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How to use a VPN setup to protect your security against hacks and snooping

VPN setup

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The guide outlines how to use a VPN setup to protect your security against hacks and snooping from criminals, employers and internet providers.

The topic of digital security is becoming more and more important. Around the world, there are millions of cyber attacks every day. But even if most of them target corporate infrastructure, private individuals are also affected. After all, there is a lot of money to be made with personal information like passwords or credit card details.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 25% of all consumers use a VPN every day. But what exactly is a VPN and how do you use a VPN setup to protect against cyber attacks?

Using a VPN setup to protect you: overview

You don’t always want to wait until you’re home or have access to a secure network to visit social media, check your bank balance, or communicate with friends and relatives.

In other cases, you may simply not want Internet service providers (ISPs) or online companies to keep track of all of our activity on the Internet. A VPN, a Virtual Private Network, can help here.

What is a VPN setup: definition

As the name suggests, a virtual private network is about data protection. A network or a closed communication system is created between you and the VPN provider. And this network is virtual because, unlike a “real” network, it does not require a previously set up, dedicated infrastructure.

It is a program for your computer or mobile phone and creates a secure connection between your device and the Internet. This is made possible via encrypted connections on an external server. In this way, you automatically send your data traffic to a VPN server and go to the Internet via this. Through this connection the following things are achieved:

  • the IP address is hidden
  • the data traffic is encrypted and secure
  • the internet can be used more freely because geoblockers can be bypassed

Some people are already familiar with VPNs as many businesses and educational institutions use this feature to access the institutions and their resources. However, many people simply use a VPN setup to protect their privacy and increase their security on insecure networks. VPN is an ideal solution here.

Why should I use a VPN setup for protection?

In many cases, your access to the Internet at home and at work is safe and well-protected.

But when you are on the go and use free or unknown networks – e.g. at the airport, in a hotel or in a cafĂ© – then you run the risk of your own data being viewed and possibly stolen, and these are prime VPN uses to safeguard against that. This is especially true if you visit websites that use “http” instead of “https” or access an email account that uses a non-secure protocol. Using a VPN, you can access the Internet securely even if you are on an insecure network.

When you are on the Internet, you are by no means anonymous. Your IP address is publicly visible and shows your geographic location. This is the reason why VPN is used for best security.

When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through the VPN provider. Instead of your own IP address, your traffic now accesses the Internet via the location of the VPN server. In this case, your service provider cannot see which websites you are visiting because the traffic is encrypted through the VPN.

You can usually choose the location of your server through a VPN through which you will be routed. If you let the VPN assign the server automatically, you will be connected to the closest server for performance reasons, which is most likely in the country or region you are in. Also read how to improve router network security.

How exactly does a VPN setup work?

How a VPN works is easy to understand. In order to protect yourself effectively against cyber attacks, you have to download a VPN first. Once this is installed on your device, you can configure the security settings and opt for a secure VPN server. As soon as the connection is established, the following happens to your data traffic:

  • All data is encrypted by the VPN software and sent to a secure VPN server
  • The VPN server then decrypts your encrypted data
  • Your data will now be passed on to the Internet and you will wait until the server has received the desired response to your request
  • The data received from the VPN server will now be encrypted and sent back to you
  • Now your VPN software has to decrypt what it has received and display it to you

Why is it so important?

A VPN encrypts all data traffic to protect it from hackers and other unauthorized third parties. This means that they do not even have the opportunity to intercept and view your sent and received data. In addition, a VPN also gives you anonymity. On the one hand, your IP address is obfuscated. This is unique in the world and can only be assigned to your device. However, if this is obscured, it is no longer clear who made the request. So this is how you protected yourself from:

  • Hackers
  • Websites
  • Governments
  • Employers
  • Internet providers

We’re all doing more and more online and from home. So we can view our medical files online, do our banking transactions online and, of course, do our work. All of these things use sensitive data such as passwords, pin codes, email addresses and much more. By using a VPN, you protect all of this information with encryption. So neither your employer can find out what you are looking for on Google, nor can a hacker steal your credit card details with cyber attacks. So you increase:

  • Your data protection in the digital world
  • You increase your device security
  • You can use the internet freely and anonymously
  • You can securely connect to public networks

But if you think you are completely anonymous thanks to VPN, you are wrong – some small security gaps remain.

  1. Log files at the VPN provider: Many VPN providers claim that they do not save any user data, but from a technical point of view, at least backing up so-called log files is very likely. In this data, for example, access times, IP used, destination URL and other information can be stored.
  2. With your Internet provider: Even if your Internet provider no longer knows which websites you are visiting when using VPN, the provider will still receive the information that you are using a VPN client. Apparently, some secret services already interpret this information as suspicious – but this general suspicion usually does not have any real consequences for you.
  3. In the browser: Not only does the provider collect data while surfing, but also your browser. So-called OS and browser fingerprinting bundles information about your operating system, the browser version or the window size, for example, which provides information on the size of your display. There is special software to prevent fingerprinting.

