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What is a VPN and How Does it Work?

With the recent growth of remote work, users must be confident that personal and professional data remain safe when operating away from the primary network. A VPN (or virtual private net-work) is a tool used to protect data and devices when connecting to networks outside of the office. These connections include both public and home Wi-Fi networks. The primary purpose of a VPN is to hide a user’s online activity. This is most useful when operating on public networks where hackers like to track potential targets to collect any information that may be useful for future schemes. Hackers can also intercept any messages that are sent or received on an un-secure network.

There are many risks associated with using unprotected networks including the following:

Man-in-the-Middle attacks - Hackers use MitM attacks as a way to eavesdrop and steal information. When a device makes a connection to the internet, data is sent from point A (the device) to point B (service/website), and vulnerabilities allow the hacker to get be-tween the transmissions and “read” them.

Malware Distribution - Software vulnerabilities within public internet connections allow attackers to infect a user’s device with malware without his or her knowledge.

Malicious Hotspots - Attackers create rogue access points as a method to deceive users into connecting to what they believe is a legitimate network.

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Many organizations require employees who operate remotely to connect to the company VPN before accessing files or accounts. Even though most home connections are more safe than public connections, a VPN shields the most critical files from falling into the wrong hands. VPNs are also useful at home to strengthen anonymity by hiding users from potential trackers. The VPN prevents visibility to the user’s IP address, making it harder for hackers and ad trackers to monitor activity.

Many users also choose to use a VPN for personal reasons such as streaming content in new locations. When traveling, certain streaming services hide or don’t offer the same content that is offered at a user’s home. A VPN allows the user to legally access their regular content while logging in from a different part of the world. Personal VPNs are offered similarly to a streaming subscription service in which the user pays for services on a monthly or yearly basis.

Summary:

With the recent growth of remote work, users must be confident that personal and professional data remain safe when operating away from the primary network. A VPN (or virtual private net-work) is a tool used to protect data and devices when connecting to networks outside of the office. The primary purpose of a VPN is to hide a user’s online activity. This is most useful when operating on public networks where hackers like to track potential targets to collect any information that may be useful for future schemes. The primary risks associated with using unprotected networks include Man-in-the-Middle attacks, malware distribution, and malicious hotspots. Many organizations require employees who operate remotely to connect to the company VPN before accessing files or accounts. Many users also choose to use a VPN for personal reasons such as streaming content in new locations.

For assistance in evaluating your strategies, technical requirements, staff evaluations and communications contact a ThreatAdvice Professional to learn more.