If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably seen pretty aggressive advertising for VPN services. On paper, they seem like something that can give you anything you would want in your online browsing in terms of security and access.
Continuing our Cyber Security Month series of articles, we’ll be covering this apparent modern miracle of internet browsing. As businesses increasingly move to a digital work environment, web security is more important than ever. With that in mind, is VPN security an ace in the hole?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
Before we get into the benefits of VPNs, we should probably explain what they are. They essentially create a tunnel for your web browsing by giving you a (usually) local server to log into. This then provides access and directs your web traffic. Not only is the information to and from the server encrypted, it appears as though the server is browsing the sites, not you.
This can be beneficial for you as a browser. Even if someone were spying on your personal connection, they would only see you connecting to a single server, not the specific pages you visit. You can also make it appear like you’re browsing from another location by changing the IP address. Because of this, you can view sites like Netflix and see content not available in your own country. Additionally, you can avoid internet censorship in countries that tend to have more restrictive regulations, like China.
These services are generally low in cost, especially if you purchase longer subscriptions. Actually, there are several options that offer basic services for free and only charge for premium options.
Wow – this all sounds great! So, is there any catch?
Everyone wants digital security, but just like with anti-virus software, a single program will never keep you fully safe. Many users don’t understand the natural limitations of VPNs, putting too much faith in them, particularly free versions.
For example, if you visit a nefarious site and give them your credit card information, your VPN can’t help. Even if you send your information to a legitimate site, your VPN is powerless if that site gets hacked.
Another issue is VPNs increase the size of a hacker’s target. In the past few years, hackers have put more energy into breaking into larger targets to increase the payoff. Why steal the fish when you can steal the fish market, so to speak? VPN services provide a juicy target since access to those servers means having the browsing information of many users. This exact scenario took place in 2019 when NordVPN servers were hacked, leaving any and all traffic accessible for a period of a few months! If that happened to one of the biggest names in the game, think about how safe you could be!
Stay Safe at Home
While VPNs are far from a perfect solution, the idea behind them has some merit, namely in that by hiding and encrypting your connection, it makes it that much more difficult to have your data compromised. There are still ways to improve on this technology, though.
One of the best ways is to use a virtual office. This entails a complete virtual desktop provided to anyone with the credentials to log in. This can include everything from productivity software (such as MS Office) to actual data storage.
This is a much more secure option for a variety of reasons:
- You log into one specific, secure system versus going from website to website.
- This is a dedicated solution, allowing you to login with full confidence knowing who is handling your connection and data.
- Virtual offices are often administered by actual human beings, not just software, allowing any and all threats to be addressed in real-time.
While VPNs make your internet browsing safer, your business should take a look at a virtual office if they plan on doing any sort of remote or virtual connection. Don’t leave the setup and administration to just anyone.
Contact us today to see just how quickly and safely you can get your employees connected without relying solely on tricky VPN security.