A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a fantastic tool for keeping your personal data secure, and for accessing blocked websites, but not all VPNs are created equal, and there are some major headaches that you need to be aware of before diving in.
Let’s examine the causes of VPN problems and what you can do about them.
Problems Caused By Malware
Malware (also known as Malicious Software) is software that does something bad to your computer or mobile device, like take over your network connection and send spam emails from your account, mine cryptocurrency and steal money from your bank account, or perform other harmful actions that expose you to risk.
The most common form of malware are viruses, which are small programs (about the size of a virus) that replicate and infect other programs or files. Some viruses are browser hijacks that make all of the annoying pop-ups, toolbars, and auto-playing videos appear on your web browser, while others can steal your banking information or sell your personal data to spammers.
If you download a free VPN or use one that is a popular brand, it’s highly likely that you have some sort of malware mixed in with the app’s code (or stored on their servers). Even if you haven’t downloaded any malware, it’s entirely possible that they’ve been added to your device (intentionally or unintentionally) by a third party; such as a hacker, online scammer, or nation-state actor.
To protect yourself from ransomware (a type of virus that encrypts all of your data and demands a ransom to decrypt it), make sure that your web browsers, operating systems, and applications are all up to date and that you’ve installed an ad blocker as well as a scanner for malware and spyware (called a ‘fumigator’).
Problems Caused By Malformed SSL Certificates
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technology that allows for secure communication (e.g., browsing the web) over the internet. When an SSL certificate is “malformed”, it means that the certificate’s information was altered in a way that made the certificate untrustworthy. This could happen if the certificate was signed by a third party (rather than the website owner themselves) or if the certificate was expired or revoked.
Malformed SSL certificates are extremely common. Lots of free and cheap web hosts offer “Let’s Encrypt” SSL certificates that are automatically updated after they’re issued. Unfortunately, not all of these offers are as good as they seem. Some web hosts will sell your information to marketers or keep your personal data for themselves. Always check the Terms of Service before you sign up with a web host to make sure that your information won’t be sold or shared.
Problems Caused By Key Logging
Key logging is when a program records every keystroke you make on your device. This can be a huge security risk, especially if you use the same login credentials for many online accounts, or if you use the same login credentials for one site while logged in to a different site. If a hacker gets their hands on your key log, they will be able to access all of your encrypted data—including potentially your banking information.
If you use the same login credentials for your email, banking, and other online accounts, you should consider using a password manager, which is a tool for creating and storing passwords. Some password managers also have a built-in VPN so you can keep your data private while accessing public Wi-Fi.
Problems Caused By Account Hijacking
Account hijacking occurs when a third party obtains control of your username and password for an online account (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts) and uses your information to commit fraud or gain access to your personal data. Hackers, scammers, and nation-state actors are usually the ones who get their hands on your account password and use it to commit fraud. This is why it’s extremely important to change your login credentials for all online accounts whenever you’re prompted to do so.
Problems Caused By Insecure Data Transmission
All data transmission, whether over the wire or wirelessly, isn’t secure. Some data, such as the contents of a sent email, can be read by anyone with access to the data’s transmission path. This can be a major problem if you use the same login credentials for many sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts). Remember, even when your data is encrypted, it’s still being transmitted in the clear; which means that it’s still being eavesdropped on by anyone with access to the transmission path. Always use a VPN whenever you’re online, even if you trust the provider you’re connected to.
Problems Caused By Poorly Configured Routers And Modems
Your router and modem have a vital role in connecting your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the Internet. However, they can also be the source of many of your computer’s security problems. If your router is publicly accessible (also known as “Shared Router”), it’s no secret that hackers and security researchers are constantly looking for ways to exploit it so they can gain access to your personal data. Even when your router is password protected, you should be using a VPN to protect your data, especially when accessing public Wi-Fi.
Your router and modem should also be configured to drop all traffic belonging to a specific IP address or range. This can help protect you from identity theft by preventing anyone from accessing your personal data by using your IP address. For best results, use a VPN on your router and modem.
Problems Caused By Poorly Implemented Firewall
A firewall is a computer security mechanism that prevents unauthorized connections to and from computers on a network. There are three major problems that may arise from improperly implemented firewall:
- Unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers;
- Problems accessing your personal data when trying to log in to online accounts (e.g., banking, email, and social media accounts) from a new location;
- Problems connecting to public Wi-Fi or accessing content from restricted websites.
If you use the same login credentials for many sites while traveling, the last item on this list (problems connecting to public Wi-Fi or accessing content from restricted websites) may be the one that causes the most headaches. This is because most firewalls only allow connections from certain IP addresses or ranges. If you’re using a free VPN or one of the brand-name VPNs, this may already be configured for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to contact your ISP or firewall provider to have this configured.
Problems Caused By Confusing User Interface
With the exception of hardware routers and modems, all modern-day routers and modems come with a web-based user interface (UI). This means that you can access your router and modify its settings from the comfort of your browser at any time. If the UI of your router or modem is not user-friendly, it may be difficult to troubleshoot problems without technical knowledge.
However, even if the UI of your router or modem is exceptionally well designed, you may still encounter problems with it. The reason is that the UI of your router or modem is only designed to work with a specific program (also known as a “front-end”). If you use a different program (or version of the same program) to modify your router’s settings, the UI may not work correctly or at all. For example, if you use Avast SecureLine to secure your Wi-Fi, changing your router’s security settings through the software’s UI will not work properly without the use of a VPN.
In addition to this, if you connect your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the Internet via an Ethernet cable, there’s always the chance that your network and/or internet connection could be disrupted by a power outage or technical malfunction.
Problems Caused By Poorly Maintained And Configured Email Clusters
An email cluster is a collection of email accounts that are configured to send and receive emails as a single unit. If your email account is part of an email cluster and you use the same login credentials for all of its services (e.g., Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL), it’s extremely easy for hackers and scammers to access all of your accounts if they get their hands on your password. Even when your email accounts are not clustered, using the same login credentials for multiple accounts is extremely risky and can lead to account takeover.