We all use the internet on a daily basis for a wide variety of purposes. Some of us rely on it for work, using online tools and services in the office to work on projects with our colleagues or communicate with customers from around the world. Others use the internet on a personal level for things like online banking, chatting with friends, or streaming music and movies.
The internet has changed all of our lives and offers almost endless uses, but it also comes with some risks. Sadly, hackers do exist. They might not work exactly the way you see in the movies, but they are able to make use of different tools, systems, and sneaky tricks to break into your devices, steal your identity, and do a lot of damage to your life.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to worry about hackers, but this isn’t an ideal world, and every internet user needs to be aware of the threats and risks that hackers pose. Fortunately, even though we can’t simply snap our fingers and make them all disappear, hackers can be beaten with strong security tools, like VPNs.
This guide will look at how VPNs work, why they’re so effective as a key part of protection against hackers, some of their other uses and advantages, and how you can find the best VPN for protecting yourself against hacks and cyberattacks. Read on to learn all you need to know about VPNs for hacker protection.
What Is a VPN and How Does it Work?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is made up of a network of servers in locations all over the globe, operated by a VPN provider and secured with state of the art encryption technology. VPNs can differ in terms of specifics and features, but they all work in a pretty similar way.
When you connect to a VPN, your internet connection is rerouted via one of the many servers that make up the VPN provider’s network. All of your internet traffic is also encrypted, protected it against various threats, and effectively making you anonymous online by hiding your IP address.
How Is This Connected to Hackers?
So how can a VPN help out with protecting you from hackers? Well, there are actually many answers to this question. First of all, by encrypting your internet traffic, a VPN is able to provide a strong layer of defense for all your internet connections, preventing hackers from being able to use many of their most common tools to break into your network and steal your data.
Secondly, a VPN is able to offer total online privacy, hiding your device’s IP address and replacing it with the IP address of one of the VPN provider’s servers. So, whenever you visit a site with a VPN, the site owner, your internet service provider, and anyone else who wants to spy on you, won’t be able to see what you’re doing.
In simple terms, VPNs work to protect your data. This can include anything from your email account password to your bank details to the contents of the messages you send your friends or the names of the files you download. Everything is encrypted and secured, impossible to be seen or exploited by hackers or anyone else.
Is a VPN the Same as a Proxy?
VPNs and proxies have some similar functionality, but they’re definitely not the same thing. A proxy, like a VPN, can change or hide your IP address, letting you browse sites or access content without giving away your true location and being able to use the internet anonymously.
However, it offers no security features or encryption for your connection, so all of the data you send can still be stolen, intercepted, and used against you by hackers. VPNs go much further than proxies by providing anonymity and security together in one overall package.
VPN Protection for Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is super convenient and used by millions of people each and every day. There are thousands of public Wi-Fi hotspots in places like coffee shops, hotels, airports, train stations, and more. These hotspots let you access your favorite websites and online services when you’re in town or on the move.
However, despite being useful, public Wi-Fi networks are also notoriously unsafe. They usually have no real security or encryption systems in place, designed to allow any users to simply and quickly connect to the network and start browsing without the need to input any passwords or codes.
The unsecured nature of public Wi-Fi hotspots makes them a prime target for hackers, who can use a variety of methods to steal the identities and spy on the personal data of other network users. Here are just a few examples of methods they might use:
- General Snooping/Spying – Hackers can very easily make use of unsecured networks to spy or snoop on other users of those networks. They can view your IP address, see what sites you’re visiting, see what files you’re downloading, and even go further than that, spying on your device directly to learn your passwords, bank details, and other private information.
- Malware Injections – Hackers can also make use of public unsecured networks to inject malware onto the devices of other users. Malware comes in many forms and can have a range of negative effects on a laptop, tablet, phone, or other devices from allowing the hacker to control that device to giving them backdoor access to your personal data.
- Man In The Middle (MITM) – An MITM attack is when the hacker basically positions themselves between your device and the Wi-Fi hotspot, intercepting your connections and being able to see what you’re doing online, even potentially having the ability to control or influence your online activity from their own device.
- Rogue Networks – Also known as Evil Twins or Fake Networks, these are networks set up by hackers but given misleading names that make them seem innocent. For example, you might go to a coffee shop and connect to a network named “FreeWiFi”, assuming that it belongs to the coffee shop owners. However, that network might have been created by a hacker, who can then steal lots of your data.
How About a Home Network?
We’ve seen that public Wi-Fi hotspots are very unsafe and should only be accessed with a top-rated VPN, but what about your home network? Well, at home, you usually have a secure, closed network that requires a password, preventing anyone from simply logging in and making use of it.
This means that home networks are generally safer, but they’re still not foolproof. Hackers are able to break into home network connections too and can still spy on your online activity, see what sites you’re visiting, and make moves to access your personal information.
When using a VPN, however, you’ll have an extra layer of security and be able to use the internet anonymously, so any would-be hackers trying to look at your internet connections will see nothing but encrypted signals.
Do VPNs Provide Total Protection from Hackers?
It’s vital to note that a VPN can offer a major security boost for your computer and other online devices, including phones and tablets, but having a VPN does not give you total and unbreakable protection against hackers. The sad truth is that hackers have many tools at their disposal and can still gain access to VPN-protected devices through various means, such as hiding malware in downloadable files.
So you can’t install a VPN and totally relax, thinking you’re 100% safe from all hackers for the rest of your life. You still need to be vigilant online and you should still consider making use of other forms of online security, such as ad-blocking, anti-malware software, and general smart web browsing techniques like only visiting HTTPS secure sites in order to stay safe and reduce the risk of being hacked even further.
What Else Can a VPN Do?
As well as offering great protection against hackers, VPNs have a range of other uses. By hiding your IP address, for example, they allow you to browse and use the internet anonymously, without having to worry about your ISP or anyone else spying on what you’re doing or keeping logs of the sites you visit and the files you download.
A VPN can also help you in getting past geo-restrictions and censors by allowing you to connect to servers in different countries all over the world. This has many uses, from accessing government-blocked sites in countries like China to enjoying exclusive films and shows that are only available on certain streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in certain parts of the world.
How Do I Find the Best VPN for Hacker Protection?
If you care about online safety and want to keep yourself safe from hackers, you should make security your number one priority when looking for a VPN. Read through reviews and compare your options, paying special attention to the security standards and encryption technologies being used by each VPN provider.
Look for 256-bit encryption if possible, as this is the strongest system currently available with commercial VPNs, and you may also want to consider additional factors in your search for the best VPN for security, like customer service, affordable pricing plans, and additional features like kill switches and leak protection.