Why a VPN is Essential for Online Protection

Why a VPN is Essential for Online Protection

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) has become ubiquitous in terms of online security. A VPN serves to encrypt online transmissions and data, as well as hiding activity from government and corporate entities. It also hides information from “snoopers” – hackers listening in. 

Encryption is where the information is scrambled so that it cannot be deciphered. Technically, encrypted data can be decrypted with enough computing resources. But this could take years of non-stop computing power, meaning that your data is safe. It is not feasible for the hacker to expend so many resources attempting this. The danger lies when your information is unencrypted, and the information is easy to access.

The Statistics

Cybercrime is not an area to be taken lightly. If you do not take precautions, you are statistically like to have your information (and identity) compromised. It is a sector that is not overblown in terms of its publicity, and the trend is ominous. Consider the following statistics –

  • Over 2 Billion people (roughly ⅓ of the world’s population) have had their data stolen (what this actually means is that the majority of first world citizen has had their data stolen –  there are still large numbers of people on the globe with no or infrequent internet access)
  • Malware is growing in complexity and number, according to a report from McAfee Labs. Nearly 60 million new samples were registered in the third quarter of 2017.
  • There is a lack of cybersecurity personnel to deal with the increased amount of attack vectors, and this trend is getting worse.
  • Global cybercrime damages are estimated to be in the region of $6 Trillion by the year 2021. This is more than the total GDP of every country except the USA and China.
  • Cybercrime was the second most reported crime in 2016, according to a report from PWC.
  • 63% of compromised networks occur due to compromised usernames and passwords, the most common way to gain entry.
  • In 2016, 70% of all UK financial fraud was conducted through the use of stolen financial information from credit cars.

Implications

All the statistics are pointing towards increased dangers in terms of online safety. It is not just individual consumers that are the victims of data breaches. There is a huge number of companies that have been hit with data scandals. This includes names such as Equifax, Yahoo, Marriott hotel, Facebook (Cambridge Analytica), eBay, and far more. The biggest scandal of all time occurred with the Yahoo internet giant, admitting in 2017 that over 3 Billion accounts had been compromised. The information was protected with outdated encryption methods that were easy to breach.

But the most serious scandal was likely Equifax, where 145 million US customers were affected. This is especially serious as Equifax is a credit agency, the holder of very sensitive information. It holds information on everybody who has applied for a loan, which is most people in the USA.

Consumers Cannot Be Trusted

If consumers have to manually tinker with their security settings every time they access their device, then it would be impossible to attain online security. While the majority of people indicate that they are aware of the hazards of cybercrime, most do not take even the most basic of precautions. For example, the 9 most popular passwords of 2017 were:

  1. “123456”
  2. “password”
  3. “123456789”
  4. “12345678”
  5. “12345”
  6. “111111”
  7. “1234567”
  8. “sunshine”
  9. “qwerty”

According to research from Symantec, 76% of people who say they are aware of the dangers of cybercrime also share their passwords. 35% allow at least one of their devices to go completely unprotected. While there is a host of online protection tools out there, including privacy based search engines, encryption services, free tunneling tools, and ad blockers, modern-day consumers do not have the time to learn about and use several standalone applications to protect themselves on the internet.

An all-in-one solution is needed, and that is why the VPN is so effective and so highly regarded. It encrypts data at the source so most of the other techniques are not necessary. It works automatically, and the only real downside is a slight decrease in speed.

The Dangers of Public Hotspots

The VPN can protect you while using public hotspots, possibly the most vulnerable of all internet connections. Read this article if you want to understand how dangerous public WiFi actually is. Essentially, hackers can just go to Starbucks or McDonald’s and set up a WiFi hotspot called “Starbucks WiFi” or “McDonalds WiFi”. A fake login page is easy to create.

Once you login to this fake network, your computer is completely compromised. Everything you send is going to be analyzed by the hacker, who has the assistance of powerful hacking tools to quickly extract all kinds of revealing information. This information includes credit card details, passport numbers, date of birth, your flight itinerary, hotel or AirBnB details, marital status, home location, family members, and more. A hacker might have 5 or 6 people connected to this fake network, and can easily see which sites everybody is browsing on, such as DropBox, PayPal, Amazon, etc.

Hackers Paradise

Even when a person is not actively surfing the web, information can easily be extracted – applications are often connecting to servers to keep up to date, syncing your information.  In terms of public hotspots, coffee shops and airports are particularly dangerous. People at airports are often bored or stressed, and want to gain access to an internet connection quickly. They also often access financial information as they are going to a new country and need to exchange currency. In many instances, the hacker only needs to gain access to your email address to access all of your online applications.  After this, he/she can reset passwords for various sites using the reset password function. 

