In this modern age, it is very common to spend several hours every day on the internet. This could either be for work, school, entertainment, or other reasons. Due to this high amount of activity, it is important to always be vigilant about keeping your identity safe on the internet. Using a VPN can help keep you safe from hackers and other cyber criminals if used correctly. We will be discussing the various uses of VPNs and whether they can secure your identity online.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a method of encrypting the data that gets transmitted when you browse the internet. This is typically required when you are connecting to an unsecured network. If you enter information such as bank account numbers, login credentials, or SSNs on an unsecured network, this is all vulnerable to attack by hackers. Cybercriminals can intercept the data between the device and the server. They might even set up a fake WIFI hotspot to encourage people to connect and share confidential data.
Masking IP Addresses
When you are at home and connected to your secure network, there is less risk of hackers accessing your data. On the other hand, you may want to conceal your browsing activities from your internet provider service. Providers will often collect information about websites you visit and interests you have and sell them to advertisers. The advertisers in turn will then create targeted ads that you will see everywhere online.
A VPN can obscure your IP address so that your location remains hidden. This means that you can visit websites without alerting your internet provider. You can also access content on the internet that was previously geo-blocked by masking your IP address.
What Won’t a VPN Do?
Using a VPN will somewhat secure your identity, but it will not make you completely invincible. For instance, website cookies will still track your interests and browsing patterns. Some of these cookies will save in your browser unless you turn them off.
You are also still vulnerable to malware and viruses. You should scan everything before you download it, and avoid clicking on links in emails. If you receive an email from someone claiming to work for a company you associate with, you can run a quick background check to make sure that they are legitimate. After you confirm their identity, you can proceed with opening the email and reading it.
What Can Hackers Do?
When hackers have access to your information, it can be very financially detrimental to you. Depending on what information that they have managed to collect, they could commit any of the following crimes:
- Sell your data on the dark web
- Use your credit to make purchases
- Take out more credit in your name
- Withdraw money from your bank accounts
- Change your account passwords and hold them hostage
- Commit crimes in your name
- Blackmail companies
- Use your device to attack others and gain additional information
To avoid hackers receiving your information, the VPN will route your data through an encrypted tunnel. This will make it impossible for anyone to intercept the transmitted information.
Choosing a Reputable VPN
Just like with most things, you should research the best VPN service before you commit to one. There are many free VPN services available, but they tend to lack the features of premium plans. With a free VPN, you will need to be careful because some of them may be selling your data and browsing activities.
A paid VPN is a much better bet when it comes to protecting your online identity. You should look for features in your VPN service such as the following:
- A large number of servers
- Mobile options
- No log policy (keeping records of your browsing activity)
- Router support (if you are installing the VPN on the router)
How to Avoid Hackers
Even if you have the best VPN installed on all your devices, the best way to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft is by avoiding hackers entirely. Some of the most efficient methods of avoiding hackers and phishing schemes are:
- Put a password on your home network connection
- Constantly update your antivirus software and run frequent scans
- Only download trustworthy apps and delete ones that you do not use anymore
- Use strong passwords for your device and all your online accounts
- Set up your device to lock itself after a few failed log-in attempts in case it ever gets stolen
- Enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts
- Back up all your files to an external hard drive
- Use a password management system to keep all your secure passwords safe
Do VPNs Secure Your Identity?
The answer is that VPNs make it much more difficult for someone to determine your identity. They hide your browsing activity, mask your IP address, and reducing the chance of advertisers collecting information about you. Keep in mind that VPNs help secure your identity, but they are not foolproof. Your device will still be vulnerable to malware and phishing schemes if you are not careful.