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What is a VPN?

1st August 2022
You might have heard about VPN’s, and how they could potentially save you and your business from becoming victim to a serious cyberattack, and all the hassle and heartache that comes with it. But, what exactly is a VPN? To put it simply, a VPN, aka. a Virtual Private Network, is a way to create a private and secure internet connection via an external server.

What’s wrong with public Wi-Fi?

Public Wi-Fi is great – it helps you save data, and if you’ve run out of data, you can still check Facebook to find out what Tony thinks about the latest political storm, or what he had for dinner last night.

The problem with public Wi-Fi is that it’s public and doesn’t require a password to login. This means anything you browse or type into your phone whilst using public Wi-Fi is vulnerable, and can potentially be seen by other people.

This might not be so bad when you’re looking up impersonal information, but many of us login to bank accounts or online shopping accounts or email accounts when we’re out, and this means typing in PINs and passwords to gain access.

How does a VPN help?

A VPN will keep your browsing anonymous. It’ll turn any data you enter into your device into undecipherable code that hackers can’t access. This allows you to use your phone or tablet freely, wherever you are.

How private is a VPN?

A good and reputable VPN will hide all sorts of information you don’t want to share, from hackers, and your internet service provider. It’ll hide:

  • Your browsing history

This means, when you have a VPN, anything you search, whether it’s really personal stuff like bank accounts or social media accounts etc., or just a random search is inaccessible to cybercriminals and also to your internet service provider, who may want to sell your browsing history.

  • Your IP address

You IP (internet protocol) address is the address that leads back to your device. Without a VPN, hackers or anyone else with dubious intentions, can track where and when you searched the internet and what you searched for.

  • Your device’s location

Again, this comes down to your IP address being vulnerable to prying eyes without the protection a VPN provides. Because most VPNs allow you to select an IP address from any location, outsiders can’t pin down the location of your device.

Do you need a VPN on your smartphone?

If like most people, you’re using your phone whilst on the go, to access your bank accounts, work emails, social media accounts, and other sensitive information, you should definitely consider using a VPN on your smartphone.

Smartphones are amongst the most vulnerable devices due to users not installing sufficient antivirus or antimalware, in the same way they would on a desktop or laptop. This general lapse in security makes smartphones the perfect target for hackers and identity thieves.

How do you get a VPN on your smartphone?

Getting a VPN for your smartphone is just like getting any App – simply head over to your App store and download your VPN.

But…

Before downloading the first VPN you come across, there are few questions that need to be asked, such as:

  • Does the VPN provider have a ‘no-log’ policy?

This simply means, do they track or log your online activities? If they do, avoid these apps.

  • Is the VPN free?

We all like a free app, but when it comes to a VPN, avoid the freebies. Free VPN services will sell your data – that’s how they make their money.

  • What protocol do they use?

Not to get too bogged down in jargon, but a VPN protocol is a set of rules governing how you connect with your VPN. The best and most secure VPNs will use protocols such as WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec or OpenVPN.

  • Does the VPN have a large server coverage?

Who wants to be confined to a local server on the Worldwide Web?

  • Is there an automatic kill switch?

This is a feature most good VPN’s have, where they’ll temporarily disconnect you from the internet should your connection become unstable.

  • Does your VPN include customer support?

Like any tech, you may run into problems with your VPN and require competent customer support, even at one o’clock in the morning.

Find out more

To find out which are the best VPNs for your business, or for help securing your IT network across all your devices, get in touch with JamCrackers today.

We have over 10 years’ experience in helping businesses and individuals improve their internet security, and as official partners of Malwarebytes and ESET, we have access to IT security products only available through official partners.