Are VPNs Actually Secure?

ProtonVPN

The concern for security on the internet is increasing rapidly and a number of products and services have come forward to ensure application security.

This has made it difficult to determine which one of these services actually works to make using the internet secure and which ones are just a placebo that just makes you FEEL safe.

One of these services is VPN.

Let’s examine to what extent the claims of VPN providers are true when it comes to privacy and security on the internet.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, creates a virtual network that the user can connect to the internet through. This helps protect the privacy and security of both the user and their organization.

VPNs are particularly helpful when using a public Wi-Fi network such as the one provided by your office.

VPNs prevent your data from being stolen by creating a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server. The VPN server then connects you to the internet. VPNs can help you:

    • Prevent your internet usage from being tracked by the service provider.
    • Access banned websites by changing the virtual location you are connecting the internet from.
    • Keep your data safe from being sold to advertisement companies.
    • Prevent businesses from charging you discriminatory rates according to your location.

That’s what a VPN is supposed to do, in theory. But how much of that does actually happen?

There are a number of things that make VPNs unsafe. Let’s see what are the most important ones.

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Top Things that Make VPNs Unsafe

As a general rule of thumb, if a VPN is free, they are, somehow or the other, compromising your data. Here are the things that make VPNs unsafe.

  1. Most of the free VPN tools include malware that can be used by cybercriminals to steal user data. It can also let them gain unauthorized access to users’ devices and launch cyberattacks of different kinds. Recent research conducted by ICSI Networking and Security Group found out that 38% of the 283 Android VPNs included in the research had some type of malware in them.
  2. Some VPNs can track your online activity. While the very function of a VPN is to protect the online activity of the user, some of them do the exact opposite of that. They track their online activity and sell the data. The same ICSI research pointed out that 72% of the free VPNs they studied had third-party data extraction tools in their software. If you are wondering what is there for them in the data, they sell it to the highest bidder so that they can give you personalized ads. This data can sometimes end up in the wrong hands and your privacy and even security can be at stake.
  3. VPNs can access all your data including your passwords. When you install a VPN on your device, the EULA clearly states that all your internet data traffic will be routed through the VPN. If the VPN is not from a trustworthy source, your data can be misused.
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However, that does not mean VPNs are not safe at all and you should not be using them. If you want to use a VPN for privacy, here are some of the things it needs to have.

Features that Make a VPN Secure

To answer the question in the subject of this app, we need to look at the features that make a VPN safe for the end-user. However, it is important to note that you need to use a VPN from a trustworthy provider so that you are sure they deliver what they promise.

Things that make a VPN secure:

    1. Internet Protocol (IP) address leak prevention is a must. The chief function of any VPN is to hide the IP address of the user. The IP address is what can be used to track your internet usage and trace any internet activity back to you. Sometimes, the VPN can have flaws in it which can lead to the IP address not being properly hidden or being leaked. Before you select a VPN, check their reviews to make sure there have not been any instances of IP address leakage on their end.
    2. No information logging of any kind. A secure VPN is a no-log one. These VPNs do not log or collect any data that the user shares on the internet. This includes login credentials, download history, and search history. This is important because this is the only way to make sure that the sensitive information of the user can never be compromised. If a VPN does not keep logs, even if their security is breached or their servers are hacked, the data cannot end up in the wrong hands. Remember, data leakage is the top factor in an application security compromise.
    3. Disconnection Handling. Normally, if a VPN disconnects due to any reason, the connection will be switched over to the normal internet connection of the user. Good VPN services have a kill switch feature. This feature makes sure that the applications that you connect via the VPN are immediately killed when the VPN disconnects so that they cannot connect over the insecure connection.
    4. Strict Authentication. A VPN is only as secure as the login requirements it has. For a VPN to be secure, it must make sure that you are who you are before you connect. The second layer of authentication can be added by prompting the user to enter a code they receive via SMS or a third-party code generation app.
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VPNs are a great way of being anonymous on the internet and enhancing application security. In order to be sure that you are using a VPN that is actually secure, you need to use one from a credible provider and make sure it fulfills the security requirements we’ve listed above.

To top it off, your security on the internet is in your own hands. Keep your credentials and other private data safe if you want to avoid cyberattacks, otherwise, no security measure can help you.

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