Digital privacy and protection are some of most individuals’ biggest concerns when online. Everyone’s heard of those internet horror stories where hackers retrieve important details and steal an individual’s identity or max out their credit cards. While the population has become digitally native and more educated on online protection, there are new challenges that must be tackled constantly. Being tracked or hacked could be an abstract concept to some, as they may not feel the effects of an attack. Unlike the example of your personal identity and credit card information being stolen, the bigger threat is online platforms selling and using your personal data without your permission, as it’s rampant on most websites.
So how does a VPN help protect or prevent you from getting into these situations? Our best VPNs page lists some of the most secure and reputable VPNs on the market, yet not many people actually know what goes into protecting them online. Currently, a VPN is the best tool a common internet user can equip to protect themselves and stay anonymous online. So, if you’ve wondered how a
What exactly does a VPN do to help protect you online? All you do is press the “on” switch and browse the internet as normal on the user end. Behind the scenes, however, your connection goes through an array of protocols that help encrypt and obfuscate your digital presence. In its most basic form, a
Here’s what happens when you connect to the internet without a VPN. You enter a website address into the browser, and your ISP signals your router to direct your internet traffic to that website. Your ISP assigns you a unique number, also known as your IP address, that is essentially your “digital passport” it may contain information about you such as your address, telephone number, email, and the ISP you use. Many, if not most, modern websites use your IP address and plant cookies on your computer to retrieve more specific information about you to keep a profile on you that they can use to advertise products and services to you or sell your data to third parties. If you don’t think that sounds very secure or private, you’d be correct.
When you use a VPN, you connect to the
Truthfully, even the most secure servers and connections can be tracked. Tracking is significantly easier than hacking but does not reveal as much harmful information. Your information is more easily tracked if the intruder knows what they’re looking for. If you’re a high-profile individual or someone with extremely determined and high-tech enemies, then it’s technically possible to be tracked even with a VPN connection, although extremely hard. The truth is that it’s incredibly time-consuming and expensive to go through all the data and digital information needed in order to locate your specific connection. Therefore, most ISPs or third parties won’t bother if you’re protected behind a
If you don’t want to be tracked while using a VPN, it’s paramount that you use a paid, premium
Most of the time, VPNs are a collection of servers rather than a centralized entity. Imagine a hacker trying to hack a single connection only to find out that it’s in fact a million connections. Again, while technically hackable, the number of resources needed to hack a VPN connection successfully is immense. Additionally, as previously mentioned, most high-quality VPNs have strict no-log policies. The servers the VPNs run on technically store minimal amounts of data required to connect to the internet, but every time you disconnect from it or change servers, all your data is deleted. Therefore, even if a hacker were able to break into the
There have been instances of VPN providers being hacked, but nothing of substance was stolen due to their no-log policies. That’s to say that there will always be exploits and hackers testing the boundaries of a security system. However, using a
A VPN isn’t a catch-all solution to staying safe online. While it’s a great tool for anonymity and connection encryption, there are a few other things to consider when trying to practice digital safety. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe online:
- Having a secure password: Having a secure password with a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols is the strongest way to protect your online accounts. It’s even better if each website you have an account on has a different password. The best password managers can help you keep track of all this information, so you don’t have to worry about it.
- Be wary of what you download: Downloading a virus or malware is the single most damaging thing you can do on your computer. Be careful of what you download and what websites you’re downloading files from.
- Be careful of what you share: What you post on social media may be used against you if a hacker or intruder is trying to find out more specific information about you. If you’re open with your sensitive information on the internet, it won’t be very hard for them to find what they’re looking for.
- Be cautious of your emails: Phishing scams are common for those who aren’t alert when reading emails. Phishing emails are ones disguised as official emails from reputable websites that ask you to log in. Once you log into the phishing website, they store your username, email, and password and use it to access your account on the real website.
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