VPNs: Should You Use Them?
We’ve been getting more advanced VPNs than ever before. It’s not so much about a VPN as whether people should use it.
Today we’re going to talk about something you’ve probably heard about before: VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks. We at Malwarebytes have delved into these tools in greater depth, discussing them literally on the digital airwaves.
But we want to answer a question we receive more and more. People are not curious what or what VPN is what it is now whether, what They should use one.
The answer is, it depends. So, we are here to help.
How does a VPN work
To understand how a VPN works and whether you should use one, it is best to first understand what happens when you surf the Internet. When you open a web browser and go to a website, you are connecting to that website and exchanging information with it. This is your “traffic” on the Internet, and it can reveal a great deal of information about you, including the websites you visit, your IP address, and more.
A virtual private network acts like a “tunnel” of Internet traffic. Your traffic goes into the tunnel, and exits one of the VPN service’s exit nodes. The tunnel encrypts your data, making it undecipherable by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). At best, your ISP can see that some of the encrypted traffic goes to the VPN service, but not the contents of that traffic, not where it comes from.
The interesting thing to note here is that with this basic functionality, a VPN can actually serve Many different needs. As we wrote before:
Depending on who you ask, a VPN is any and all of the following:  A tunnel between a computer and the Internet,  It helps you to stay anonymous online, prevents government surveillance, spying and excessive data collection of big companies,  A tool that encrypts your connection and hides your real IP address with an address belonging to your VPN provider,  Part of the software or application that allows you to access private resources (such as company files on your intranet) or websites that are normally prohibited in your country or region.
Without a VPN, your ISP or ISP can see almost everything you interact with online. Who are you connected to, what kind of traffic are you, where are you geographically. No Bueno.
Block your traffic with a VPN
If you are using a VPN, your ISP knows that you are connected to A VPN, but it can’t scan the content of your traffic, and you don’t know where it comes from at the other end.
Also, despite the recent increase in the popularity of VPNs, these tools have been in use by businesses for a long time now. They are typically used to access resources remotely as if you were in the office.
In some cases we have seen performance improvements with a VPN, where artificial throttling is circumvented with a VPN. Since you are tunneling your connection, your ISP will not be able to peek and throttle your traffic, based on the type of traffic. Believe it or not, this is a real problem, and some ISPs throttle users’ traffic when they see file sharing for example.
There are many paths you can follow when deciding to implement a VPN. Not only do these tools work on your personal devices like laptops and cell phones, but in some cases, you can bring your own router into the mix.
In many cases, the router provided by your ISP is not a device that you fully control, and using it for network needs could expose you to potential security problems.
These devices sometimes have administrative functions that are not accessible to subscribers. Some of the mid-to-high range routers available in the market today allow you to put a VPN on the router, effectively encapsulating all of your traffic.
A possible solution would be to get such a router and install a VPN on it, not on your individual devices. This has the added advantage that it provides VPN protection for devices that do not support VPNs, such as mobile devices, consoles, and smart devices.
In the past, we have seen hacking of ISP devices through encrypted accounts on modems/routers they provide to their subscribers.
Unfortunately, your ISP’s customer support often backs down to help if you get your own equipment into the mix. (In fact, they may make you remove it from the equation before they even give you support.)
This solution is for every router, and it’s a bit more advanced.
You can also use a VPN app provided by the VPN provider. This app will provide a VPN tunnel to the computer it is installed on, and that’s just that, so keep that in mind.
One of the most powerful options to consider for your software solution is the “Kill Switch” function. This ensures that if anything happens to the VPN app, it won’t “fail to open” or allow internet traffic if the VPN goes down. think about it. You are installing this app to get the obvious functionality that can direct your traffic. If the app crashes, there may be privacy risks in the app that still allow you to connect to the internet, while leaving your traffic unspent.
More than anything else, a lock switch prevents the opportunity to operate with a false sense of security. What you say online, and the chance that it was you who said it, can draw attention in some countries that have stricter laws on free speech.
Another factor that makes a VPN really work is when they have a lot of exit nodes. These exit nodes are locations that can be used to circumvent geolocation. The more available, and the greater the variety, the more versatile and useful a VPN service will be.
Speed is also a factor for VPN exit nodes. There is not much point in having a large number of exit nodes unless they are fast. One of the downsides to using a VPN is that by adding all these “hops” between nodes, your traffic will take longer to route. If the nodes are reasonably fast, the end user will not notice much slowdown.
You must have a VPN provider that does not discern the type of traffic flowing through their network. Some smaller VPNs don’t have the infrastructure to handle large amounts of peer-to-peer or torrent traffic, and either block them entirely or impose physical data restrictions.
Remember, when you consider using one of these tools, you are transferring trust: When you use a VPN, you are transferring access to your traffic to a third party, the VPN provider. All that vision that users refuse to give up on their ISP has now been handed over to their VPN provider. The credibility of the said VPN provider should be carefully considered.
There are documented cases in which the VPN provider revealed that users could be anonymized and that the VPN provider actually kept the logs and was willing to turn them over.
Remember, VPNs should not be viewed as obscure tools. They are, in fact, commercial and privacy tools. Allow researchers who fight Malware detects what this malware actually does. It allows employees to connect to company resources away from the office – which is critical today. It allows you, the user, to regain a measure of privacy.
So it is important to choose carefully. Most VPNs offer a service in which they promise not to log or scan your traffic. However, in many cases, this claim is impossible to verify.
Best choice for VPNs then? Read reviews, search forums, and find jobs that are specifically relevant to you. You may find what you are looking for around the corner.