Many coffee shops have now started giving out temporary passcodes to customers instead of having one generic password. This is an additional layer of security that works very well. Large multinational companies such as Starbucks also often provide a login layer. But many contest that this has little to do with security – the company simply wants to identify you, as data is money in the digital age.

All of this can be prevented with the VPN, which is the strongest form of online security. Before you connect to the fake hotspot network supplied by the hacker, the information is first sent to the VPN. All of your communications are encrypted and your IP address is hidden. VPNs are also resilient against packet sniffing, another technique used by hackers to gather information.  

How Does the VPN Work?

The VPN acts as a layer between your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your device. The data is first sent to the VPN where it is encrypted and the IP address is rerouted to a different location of your choosing. So before the data gets to a website, it has been secured, and the ISP does not know your location. Most hacking operations take place through man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. When your data is in transit to the website after filling out a form, it is intercepted and altered. It is worth noting that sites which use HTTPS correctly are far better protected against these MITM attacks.

Using a VPN is actually very easy. You just have to remember to connect with it when you start your computer for work or leisure. All you do is select a server location and it works automatically to protect your online browsing, encrypting all data and obfuscating the IP address. They will also have a feature known as a “Kill Switch” – this protects your data further when the internet connection goes down, which can be a point of vulnerability for hackers to gain access. When the VPN connection drops for any reason, the Kill Switch kicks in and stops all data to and from your device.

VPN Logging Policies

An important question to ask in terms of choosing a VPN provider are the logging practices. Companies that are based in certain jurisdictions (such as the USA) can be forced to hand over sensitive data, which could possibly be used to indite a person in a crime. The only way around this problem is with a no-log provider. This means that the provider keeps no logs whatsoever on your activity so that there is nothing to turn over to the authorities if they face a subpoena.

The issue can get even more confusing as there are different types of logs that can be kept and this may be withheld for different purposes. First, there are connection logs, which is really a set of metadata about the logging session without containing any revealing data. Second, there are IP address logs. These are far more problematic for providers, as they can be linked to an individual and his or her activities. Finally, there are traffic logs. No reputable VPN provider will ever keep traffic logs, as these are designed to reveal all information, such as the browsing session, timestamp, messages, purchases, downloads, and more. Many times the logs are only kept for 30-90 days, which is an added layer of protection as the logs might have already been deleted by the time that legal action comes into force. uVPN are an example of a provider with a no-log policy. 

Which Providers to Avoid

Generally, you want to avoid providers without a no-log policy. Many VPN providers operate with thin profit margins – if they get a court order, they are not going to protect your data, as they do not have the funds for a prolonged court battle (they provide a lot of services for free, so this is the obvious drawback). But with a no-log policy, there is nothing to show the authorities. 

Logging practices are contained in the privacy policies, though they may be ambiguous and hard to pinpoint. Many zero-log providers do keep connection logs, though these cannot be used to identify individuals, and these logs are often grouped together.  

Other providers may have a warrant canary. These are public statements that attest to the fact that they have not been summoned with a warrant. When these “canaries”  go down, it might be time to look for a new provider. The statements extend to secret warrants, gag orders, and national security letters. If possible, you want to avoid VPNs based in the USA, UK or any other large and powerful states, opting for friendlier regions such as Seychelles, Switzerland, Panama, Montenegro, or the Czech Republic.

VPN Provider Location

Some highly regarded providers such have been found to cooperate with the authorities, stating that they do not condone illegal activity. However, these cases are rare and usually have specific circumstances. The chances of being turned over for using a VPN for the typical purposes are close to zero. It is worth bearing in mind that a VPN provider is governed by the place where it has its headquarters, and the laws vary widely on this.

If possible, choose a provider that is not in the 14 Eyes Agreement. This agreement allows governments to spy on the citizens of other countries and trade the information, avoiding the national laws of their own countries.  The countries in this agreement are the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. South Kora, Japan, and Singapore are also said to be getting involved within the agreement. uVPN is based in Montenegro, outside of this arrangement without any ban on the usage of VPN services.  In China, Russia, Oman, and Iran, only government-sponsored VPNs are approved. In many others, they are completely banned or heavily restricted.

Using a VPN to Avoid Geo-Blocks

One of the most common reasons people use VPN’s is for the purposes of avoiding geographical locations. This is useful for people who want to watch premier content (such as Game of Thrones) or to watch sports events while abroad. But it also has a much bigger advantage.

A VPN can be used to bypass internet censorship, which is still very common in the world. China is possibly the most obvious example with the “Great Firewall of China” used to block certain sites. This can lead to a re-writing of history, where events such as Tiananmen Square are forgotten about due to the policies of the leading parties. China is certainly not the only country to engage in this practice. Yemen, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, and Cuba are all notorious for their strict internet censorship.

