What are VPNs and are they safe?

Have you ever browsed, through a public Wi-Fi network, and wondered if someone, somewhere might be able to see your online activity?

It’s an entirely reasonable concern, considering all the data breaches and privacy issues happening worldwide.

So what’s the solution? You’ve probably heard of a Virtual Private Network or VPN!  A VPN will create an encrypted tunnel between you and a server operated by the VPN service. All your traffic is sent through this tunnel, keeping your data secure from prying eyes. In addition, because your traffic is going through a VPN server, your real IP address is hidden, masking your location & identity.

Sounds good? But there is a catch.

What would happen if the VPN service gets hacked? Below are two known instances within the last 12 months.

During July 2020, seven free VPN apps left their servers unsecured online, exposing private user data for anyone to see. Potentially 20 Million users.

And Again, in March 2021, 21 million free VPN users’ data exposed.

Exposed data included the users’ email and home addresses, passwords in plain text, IP addresses, and the worst aspect of this story – is that the the server also contained logs of the internet activity of the users.

This incident is troubling, because each of these compromised VPN services claimed that their services were “no-log” VPNs. This meaning that they supposedly don’t record any user activity,

My Two Cents

When you use a Paid VPN, you send your traffic through their servers… You pay them a subscription, they encrypt your data and agree not to store your data.

However, many free VPN services cover their cost by selling your data. In this situation, you are better off not having any VPN service at all. Instead you could rely on Adblocker or use other security elements.

Many free VPN providers also have data restrictions, speed limits, commercials, and download limits. It can simply not an enjoyable browsing experience, because of these limitations. Moreover, many free VPN apps are not safe, containing spyware or malware in the download. As a general rule, I would avoid any VPN that advertises as free or at the very least exercise extreme caution. 

This caution should extend to paid VPNs too, but they are more likely to be safer. 

So, if you are concerned about your privacy and data, a VPN could be for you! Just do your research and don’t give your data to just anyone. Below is a list of VPN’s voted best in 2021.

Best VPN Services for 2021

If you would like to learn more about IT Security: LMI College offer a course on the subject. Register your interest here.

A hacker, thankful that the intended victim isn't using a VPN.