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Are VPNs Secure?

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In this article I am asking and answering one simple question. Are VPNs secure? First let’s get something out of the way. You have a right to secure your online communications and to make them as safe and private as possible. Your security and privacy is important. You are always at risk of your private information being breached. Who might be listening and interested in your data?

 

  • Governments
  • Corporations
  • Hackers
  • Stalkers
  • Marketers

 

It isn’t enough to say that you have nothing to hide. The fact is that you do have things to hide. Things that you say in confidence, your contact information, your banking information, and and your passwords are just some of the things that you might want to hide. If you aren’t paying attention to your privacy then you are throwing your personal information out there for anyone to see. If you aren’t paying attention to your security then you are leaving the doors wide open for third parties to walk right in and access your information. I say again, you have a right to security and privacy and it is important.

What a VPN Does

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs do a lot of cool things. A good VPN will encrypt your data. What does that mean? Even if someone retrieves it, it will appear scrambled so a hacker won’t be able to read it amd tell what you are doing. A VPN basically makes a tunnel that prevents third parties from listening in on your messages, web browsing, financial information, and other personal online communications. The tunnel can’t be penetrated and your communications are encrypted. Also, the VPN IP address and physical location will be different from yours. Long story short a VPN will:
  • Encrypt your data.
  • Hide your IP address.
  • Hide your physical location.
Third parties will only be able to see that you are connected to a VPN.
Now for a word of caution. Let’s keep it honest and real here. Yes a good VPN will encrypt your data, hide your IP, and hide your location. While all of that is true, a VPN can’t guarantee 100% that nothing could happen to expose you and your information. What they can do is provide layers of protection and keep in mind that breaches are very rare. The greatest risk to your own privacy and security is you. A VPN will protect you but if you choose to share personal information to the wrong people or ignore your privacy and security settings on websites, browsers, and your operating system then your information will eventually be compromised. Your VPN can help protect you from others but it can’t protect you from yourself.

VPN Risks

Are there risks associated with VPNs? Back to our question. Are VPN’s secure? It depends. Good VPNs are secure. The wrong VPN can be very insecure. Here are some of the dangers and some advice.
  • VPNs that keep logs. Especially usage logs are dangerous because they track what you are doing while connected. Always choose a VPN with a no logs policy.
  • IP leaks. Your IP address is basically your address on the internet. It is a numeric address that can be traced back to your device. Always choose a VPN that protects against IP leaks.
  • Bad privacy policies. I know that most of us are guilty of ignoring the privacy of apps and services that we use. When it comes to VPNs always take the time to check out their privacy policy to make sure they really do care about your privacy.
  • Poor encryption. If they are either using weak encryption or don’t configure their encryption correctly then your data is left vulnerable. Always make sure a VPN uses strong encryption and is known to configure it correctly.
  • Malware injections. Malware is malicious software. An unscrupulous VPN can install malware on your device when you install their client. Only use paid VPNs that are well known and have a good reputation.
  • The lack of a kill switch. What happens for example if you are downloading a movie (and I am not encouraging you to do so illegally) and for some reason the connection to your VPN is interrupted? If you have a kill switch engaged then you will immediately be disconnected from the Internet. If there is no kill switch then your real IP address will be exposed. Always choose a VPN that provides a kill switch.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that though a VPN works to protect your privacy they are still subject to local laws. Again, it is important to choose a VPN that has a strict no logs policy.

Takeaways

  • A good VPN will encrypt your data.
  • A good VPN will hide your IP address.
  • A good VPN will hide your physical location.
  • Always choose a VPN with a strict no logs policy.
  • Always choose a VPN that cares about your privacy. Take the time to check out their privacy policy.
  • Always choose a VPN that provides good encryption.
  • Always choose a known VPN with a good reputation.
  • Always choose a VPN that makes a kill switch available.
  • Avoid free VPNs.
If you pick a popular, established VPN, and choose the one you want to use based on the criteria above then your VPN should be secure. Do they keep logs (especially usage logs)? Does their users experience IP leaks? Does their privacy policy truly reflect a care for your privacy? Do they provide good encryption? Do they provide a kill switch? The bigger paid VPNs will do the best job protecting you. Why not free VPNs? The truth is they make money to stay in business somehow. If it isn’t by charging you to use the service then it is likely through using your data.
Until next time have the best day and tech on.

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