What Is A VPN (Virtual Private Network)?

Stylized artwork of a man standing on a laptop holding a shield with "VPN" on it.

Written by: Jay H.

A VPN (virtual private network) is a technology used to increase your privacy and security online. It works by connecting your computer to a server run by a VPN provider using an encrypted connection. Then, the data transferred between you and the server is kept safe from hackers.

Using a VPN strengthens your online protection. Since your data is encrypted, it cannot be read by your Internet service provider (ISP). Despite this, your VPN provider can view your activity, so it is vital to use a reputable provider that values your privacy.

Secure Public & Home Networks

Public hotspots allow you to stay connected and browse the web at hotels, restaurants, and airports. However, there comes a risk in using these public hotspots, as hackers create fake hotspots or can intercept your connection. So, using a VPN can protect you from cybercriminals looking to intercept your data and steal your personal information. Since a VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address, your information would be safe even if you were to connect to a fake hotspot. VPNs make it much more difficult for criminals to target you.

Home networks are also vulnerable to attackers. If you work from home, you must use a VPN when connecting to your company’s systems. Elsewise, you risk giving hackers access to both your data and your company’s. Since the transition to the remote environment, cybercriminals have been targeting workers working at home. A VPN can protect you from these malefactors.

Risks Of Free VPNs

The average VPN costs around $10 per month, but cheaper options are usually available for longer commitments. On the contrary, there are free VPN providers, but they can compromise your privacy and security. For example:

  • They can track your online history and data and sell it to advertisers, defeating one of the essential features.
  • They use unreliable security measures that can be cracked. Hackers may be able to access your data.
  • Your Internet connection will be much slower.
  • Advertisements will bombard you.

Free VPNs come with many risks. For most purposes, paying for a reliable VPN is a much better option than trying to save a little bit of money.

Protect Yourself With Multiple Measures

Despite the protection they add, VPNs aren’t the only protection you need for your digital life. So, use strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, anti-virus software, and other safety measures when browsing online.

Overall, everyone should use a VPN as one of the measures to protect themselves online. When used as a part of your online safety strategy, you greatly enhance your online security and make yourself less vulnerable to attackers. Work with IT professionals to keep you and your data safe from cybercriminals.

Read more about cybersecurity topics and keep yourself safe.

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