VPNs have many security advantages but not all services are the same. Read on to find out how a VPN for online safety can make your computer connection safe, and how to make it even more secure.
How Can I Make My VPN Even More Secure?
Internet privacy is a major issue facing the world today. It revolves around the right of users to browse the Internet freely, the storage of data, the repurposing of that data and how it may be displayed. Believe it or not you and your computer usage are being constantly monitored. On one hand, much of this monitoring is innocent, ranging from your ISP monitoring usage to web hosts tracking your IP address and physical location, often referred to as non-personally identifying information. On the other hand, much of it is not so innocent as hackers, viruses and in some cases government censors are looking for information with which they can block your access or to do you harm, known as personally identifying information.
VPNs, virtual private networks, have long been associated with work-oriented networks. They are used to keep corporate networks secure when employees are working remotely. They are also used by individuals to avoid Internet censorship and to gain access to geo-restricted content but are also growing in popularity as a tool for enhancing your Internet security. Say for instance you are traveling and working on a public WiFi network, or live in a country where access to Internet content is limited. Your data and computer are vulnerable to peepers who can view the websites you are visiting, steal your data as it moves across the network and even gain access your computer. The data could be sold to others, used to block or censor access to websites or even used to determine your identity and location by a hostile government.
How A VPN For Online Safety Keeps Your Internet Secure?
The unfortunate thing about the Internet, with so many seeking information for elicit purposes the use of VPNs has become more of a need than it once was. VPNs can keep you safe in multiple ways, and add an extra layer of security you cannot achieve with simple malware or virus protection. At the basic level, VPN security lies in the fact that your Internet connection is private. You connect through a dedicated VPN server using a point-to-point or tunneling protocol that cannot be infiltrated. The connection helps to maintain your anonymity and to repel malicious influences including viruses, censors and hackers by allowing you and only you to access your computer.
A few benefits of VPN protocols include confidentiality for the users, authentication of senders and message integrity for data transfers. This is done by replacing or altering your routing and other identifying information so others cannot track you, and cannot access your connection or device. How a VPN provides security depends on the system. Simple systems use basic tunneling protocols, more advanced systems may also use encryption and other protocols intended to enhance security. The added benefit of encryption means that even if your connection is hacked and information is obtained, no one will be able to read it.
Three of the most common protocols are OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP. OpenVPN is an open source protocol that creates secure PTP connections with SSL/TSL level encryption. PPTP is the most commonly used protocol, creating a private network tunnel for sending and receiving information. The L2TP is a multi-layer protocol similar to PPTP with the addition of an enhanced security protocol that it uses to encrypt data as it passes through the tunnel connection.
The biggest myth when it comes to the Internet and using a VPN is that complete and total anonymity is possible, and that it is the same as privacy. Anonymity means there is no identifying information on the Internet, a claim made by many service providers and one that has been proven to be unrealistic time and time again. Privacy is the real goal of VPN security, privacy is the condition of being free to use and search the web in a manner in which no one is looking over your shoulder, collecting your information or stealing your data.
Using a VPN provider who is seriously concerned with your privacy is very important. Many VPNs keep extensive logs of users and traffic. This is not a problem if all you want is to log into public networks and safely surf the Internet but a big problem if you are concerned with hackers, censors or other malicious users who may seek to identify you or steal valuable information.
The lure of a no-log claiming VPN provider is not as safe as it may sound and frankly, usually an outright lie. All VPN’s keep track of you in some way, it’s how they differentiate users and know if you have paid your bill or not, and how they are able to offer different types of service plans. Think about this, how could they troubleshoot your connection if they didn’t have some way of identifying you. In this instance logging isn’t a bad thing but that changes when the privacy aspect of the service is compromised. Less than scrupulous providers play on the fears of users seeking true anonymity when in fact what a VPN does is provide privacy.
The need for VPN service is not limited to PC’s either. Network connections made with iOS are just as vulnerable. There are many apps for iPhones and iPads including Le VPN’s iOS app. The app provides anonymous browsing, unrestricted web navigation and virtual geo-location in more than 100+ locations for iPod, iPad and iPhone. Using the app allows you to alter the IP address of your mobile device and bypass geo-restrictions. Some of the features included are, but not limited to: multiple protocol support, can be used on more than one device at the same time, high speed connections and unlimited bandwidth.
How To Get Even More Safety With VPNs?
Most services are easy to use but there are ways to gain added security on VPNs that you should be aware of. The first concern of secure VPN users is, what if it fails? This is not so uncommon as there are many reasons for this to occur. For the tech savvy it is possible to protect against this in a couple of ways, including disabling any connections not running through your VPN service or altering TCP/IP routes. However, for the not so tech savvy these fixes can cause as many problems as they solve, maybe more, but there is a solution for you too. Leading VPN providers, including Le VPN, include a kill switch in their programs. This switch will automatically turn off or disable your connection if the VPN connection is ever lost.
Another concern is DNS leak. DNS, or domain name server, is a directory of domain names that computers use to identify websites, the server changes those names into IP addresses that are then used by computers to make connections through the Internet. A DNS leak is when the default DNS server of your device is chosen instead of the server provided by the VPN. This could happen simply due to a lag in connection speed, a phenomenon not uncommon with the Internet. Again, the fix is rather simple. Websites like DNSLeakTest.com can check your system and even offer solutions. One method is to switch to a static IP configuration so that there are no gaps through which a leak may occur. This can be done by using a service like OpenDNS or other alternative DNS service, or by using a VPN service that includes leak protection such as Le VPN. Clearing the DNS cache on your computer may also help with this issue.
