How to Minimize Security Risks Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is a type of private network which provides you with an encrypted connection to other devices or services that you connect to via the Internet. You can use a VPN to access private or public content, depending on your settings, and minimize the security risks which come with using public Wi-Fi.

Most large companies and organizations operate their own VPN internally, as it provides them with a great degree of security and reliability, but if you’re a regular user or just want to use a VPN to provide yourself with additional security then there are many reputable providers that you can choose from.

The Advantages Of A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Using a VPN can be very beneficial for your security and privacy because:

  • It encrypts all the traffic to and from your device or network.
  • It provides you with an additional layer of security by using strong encryption algorithms.
  • It allows you to access content that is not available for public networks, such as Netflix or Hulu, as they might block regular internet traffic from accessing their content.
  • It allows you to circumvent geographic restrictions or blocks which might otherwise prevent you from accessing certain content (e.g. Netflix)
  • It provides you with a degree of privacy as anyone attempting to eavesdrop on your traffic would have to do so without the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. an Internet service provider)
  • It allows you to log in to Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those provided by Starbucks, and allows you to use these to access the Internet with complete anonymity
  • It allows you to connect to a reputable VPN server located in a country with strong privacy laws, such as Sweden, Switzerland, or Iceland, which might otherwise prevent you from accessing certain content (e.g. Netflix)

The Cons Of Using A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

While there are many advantages to using a VPN, there are some disadvantages as well:

  • You must be mindful of how you use it and ensure that you do not go over your data cap.
  • You must always have a strong, unbreakable password, as well as encrypt all your sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
  • You must ensure that you are using a reputable provider with a good standing in the community (A-Z Check).
  • You must ensure that you are regularly updating your software and have installed the most recent updates to ensure that you are using the most current version.
  • If you have a BitTorrent client installed on your device, you should disable it, as it will utilize more bandwidth than necessary and could potentially slow down your Internet connection.
  • You must ensure that you are not connecting to websites which act as proxies or which provide access to malicious software (e.g. The Pirate Bay or KickassTorrents).
  • It is generally accepted that using public Wi-Fi to access the Internet is risky and open to eavesdropping, especially if you do not use a VPN. Inaccurate information about the availability of Wi-Fi services in particular areas can also pose a security risk if you do not use a VPN (e.g. if you believe that hot spots are, in fact, available in your vicinity when they are not).
  • If you have a laptop, you must ensure that it is not connecting to public Wi-Fi sources when you are out of range of a wireless network connection, unless you have specifically configured your device to do so, as checking for available wireless networks is very time consuming (even when configured to do so automatically). To prevent this, you should always keep your laptop’s Wi-Fi connection disabled when you are not near a wireless network.
  • Larger companies and organizations which afford them the resources to monitor and track their employees’ activity have the ability to see through VPNs and identify the source of an employee’s Internet activity. Although this is not necessarily dangerous, it is certainly a concern.

How To Minimize Security Risks Using A VPN

To minimize the risks associated with using a VPN, you should first ensure that you are using a reputable and professional VPN service which is known to be trustworthy and has a good standing in the community. You should familiarize yourself with the risks which come with using public Wi-Fi and ensure that you do not connect to these when you do not need to. Finally, you should ensure that you are regularly cleaning your device of malware and that you are not installing any suspicious apps from unfamiliar sources.

If you keep all of these in mind, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of a VPN without any drawbacks.

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