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What is a VPN and do I need one while working from home?

January 26, 2021

There’s been a lot of talk about VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) lately, especially with the increase in working from home. It’s become a rather common thing. Facebook announced that it would continue having those who can work from home, continue doing so through the end of 2020, and with the growing coronavirus concerns, this may likely go far beyond that. Many other technology companies are considering the same, or for even longer. If you are allowed to work from the comfort of your loungewear, you may want to know what the heck a VPN is and why do you need one, anyway?

For those who use Wi-Fi internet connections at home, in coffee shops, on the road, or even at work, VPNs provide a layer of security that Wi-Fi doesn’t. Although free Wi-Fi is found most everywhere, there is virtually no online security offered when using it, even if you need to put in a password to get access to it. This makes it ripe for hackers to take advantage.

Depending on the sensitivity of information that’s sent over Wi-Fi, there is no doubt that hackers are lurking nearby just waiting to get their grubby paws on sensitive information, like your payment card numbers, your social security number, or even something you think isn’t so special such as your street address or birthdate. All of this information can be used for targeted attacks. Let’s take another look at VPN’s as a commonsense security layer for using Wi-Fi, no matter where you connect.

The purpose behind having a VPN is keeping your PII and all communications protected by end-to-end encryption. VPN’s are a especially important tool when using Wi-Fi as they provide a secured tunnel on which your PII can travel between connections. Remember, whatever sites you’re visiting, you need to go through a series of connections before getting to your destination. It all happens quickly, but it is happening. All of those connection points are vulnerable to attack. Even using Wi-Fi at a friend’s home can put you at risk. Sometimes, you won’t even know that your connection has been compromised.

However, by using a VPN, the attackers seeking to intercept your data will find that your data is encrypted and can’t be easily used. At that point, they will likely move on to another Wi-Fi user who doesn’t have a VPN and is therefore, an easier target.

Most businesses have VPNs that all of their users can and should utilize. If you’re not currently using one, get on top of finding out if your organization has one and get it configured on your mobile devices before connecting to the office network. A consumer VPN secures data sent to social media sites, banking, shopping, and any other location or website one may use. If you’re considering a personal VPN, do your homework to see what protection providers offer, for how much, and check ratings and consumer feedback. Don’t be afraid to pay a little bit to get one that is of good quality and works with your devices. There are also many fake ones out there that may be loaded with malware. By doing some research first, you can avoid those.

As with anything related to the Internet, there is no guarantee that even a VPN won’t be compromised. However, to date, VPNs are currently the best way to protect your information, no matter where you are working with your feet up these days.

Stickley on Security