Are the VPN programs themselves safe?

You may be wondering what the security situation is with the VPN providers and their software. Since all your traffic goes through the VPN provider’s servers, it is of the utmost importance that you trust them. After all, the provider is the only one who could technically view your online activities. However, most VPN services don’t keep a log, which means that your data will not be saved.

In the past, however, it has happened with some internet providers that customer data has been misused. They were then sold to other companies. This happens very often with the free VPN offers, which are often not secure either. Therefore, find out in advance exactly how a provider works and read the experience reports of other users. There are black sheep in every industry.

Can a VPN setup slow down my internet?

A VPN can in some cases slow down your internet connection. Many users believe that a VPN affects internet speed so drastically that they don’t want to use one. The fact is that some VPNs actually cause significant losses in terms of loading speed. After all, the data is encrypted before each extension and is always sent via an intermediate server. You can often test this with a VPN free trial before signing up. Several factors affect the speed of the Internet when connecting via a VPN. For example:

  • Traffic and connection stability
  • Computer security settings and antivirus software
  • Distance between you and the VPN servers
  • Data encryption and decryption rate on your device

However, there are now dozens of VPNs on the market that don’t affect your Internet speed at all. It therefore always depends on the respective provider.

VPN use is perfectly legal in most countries around the world, including the USA. After all, these are primarily protective measures for personal data and the possibility of anonymously using the internet. Cash in payment transactions, for example, offers exactly the same advantages. Also read how to report identity theft, avoid and prevent it happening to you

However, this privilege also allows hackers and cyber criminals, to carry out undetected activity. Therefore, a distinction must be made between two things.

Using VPN software is completely legal, but using VPN software for illegal activities remains illegal. For normal activities, such as streaming video on YouTube or watching films on Netflix, the VPN can be used legally and the data traffic remains secure. The same applies, of course, to surfing, gaming or online shopping.

But when you leave the USA and visit another country, you need to find out whether VPNs are allowed or illegal in that country. You shouldn’t have any problems in most western countries, but be careful when traveling in the following countries:

  • Iraq
  • China
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Russia
  • North Korea
  • United Arab Emirates

How to deal with VPN geoblocking

A main application for many users of a VPN is bypassing country blocks, so-called geoblocking. Platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Vide , HBO and Huluoffer a huge selection of films and series – depending on the country, the content can be completely different for licensing reasons. The service recognizes from your IP address which region you are visiting a streaming provider and excludes certain countries via geoblocking.

For example, if you access UK content from the USA without a VPN tunnel, the platform will recognize your USA IP address and block access. However, if you use a VPN tunnel to visit the streaming service, the service may identify you as a visitor from the UK (or, depending on the server used, from another country) – and grant access if you want to use a VPN with Netflix, for example.

FAQ

How and when can I use VPN?

We recommend that you use the VPN function whenever you want a little more privacy. We particularly recommend connecting to the VPN when using WiFi in public places such as coffee shops or airports, or over an open network that may be unsecure. With VPN, you can easily keep your online traffic safe from prying eyes. Please remember that you always have to manually activate and disconnect the connection to the VPN.

Can I use a VPN for peer-to-peer sharing?

Yes, even if port forwarding is not supported by your VPN.

Does the VPN have a data bandwidth limit?

No. When using the VPN, there is usually no limit to the data bandwidth. You should particularly find this when using the best free VPN for Windows, Mac or Edge.

What if my network connection is lost?

If you are using Windows, Mac or iOS and your network connection is lost, the VPN connection will also be disconnected and not automatically re-established. On Android devices, the VPN will sometimes automatically reconnect as soon as an available network is available, depending on your system. There can be differences depending on whether you are using VPN for Mac, Safari or iOS, VPN Chrome extension, VPN for PC or VPN for Windows or Edge. Also read how to secure your Mac computer: expert tips to stay safe

How do I check that the VPN is connected on a desktop device?

You can view the connection status of the VPN by going to the VPN menu in your application. There you can see if and for how long your VPN is connected.

  • On the Mac, the VPN option will appear in the Applications menu at the top of the screen.
  • In Windows, the VPN option appears in the menu bar at the top of the application window.

Why is the VPN blocking the website I’m streaming from?

Some movie and series streaming websites like Netflix or HULU won’t work when a VPN is enabled. This problem with VPNs is known. Some of these websites have implemented safeguards against the use of VPNs to prevent users from streaming media outside of their licensed region. Unfortunately, no VPN providers can do anything about these measures. You need to have a VPN tunnel to get around the block.

Conclusion

VPNs provide effective protection against cyber attacks. So we can only warmly recommend a VPN program to you. It is an effective protective measure against cyber attacks. Of course, you still have to take care of other security measures, such as anti-virus software and regular updates of your operating system and its programs. However, you have optimally secured your data traffic with such software.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Nathan James lives for gaming, and is a fan of everything from vintage Pong to the latest virtual reality games. He also loves to tinker with hardware in that never-ending search for more power and speed.