When using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide browsing activity, many users think they are safe. There are a lot of services that offer VPNs, none of which are created equal. Some lack essential security measures to keep data safe. Others are prone to data leaks due to faulty configurations and other coding mishaps.
While VPNs have their advantage, they also have a huge disadvantage in some areas. This is where a V-sphere backup can come in handy, securing your data when using a VPN. You can surf the web more confidently, knowing that your information is less likely to be leaked in the case of a data breach. When using a VPN, here are some vital things to know to keep your data secure.
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It is a common misconception that VPNs do not track user information. Depending on the policies written within the VPN service, they could keep track of information. This is one of the most dangerous parts of data collection, giving companies what they are after. Usage logs are more dangerous than connection logs, giving advertisers key routes that users have visited. They can use this information to send tailored announcements or get ahold of other personal data to contact you via email. Zero-logs are one of the safest, as they guarantee not to collect any information throughout your time browsing.
There is not a software out there that is safe from an attack. Hackers are on the hunt and getting more advanced in their tactics by the day. They plan attacks by sniffing for vulnerabilities in the configurations of software and systems. VPNs are not void of risks for potential attacks, and can sometimes leak data if configurations are not up to par. Some of the best providers have iron-clad security systems that keep user information guarded with the most advanced techniques while others operate without it. Free VPNs often do the least when it comes to securing data. This does not mean paying for a service is free from potential risk, but it is a bit less likely.
Check the Privacy Policies
Do not click ‘ok’ without reading all the fine print. We know it’s long and tedious, but it’s essential to take proper precautions. On the surface, companies can say whatever they like, summing up the privacy policies to make it seem like all of your information is protected. But in the fine print, you’ll see what is really protected and what is not.
While at first glance, you might not see anything dealing with the sharing of data, somewhere (vaguely), the site will mention that they share data with a third party, something that you want to avoid when possible. How do these third parties use this data? One answer is – to make money. Companies can sell this collected information to advertisers that can make good use of it, e.g., to analyze browser history and get a better idea of how to get you to click ads or buy products. As you can probably guess, that data is highly valuable and can rake in millions for free VPN services.
With a VPN, it is not required to encrypt user data. While some claim that all data is encrypted, some VPNs may not have done an excellent job in the configuration, leaving your data vulnerable to hacking or extraction. When systems encrypt data, they are attempting to add another step to the protection against hackers. Hackers will get this information in the hash code form. It is illegible, making no sense to the human brain reading in plaintext. Hackers, however, have tools that can crack the code, converting all data into plaintext form. If VPNs do not encrypt data correctly, it could be at risk for a severe data breach.
Beware of Malware
VPNs are prone to malware. Because it is something that takes over a device and a system, users that accept a new service could be vulnerable to malware attacks. When you download a VPN service, you generally accept terms and conditions along with it. If malware is anywhere in the code of the VPN, it could be injected into your system where the opportunities are endless. Malware can destroy systems, steal user information, spy on activities, and even turn to ransomware where hackers will demand funds to release your information. The worst part, some types of malware can lurk around in systems undetected until it is far too late. It could go unnoticed for days or months, giving hackers open access to your information.
Steer Clear of PPTP
A PPTP protocol has had its ups and downs. Using a white hat, or ethical, way of hacking, cybersecurity teams were able to decrypt data within the PPTP protocol. What does that mean for your info? Well, for starters, if the good guys can do it, the bad guys can, as well. Seeing this as an opportunity, malicious hackers will look to VPNs that take on PPTP protocols. They see this as a potential vulnerability that they could crack more easily. If they happen to get past the decryptions of data, they could be lurking around in your system and getting ahold of your personal information.
IP Addresses as Means of Exit Node
Your IP Address is like your online fingerprint. Your ID follows every site that you visit and every move that you make. It is a good thing in terms of those partaking in criminal activity, as it could lead to their arrest. But in terms of a victim of a data breach, this could mean otherwise. If VPNs use IP Addresses as an Exit Node, your fingerprint could remain in the system well after you have logged out. If a cybercriminal were to get their hands on this information, they could do many illegal activities, using your IP Address to remain hidden. These could include downloading torrents or partaking in illegal trade or activity.
To Use or Not to Use a VPN
We are not trying to paint a bad picture of VPNs. Not all of them are created equal, and not all of them have the same problems. VPNs are a great option to use to keep the data contained. But we do mention these things as a guide to keep you from using a service prone to risk. Understanding the fault that comes with VPNs, you can be more aware of your surfing activities and their implications. The next time you want to partake in hidden browser activity, make sure to read the fine print about the service you are using.
As far as things to avoid, if possible, stay away from free VPN services without reliable privacy protection or security. Many of them use advertisers to get paid and may collect and share your information. Before you sign up with a service or enter any details online, it is best to:
- Read the fine print
- Only accept when you’re sure
- Go with reputable companies
Keeping your data safe is essential, and even more so as hackers advance in their methods of attack. Don’t help them get their hands on your sensitive data by using insecure VPNs; opt only for the products you are confident about.
The author Dennis P. Reed possesses a vast experience in the IT industry, especially in the domains of website and mobile app development and digital marketing. He writes on topics encompassing the above mentioned domains and is considered a maven in his chosen field – Information Technology.