VPNs Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be. Here’s Why.

If you’ve been watching videos on YouTube or any of the popular streaming services lately (let’s be honest– who hasn’t?), then you’ve probably seen an ad or two trying to sell you a virtual private network (VPN). Consumer VPN companies like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and others like them may have you convinced that a VPN is the answer to all your cybersecurity worries. Business VPNs make similar claims about protecting your organization’s resources. It sounds like they can put up a magic wall between your data and those who want it for the wrong reasons.

 

If only that were true.  

 

A Business VPN may not be the magic security fix for your company that they want you to think it is. That’s why we’d like to save you the buyer’s remorse: in this post, we’ll explain what a VPN is, what it can do, and what it can’t do for you.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a service that extends a private network across a public network, allowing users to send and receive data across a public network as if their device were directly connected to a private network. For consumers, VPNs are marketed primarily as a way to avoid surveillance by companies and the government, or hacking and identity theft. For companies, they are often marketed as a way to protect sensitive business data. Business VPNs also usually allow for multiple users and central management, and come with extra tools. However, we’re not so sure that they’re the data-saving value-add that they claim. 

Reasons to Use a VPN

Despite their limitations, there are actually valid reasons to invest in a VPN. Here are a few: 

Bypass Censorship

In the U.S., we are free to access nearly any online content we want from around the world. Others, however, aren’t so lucky. In China, for example, popular websites like YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are blocked. If you live or work in a location with heavy state censorship, a VPN may be a way to combat that. Through a VPN, you can hide or change the location of your IP address to get around government-imposed blocks. 

Access Geo-Restricted Content

We just mentioned that through a VPN, you can hide the location of your IP address (a practice called location spoofing). Another important use for that practice is to access blackout content from major networks, or geo-restricted content on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+. For example, if you are living or working in a country in which your favorite Netflix title is not available, changing your IP address to say you are in the US will allow you to access that content.  

Encrypt Data

VPNs were initially designed to encrypt data, so it makes sense that that would be a good reason to invest in one. But here’s the catch: internet security has come a long way over the lifespan of the web. If the URL you’re visiting begins with https, your connection is already secure, and any extra safety net is redundant. However, a VPN will hide your domain name service (DNS) requests (which websites you visit) from your internet service provider, school, university, workplace, or any other public network. If you are at an especially high risk of cyberattacks or cybercrime, a VPN may be a useful backup plan. If not, however, you may be wasting your money. 

Reasons NOT to Use a VPN

Still, there are several things a VPN cannot do, contrary to popular belief. Here are a few:

As an Alternative to an ISP

Some see a VPN as a cheap alternative to paying for an internet service, but unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. A VPN is not an internet connection in and of itself– it can not and does not replace your internet service provider. You must connect to an internet service provider first, and then to a VPN. 

To Hide Online Activity

Earlier, we mentioned that a VPN hides your DNS requests from your internet service provider, school, and other public networks. So it may sound like a VPN is perfect for hiding your online activity, especially that you don’t want others to see. But here’s the problem: VPN companies claim that they don’t keep activity logs on their users, but they have no way to back up that claim. So, don’t try to hide illicit or illegal activity online behind a VPN. 

To Protect from Malware

While some VPN companies offer malware protection as an add-on service, few offer it as a feature inherent in their basic packages. In fact, when it comes to malware protection, a VPN can actually do more harm than good. Remember how we said that a VPN is a tunnel designed to encrypt data? That means this tool encrypts every kind of data… including viruses and malware on their way to your device. 

 

VPNs may be sold as a magical security fix, but unfortunately they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. While they can be useful for some users, for others, they add no extra value. There are no shortcuts when it comes to cybersecurity– the only real way to protect your precious data is to create and stick to a solid IT security plan. Our advice, don’t try to do it yourself. See how iSAFE can help you save time and money, and achieve peace of mind.    

 

About iSAFE

Most business owners, entrepreneurs and IT managers are anxious and frustrated with computer technology because they don’t know how to make their systems secure while keeping their employees productive. Managing computer technology yourself or in-house leads to lower productivity, greater expense, cyber attacks, and ultimately, data loss. At iSAFE, we manage computer technology for our customers so you can focus on running your business and accomplishing your goals. If you’re ready for someone to completely manage your IT infrastructure, secure your data and networks, and support your staff, then iSAFE Complete Managed Services is for you. Learn more about our services or sign up today.

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