Some countries block access to external sites so that outsiders cannot see what is going on within the country. Others want to prevent the populace from becoming educated and form getting ideas that are not aligned with the interests of the ruling class. Most often it is a combination of the two.  

The Three Threats

If the only problem was from lone cyber criminals, then the present situation would not be as severe. But the fact is that modern-day consumers have to protect themselves from –

  1. Cybercrime criminals and groups.
  2. Corporation entities that seek to track activity for commercial profit.
  3. Government entities that seek to intrude on private life for more power and authority.

It is well known that government authorities have programs in place to try and capture civilian data. One of the most well-known cases is where the NSA used the infrastructure of AT&T to intercept worldwide communications, including Skype calls and messaging applications. The Wikileaks information revealed by Edward Snowden has demonstrated the huge resources within the US to monitor online communications in the interests of national security.

Another issue is that of online tracking from commercial companies. The usage of adblockers has drastically increased to stop annoying ads from popping up on web pages. But advertisers have far more sophisticated means of tracking information with the use of cookies, though the introduction of the GDPR within Europe might have curtailed these efforts to an extent in this region. Retargeting is one of the most profitable marketing techniques, where advertisements occur across devices, platforms, and channels. So you might log in to YouTube on your iPad and see an advertisement, then to FaceBook on your desktop and see the same ad, and finally on your smartphone while shopping on Amazon. This is how invasive advertisers are becoming, 

Individual criminals still constitute the greatest threat for most people, as it has become so easy to gather information and there are so many novel hacking strategies. This problem is going to get worse as the internet of things (IoT) society continues to develop. 

Alternative VPN Strategies?

There are other strategies that you can use along with a VPN to secure your online information. Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is the strongest available defensive measure to secure your data. Using 2FA, a code is sent to your device before entering a particular site. So the hacker needs access to your physical device to see the code (which changes every minute), and also needs your username and password. Even if your username and password are hacked through spyware or other means, the hacker will not be able to gain entry to sites and applications that require 2FA. They are the perfect combination. Another option could be a password manager such as LastPass, but 2FA is a stronger option as these password managers have been hacked in the past.

Aside from 2FA, there is nothing that compares to the VPN without becoming very burdensome. A VPN is the best line of defense to protect your computer. It is the number one recommendation by experts to secure your data against cybercriminals, government agencies, and commercial advertisers. Your data is encrypted and your IP address is changed. While it is not infallible ( for example, if there is spyware already installed in your PC, the hacker can still see the information before it gets to the VPN), it is more than enough for typical consumers.

Why You Need a VPN

The VPN is also much easier than having to resort to private search engines or extensions which can get messy and get in the way of web functionality. Realistically, services such as Google offer benefits that cannot be found on competitor sites. The information is quicker and more accurate. To retain the functionality of apps that we enjoy and maintain levels of quality, the VPN is ideal. It encrypts information at the source so you can enjoy all that the internet has to offer. Most other online security measures are stop-gap measures that do not offer complete security. 

With a VPN, you just need to make sure that it is running upon startup. You simply look at an icon on your desktop and you are free to surf the web in peace. And as the saying goes, if there is no price for the product, then you are the product. Free applications often use your information and sell them to third-parties. 

Why uVPN?

With uVPN, you are getting far more than you normally would with a standard provider. uVPN proxy is the only free VPN extension available from the Google store. With the click of a button, you can secure all of your information and hide your IP address. The application works on both Desktop and mobile and a FireFox addon can also be used. The uVPN proxy service is free forever and you can protect multiple devices at ease. 

The paid service offers even more, with unlimited connection and a responsive support team at hand. The application is easy to use without complex settings and can be used on a variety of devices, such as tablet, mobile, or desktop. With the no vendor lock, you can cancel the subscription anytime without any hassle.

uVPN secures all communications with military-grade AES-256 encryption. This means that hackers won’t be able to access your information anytime soon (i.e. never). We also pride ourselves on the speed of our services. We have hundreds of servers based in Canada, the US, and Europe. More are being added soon for maximum speed, convenience, and reliability.

No logs are kept so you are 100% safe with us. To top it off,  we provide all of these services for $5 a month, with a 7-day free trial for those that want to get started. At $1.25 a week to stream Netflix and ensure comprehensive online safety, these prices are impossible to find elsewhere. it has never been cheaper to secure your online activity than it is right now with uVPN. 

uVPN

John Doe

Software Consultant

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Why a VPN is Essential for Online Protection

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) has become ubiquitous in terms of online security. A VPN serves to encrypt online transmissions and data, as well as hiding activity from government and corporate entities. It also hides information from “snoopers” – hackers listening in. 

Encryption is where the information is scrambled so that it cannot be deciphered. Technically, encrypted data can be decrypted with enough […]