Clearing cookies can also help stop DNS leaks. Cookies are placed on your computer by just about any website you visit. If you go to one while not logged into your VPN it could, and probably will, save data you do not want to share with others. Even if you only use VPN to access the Internet it is possible for a DNS leak to result in an unwanted cookie so clearing them regularly is highly recommended.
Yet another method of enhancing security over a VPN is to fix flaws in the PPTP. PPTP is point to point tunneling protocol, one of the earliest forms of VPN, and used by many VPN services. While it is usually a safe form of VPN it has been found to have numerous vulnerabilities particularly when using Microsoft or Ubuntu. On it’s own PTPP does not include encryption services which, along with issues with the authentication protocols, make is susceptible to hacking and the loss of security. Microsoft has often been criticized for its apparent indifference to the PPTP issues which begs the question… why do they even offer it? The best fix is to not use Microsoft’s PPTP but another from a company who takes security seriously.
Using an untraceable currency such as BitCoin can also help with your anonymity. Simply set up an anonymous email address and buy Bitcoins with which to set up your VPN service. Another method may be to use a similar anonymous email address to set up a Paypal or other virtual wallet with which to pay for your service. Of course, many VPN users have pointed out that these methods are unnecessarily complex and can be avoided by using a prepaid VISA card to pay for your services.
In addition, it has also been recommended to use a VPN server from a country other than your own, and perhaps one located in a country that does not cooperate well with your country, to help maintain privacy from governments who actively censor and monitor Internet traffic. This plays hand in hand with the no-logging/anonymity issue. Too often service providers have, unwittingly or not, been the cause for Internet users to be arrested or worse by providing identifying information to government officials.
Here is one fix you don’t want to try. It has been suggested to make a secure VPN even more secure you can use two VPN services. By using this method you will in effect be sending a secure link through another secure link however it is not recommended. Most service providers will not allow this type of connection as it is most often used for illegal purposes. If discovered your VPN connections will most likely be terminated.
More Safety With VPNs
It is often easy, sometimes too easy, to find free services on the Internet and VPN is no different. In the end it is recommended that you DO NOT use a free VPN service because it is likely they are merely phishing for information so they can turn around and sell it to someone else. Remember, you get what you pay for and since privacy is priceless a free VPN is likely not worth your time. . . or your trust. Think about this, Facebook bought a VPN service called Onavo in 2013. At face value, no pun intended, which may seem like a good thing, Facebook wants to protect your privacy. The reality is that the Onavo app allows Facebook access to your entire phone so they can monitor all of your usage, and then use that knowledge for their own purposes.
Here are some things that Facebook collects that you may not be aware of; things you do and information you provide, things that other people do and information they provide in relation to you, your networks and connections, information about payments, device information, information about apps and services that use “our services”, information from third party partners and information from Facebook companies. Basically, Facebook collects everything they can about you and they are not the only one doing so.
What About TOR?
TOR, an acronym for The Onion Project, is another free tunneling software that offers anonymity to Internet users. The problem is, aside from the difficulty average users will have implementing it, is that it doesn’t really make you anonymous. It directs traffic through thousands of worldwide volunteer nodes using a multi-layer encryption approach, hence the reference to onions, but does not in fact anonymize its users as there is no encryption from your device to the network, or from the network to the end point.
The service is free but alas, is susceptible to a number of attacks that can expose IP addresses, leak data and leave its users vulnerable. The TOR project itself has said that it cannot guarantee privacy or anonymity and to make things worse, connection speeds are very very slow. Here are only a few of the problems commonly found with TOR.
- There is no safety at the fringes of the network, data entering or exiting is vulnerable to eavesdropping.
- If an eavesdropping system is present on both ends of the TOR network it can correlate the data and infer the direction and destination of user traffic.
- TOR does not encrypt data leaving the system, data leaving the node is susceptible to intercept leaving users and destination vulnerable to data breaches.
- Exit node block. It is possible to monitor exit nodes and block traffic coming from them, such as is done by Wikipedia and the BBC. Also, denial of service attacks can also be mounted against the exit nodes.
So, Do You Really Need VPN?
I am sure by now it is easy to understand the multitude of reasons why using a virtual private network is a good idea. There are people monitoring your activities on the Internet, and collecting your data. What may not be as easy to understand, especially for the less than savvy internet user, is where to get the best service since there are multiple protocols, differing levels of security and potential pitfalls with each.
Le VPN is one provider with its finger on the pulse of the Internet and Internet security. It is a VPN provider with servers in 100+ locations offering services along three different protocols; OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec using AES-256 Secret level encryption. Also, HybridVPN, combining an SSL-level VPN connection and a SmartDNS proxy. They have been in business since 2010, employing the world’s top Internet security experts guaranteeing global reach and internet freedom. The best part is that Le VPN’s proprietary software makes using all of its services and products easy for any level of Internet user.
Their products are available for PC, MAC, iOS and Android. They provide unlimited traffic, you can use multiple devices at one time, they have the highest connection speeds and unlimited bandwidth, the SmartDNS service will unblock Geo-restrictions for TV and movie streaming. Online support is available in 3 languages and there is a 100% money back guarantee for a 7-day trial. If you think your information needs to be protected, and trust me when I say it does, this is the service for you. Don’t wait until it’s too late, get Le VPN now.
*Article updated on July 27th, 2018*
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