by Senior Airman Rodrique Arrington & Staff Sgt. Nikolas Streveler
86th Communications Squadron
The National Cybersecurity Awareness Month has an overarching theme this year of “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” A Virtual Private Network is a very effective tool for you to do all three in a cost efficient, easy to set up way. Don’t use your cellphone or laptop to play over-the-internet games, stop checking your bank account and social media over public Wi-Fi. All of these things put you at risk of disclosing your information to an unauthorized user. Log into your VPN or be exposed.
VPN is programming that creates a safe and encrypted tunneled connection over a less secure network, such as the public internet at a coffee shop. A VPN works by using the shared public infrastructure while maintaining privacy through security procedures and tunneling protocols. The best way to explain a VPN is as follows: The President walks down a bad neighborhood and wants to be protected. So, the government sends guards to help him reach his destination. Using a VPN will add an extra layer of security to your data, ensuring you bypass the coffee shop’s ISP and encrypting all your communication. In very simple terms, a VPN connects your PC, smartphone, or tablet to another computer (called a server) somewhere in the world, and allows you to browse the internet using that computer’s internet connection. That way if someone is trying to gain access to your information, they will only see the IP address of the server you are using and not your computer or cellphone. So, if that server is in a different country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country, and you can potentially access things that you couldn’t normally (like watching the programs Netflix puts on for the United States but not Germany).
A VPN service is typically only a few dollars a month and they allow for multiple devices to connect to utilize it. There are free options that you can use; however, they aren’t always as secure and as well maintained as the ones you have to pay for. You can even put the VPN on your router at home and automatically connect all the devices in your house to a more secure network. The downside to a VPN however is that they can slow your network speed because it takes an additional step to get a connection. Safety over convenience is always a good idea and the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.
Most VPNs are not free and some are not even reliable, so always do your research before buying a VPN. Get what best suits your needs and fits your price quotes. By no means are VPNs the best security procedure but, it is a great security practice. Nothing is ever 100 percent secure because the internet is always progressing. As long as you keep up with it and practice security, you will be able to overcome the risk. Take the first step to securing your network, Own IT, Secure IT, Protect IT.