication for companies with larger departments.
Client-to-Server VPN – This type of connection has become the VPN of choice for many companies due to its simplicity and flexibility. This type of VPN allows the employee to connect directly to the corporate network without having to use a personal ISP. It truly acts as if you are right there working in the office at headquarters without actually having to be present. The VPN auto encrypts the data before the user has access to it instead of encrypting the data while the user is accessing it. According to Kaspersky this type of VPN is extremely useful for providers of insecure public WLAN, noting that the advantage of this type of VPN is greater efficiency and universal access to company resources.
In conclusion, a VPN can provide a secure connection for you when accessing the Internet and be a reliable source of protection for a company and is proprietary information. The key is to research which type of VPN makes the most sense for your type of company and the locations of your employees. Establishing an implementation guide for your employees to follow will also help to make sure your VPN is successful. This is where having an engaged IT department or locating outside support to administer the execution will be a vital component. And, remember, VPNs do not protect you from everything. So make sure to incorporate other components to your security plans such as anti-virus software and other means of added protection.
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