Many businesses and organizations have recognized the security and privacy benefits of virtual private networks (VPNs). A VPN creates a secure connection from your computer or mobile device to another location, hiding your IP address and allowing you to connect to a server without being tracked. Using a VPN on your mobile device can also help prevent your personal data from being captured and used by hackers or oppressive regimes.
While convenient and cost-effective, the simplicity of a VPN comes with a big downside: getting connected is often as easy as connecting to an open WiFi hotspot at a coffee shop. Anyone within range can view and intercept your communication, including your browsing history, email, and other sensitive data. If you use public WiFi at an airport or café, you may also be subject to man-in-the-middle attacks that act as a middleman, modifying the data you send and receiving messages that appear to be from the original sender.
Get Familiar With Monitoring
No, we don’t mean medical marijuana—monitoring is the process of keeping an eye on your network and digital life, watching for vulnerabilities and attacks, and taking action when something goes wrong.
A VPN by itself won’t keep your personal data secure, only the layers of encryption between you and the server will. Still, a VPN can make you more vulnerable to monitoring than when you’re connected to the internet directly. When you’re connected to a VPN, your internet traffic isn’t encrypted, so anyone within range can easily intercept your communication.
Monitoring is an essential part of any network security strategy. While it might be tempting to take a quick peek at your email or search history when you’re getting coffee, these moments of weakness can be your undoing. A coffee shop owner who captures your searches for drugs and sells them to law enforcement could use this information to put you in jail. They could also monitor your email traffic and find out when you’re ordering drugs, effectively ruining your career and possibly your life.
You wouldn’t take a stroll down a dark alleyway or buy drugs from a stranger if you knew there was a chance they’d expose you. The same goes for WiFi hotspots—you should be wary of any network you don’t fully trust.
Don’t Browse In Public
We’re not advising you to hide your personal data, only to be careful about what you browse in public. When you’re connected to a VPN, your searches and other activity appear to be from a different location, but your internet traffic is still visible to anyone with an internet connection.
If you’re searching for sensitive information in public, such as at a coffee shop or other public WiFi hotspot, you’re asking for trouble. Nobody wants their personal data to be stolen or used by malicious actors, so it’s vital that you protect yourself whenever you’re online. This means using a VPN when you’re online, especially when you’re connecting to public WiFi.
Use A VPN On A Need-to-Know Basis
Most people use a VPN just because they feel safer and more secure whenever they’re online. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you should use a VPN only when you need to. Some experts recommend using a VPN only when you’re connecting to open WiFi hotspots or other public networks, since it can be more difficult for someone to intercept your communication when it’s encrypted.
Encrypting your data when you’re not actively using a VPN can also help prevent vulnerabilities. For example, if you’re at a coffee shop and you see an email alert for a specific product or service, but you’ve never ordered it, you may be asked to verify your identity by providing a one-click activation code. Since your data is encrypted during this process (even when unencrypted while you’re surfing the web), a malicious hotspot owner can’t give away your sensitive data without your permission.
How Do You Rate Trust?
Whether you use a VPN or not, you should rate your network’s trustworthiness on a scale from one to ten. One is the worst and ten is the best. You should give higher ratings to networks and services that you know and trust. Think about your friends, family, and other personal connections when deciding on a rating for a network or service you encounter for the first time.
A VPN provides better security when connected to a network with a higher rating, but remember that no network is perfect, and you should be careful about which you trust. You’re better off being safe than sorry when it comes to your personal data.
VPN Or No VPN?
Is a VPN necessary to protect your personal data when surfing the web? Depends on your answer to the question above. If you’re not sure whether or not to use a VPN, you can use this handy tool—it’s called Best VPN and it gives you a quick overview of whether or not you should use a VPN for the sites you visit.
You may also want to consider investing in a quality hardware wallet instead of using a plastic one (especially if you’re using a VPN). A hardware wallet is a small device you connect to your computer or mobile device that stores your credentials and other important information. If you’re using a VPN, a hardware wallet can make accessing your accounts much easier since you don’t have to enter your log-in information every time you want to make a purchase or transfer funds.
Use A VPN For Added Security
Whether you use a VPN or not, you should use it for additional security whenever you’re connected to a public WiFi hotspot. That way, even if someone gets a hold of your login credentials, they won’t be able to access your account without a lot of work and possibly causing some problems. A VPN can make accessing your account safer by keeping all your login information secure on the server.
The best VPNs provide a one-click connection to servers that are geographically secured—if you’re not sure where a server is located, it’s usually a good idea to connect to a server that’s closest to you. This way, if a server gets compromised, your information won’t be at risk of being accessed by third parties.
Unfortunately, VPNs are not impenetrable. Even with the layer of encryption between you and the server, someone with enough motivation and resources can find a way into your information and potentially misuse it.
VPN Security Is A Balancing Act
When you’re deciding whether or not to use a VPN, you need to weigh the benefits against the risks. Throwing off an eavesdropper or hacker is one thing, but giving away your personal data is another. Remember: everyone has a price, including the good guys! As much as possible, you want to keep your personal data as private as possible while still being able to use the internet safely.
If you decide that the security benefits of a VPN outweigh the risks, then by all means go for it! Just be sure to use a reputable and trustworthy VPN that knows how to keep your data secure. We hope this article on how to find an IP behind a virtual private network helped you understand the many advantages of using a VPN and the possible dangers of not doing so. Always remember: security is a process, not a product, and it requires constant vigilance.