VPN’s are exceedingly useful, but it’s crucial to understand that they have limitations too. They essentially protect your data while they travel to and from your device and remote web server (website). As a user, you should understand that they cannot fight off a hacker if he has directly accessed your phone or other networking device.
VPN’s are also practically useless if the hacker is already stationed on the destination side, waiting for your data to arrive. Most VPN companies make it seem like their VPN servers offer all-around protection to any emergent threat. Well, this isn’t a true claim, as your data can still be compromised even with a VPN. However, that depends on what shortcoming is at play.
What Does a VPN Do?
Think of a VPN as an operational link between network traffic flowing back and forth between your device and the data’s destination. VPN’s use an encrypted tunnel between your device and another location. But why do you need a VPN for this? It is because they encrypt the data transmitted over your network. This service:
- Prevents your ISP from seeing your Network traffic, websites visited, and user credentials.
- Enables geo-blocking bypass. Some countries will block specific content from being accessed online for whoever has an IP address in that country.
Most companies claim their company offers enhanced cybersecurity. The extra security provided most of the time does not extend to your protection with your accounts or device exclusively. This is especially important when accessing private websites like social media or digital banking apps. Most users are usually stuck with two questions, which are more like skepticism.
The first one is “Is a VPN necessary?” The second is “what are the limitations of a VPN?” Firstly, VPN’s will almost always offer more security than not using one. If an attacker is sniffing your traffic, they will only see that you have connected to a VPN service but not the websites or applications you are visiting.
The fact that VPN’s keep you masked from the eyes of your ISP company is a big cybersecurity bonus as well as snooping criminals in public Wi-Fi zones.
You may be wondering since my network passes through a VPN, doesn’t that mean they can record my activity? Most VPN’s have a “no logs” policy. This means they do not record the online activity of a user. You should, however, be sure you’re using a reliable paid VPN service, as some VPN’s may feature caveats to the no-logs policy.
What Can’t a VPN Protect Me From?
VPN’s are meant to protect your data while you’re traveling via your network. This doesn’t mean this structure can mitigate all hacking attacks. VPN’s can’t offer protection to a compromised device or an error spawned from bad security practice.
Unfortunately, your online shortcomings can’t be mitigated by a VPN service and they do have consequences. These may be mistakes that arise from being not attentive to privacy or security issues.
For example, if you accidentally click on a malicious link, a VPN can’t protect you from malware launching in the background. A VPN also can’t protect you if you visit a risky site that’s riddled with adware and clickjacking.
Many cyber criminals employ malware and malicious programs that enable them to break into your device. This software is usually downloaded onto your device directly when you click a pop-up ad or phishing link.
Once this malware has breached your system, a cybercriminal can monitor network traffic coming to and from your device. This is possible even if the data is encrypted on transit with a VPN.
A common attack most hackers use to scam their victims is phishing emails. The email is often masked as legitimate companies like banks or digital payment platforms. A sense of urgency or an alarming situation is created to get you to click the link in the email.
Once this is done, your device automatically downloads the malware. In other cases, your login credentials can be exposed using fake login pages. The best approach to staying away from attacks like this is to be careful when receiving links from unverified senders.
You may be prompted to ask, can a VPN be hacked? They can. Premium VPN’s offer high-end user encryption and secure servers hosting the VPN service. However, just like others, they can be hacked. You should also be aware that using a weak password could make you suffer a malware attack.
If your password or VPN private key has been compromised, your VPN can’t do much to protect you from a cyberattack. At this point, a hacker can take over your device or the data transmitted through it.
Many users implement VPN’s on their work and personal devices; whether it is a PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android, most VPN’s will work on the majority of devices. Their features will usually include a no-logs policy and allow a user to connect up to multiple devices at once. Some are also notable for their fast network speeds, split-tunneling, and multi-connections.
What Security Practices Should I Adopt?
- Read permissions carefully: When you download an app, always check the permissions and access it is demanding. Read and understand them before you comply with these requests. For example, a gaming app demanding to view your contact list and text messages most likely has a backdoor trojan or spyware.
- Always update all your software: Keeping the software on your device updated is crucial. New software updates usually fix security flaws and protect a user from vulnerabilities that may arise later. If the apps on your phone or laptop haven’t been updated for a long time, you’re at risk.
- Log out of your devices: Always ensure you log out of your device each time you’re done with them. This can help prevent unauthorized access.
To sum it up, a VPN can protect you from some cyberattacks and sniffing that need your IP address to perform. However, more sophisticated attacks like staged malware attacks are beyond the protections of a VPN. Nonetheless, a VPN can offer you advanced protection for your network traffic in transit.
In addition to these, a VPN can provide you with an extra boost of internet speed while you’re browsing, depending on the provider.