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Protecting your privacy with a VPN

Although you may feel like what you do on the internet is private, by now we know that this is just not the case. Internet service providers (ISPs) often track and store information about what we do and where we go online. This is how they serve up ads tailored to what you've been searching for. How can you protect your privacy?

What is a VPN?


Using a VPN (virtual private network) is one way you can protect your privacy online and keep your information safe from hackers, internet service providers, and other 3rd parties.

A VPN allows user to securely browse and access personal data through public networks. Much like a firewall protects the data on your computer, a VPN protects your activity by encrypting (or scrambling) your data when you connect to the internet from a remote or public location. A VPN allows you to mask your location, IP address and online activity. 

Benefits of a VPN

A VPN can help keep your information private from both hackers and companies whose sites you visit. When you use a VPN, your browsing activity, passwords, email messages and other data appear as unintelligible garble to anyone trying to access them. This not only stops cybercriminals, but also companies who are trying to share your browsing habits and other data with 3rd parties.

Do I need a VPN?

 

If you like to take your laptop or mobile device to the library or cafe, you probably connect through public Wi-Fi. The problem is that many free, public Wi-Fi networks are not secured. This means that a hacker could easily intercept the information you send over the public network, including your passwords and banking information. But, if you use a personal VPN, you can connect securely any time you are away from home.

Do I need a VPN while traveling?

 

Traveling often means being surrounded by (and connecting to) unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks. This vulnerability makes it especially important to have a smart security solution in place for all your devices. If you tend to spend a lot of time browsing or doing work from your device while you travel, make sure to download security applications (including a VPN) that protect your devices.

If you’re traveling to cities where pickpocketing is common (or if you’re merely forgetful), many of the security apps also offer anti-theft protection. This feature allows the user to back up, lock, and wipe the device remotely just in case your phone gets swiped.

How do I choose a VPN provider? 

When selecting a VPN provider, think about the following criteria:  

  • Ease of use—You want secure technology, without having to be a tech whiz to use it. That’s why you should look for a product that is easy to implement, like the McAfee®  Safe Connect VPN app, which allows you to easily and securely connect, ensuring that your passwords and data stay private when using public networks. 

  • Robust security—Look for a VPN with bank-grade encryption. This way, no one can read or access the private information you send over the network. 

  • Access to virtual locations—This feature helps you gain even more anonymity online by using a VPN server that shows a different location than your point of access. For example, you may be getting online in the United States, but your VPN server may show you are connected in France.  

How else can I protect myself from hackers?

Using a VPN is a great start, but it isn’t the only way to protect yourself from hackers online. Try these top tips to help keep your data and devices secure:

  • Pick password-protected Wi-Fi. When connecting to Wi-Fi, choose networks that have WPA or WP2 passwords for protected access. If the network doesn’t require a password, the connection could be open to hackers and other threats.

  • Look for the lock icon. Make sure that the web pages you visit are “HTTPS” encrypted whenever possible and contain a lock icon in the address bar. Do this by looking at the beginning of the URL you are accessing – if the URL starts with “HTTP”, log out – particularly if you’re doing something sensitive.

  • Watch for warning signs. SSL and TLS warnings are the messages that pop up in your browser when you come across an insecure connection – and it’s likely that you’ve clicked through the notification without a second thought. Take a moment to think about what you’re agreeing to before moving past the notifications next time because it could mean you’re putting your devices and data in danger.

  • Don’t set it and forget it. Don’t set your device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks, especially public ones. Rather, make sure your laptops, tablets or smartphones will “forget” certain networks when you disconnect, and that they’ll only reconnect when you choose to do so manually. 

By following these top tips, and using a trusted VPN provider, you’ll be well on your way to securing your data and devices from hackers, ISPs and other 3rd parties looking to profit from your lack of privacy.