Did you know that the worldwide internet penetration currently stands at 56.1%? This percentage is almost 80% when we only take into account the developed countries of the world. The internet has rapidly become a hub for the flow of all types of information. From personal to financial, from educational to entertainment, with the right knowledge and tools, individuals and organizations can learn a lot about people only by gaining access to their browsing history. Believe it or not, today it is really simple to take a peek into what a person is doing while connected to the internet.
How big of a threat are data breaches?
It is estimated that in the first half of 2018 alone, 4.5 billion data records were stolen from companies and individuals alike. One of the biggest threats to surface during the previous year was ransomware. The global losses amounted to a staggering $8 billion and are predicted to rise exponentially. Almost every major company around the world has faced a data breach of some kind during the previous years. Facebook was in the limelight recently when hackers were able to gain access to information from almost 50 million accounts hosted by the social media website. It has been a similar case with many other mainstream companies. Moreover, it’s not just corporations but the average household user has also reported data breaches on several levels over the past few years.
The threat from data breaches is growing severe every day. This theft is part of a greater circle of cybercrimes which experts believe will cost $6 trillion dollars’ worth in damages by 2021.
How can private information be stolen?
There are several ways in which hackers and spammers can gain access to your private information. Only with the IP address of a user, the local internet service provider has the ability to take a sneak into what that particular person is doing on the internet. The whole browsing history is exposed and no, the incognito mode does nothing to prevent this. These ISP’s usually keep logs of internet usage patterns coming from various IP addresses. When net neutrality ended last year, it gave them the freedom to use this information at will. So, they can sell it to a third party and not be held liable for it.
Other ways in which data can be breached include:
- Through public WiFi: When a user is connected to WiFi where the password is available to anyone who asks for it, they are at significant risk. A hacker connected to the same network can perform a man-in-the-middle attack by interrupting your communication with a website and placing themselves in between. Don’t be fooled, these people are good at making it look legitimate.
- Phishing: Much like catching fish in a lake, this method includes leaving a bait for the unsuspecting user. This can be done by creating fake surveys, quizzes or other avenues where a user might be tricked to enter some of their sensitive information. This is then picked up by the hacker and used at will.
- Ransomware: A hacker can invade your device and hold the information on it. They only release it in exchange for a payment. These breaches are commonly done through email attachments. Viruses are sent using well-known file formats like MS Word or Excel. As soon as you download and open the file, the work of the cybercriminal is done.
There are several other ways in which data breaches can occur. Using a VPN is one of the most effective ways to deal with all of them.
What does a VPN do?
If the information provided above bothers you, it is a good thing. The threat is real and we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves. A VPN helps mask the user’s identity while they are surfing the internet. This is done by rerouting the normal data flow. Instead of the IP address of your device going directly to the ISP, it is sent to the secure servers of a VPN service provider. It is then sent along the traditional channel. The difference? Now the IP address is shown to be originating from a different place altogether. You might be sitting in the US but browse like someone from Italy.
Are VPNs truly as safe as they claim?
The answer to this question depends on the VPN service that you are using. If you have a credible service provider, the threat from criminals is substantially reduced. The ability of a VPN to make every browsing session anonymous means that there are not many people who would put in extra effort to find a hidden network and access their information. A reliable VPN service is in fact as secure as the service provider claims.
How VPN can protect you from data breach attempts?
The best VPN services available on the market provide protection against almost every type of data breach attempt. They provide public WiFi security which means that even when you are connected to an open connection, your sensitive information like browsing information and everything associated with it, is protected.
VPNs have thousands of servers across hundreds of countries to make sure that the user remains invisible as long as they keep using the protection. Another feature which a VPN provides is end-to-end encryption, usually through a 256-bit protocol. This is the most advanced mode of encryption available at the moment. It ensures any data flowing over the airwaves of the World Wide Web is safe from theft. Other data breach prevention mediums include IPv6 leak protection, DNS security and a strict commitment to a zero-logging policy.
A zero-logging policy entails that whatever the user does when they are connected to the internet, the VPN service provider keeps absolutely no record of it anywhere. This truly makes you a ghost on the internet ensuring maximum privacy and data breach protection.
Guest Contributor: Sarah Lauren works at Ivacy VPN.