If you are taking part in COVID-19 measures and working remotely you should know that pretty much all your online data is automatically recorded, organized, and sold to advertisers so they can tailor their sales pitches. It is this business model that has allowed platforms like Google and Facebook to collect astounding fortunes even though they’re giving away their products for free.
On top of that, cybercriminals are lurking around every online corner in order to deploy malicious attacks and gain revenue from doing so. Now more than ever, Virtual Private Network (VPN) security is an essential investment to protect your personal and professional privacy online.
VPN Usage Surges as COVID-19 Spreads
VPNs have always been a valuable online tool, but with recent developments including coronavirus, technology, laws, and politics, they are even more significant for individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses alike.
So, how do they work? A VPN produces a virtual point-to-point connection via the use of dedicated connections, traffic encryption, or virtual tunneling. Having your online data re-routed through an encrypted tunnel means it will be almost impossible for third parties to read it.
With the overwhelming amount of media coverage surrounding the coronavirus has led to a new danger – hackers are looking to exploit public fears about this virus.
How does it happen? One of the ways is that online criminals send emails that appear to come from legitimate organizations with new information about COVID-19.
According to the New York Post,
“in New York City, the NYPD has warned locals of coronavirus-related scams involving hackers using websites to sell fake products or using spoofed emails, texts and social media posts to steal personal or financial information.”
Lukasz Olejnik PhD., an independent cybersecurity researcher and consultant told The Post,
“What makes this even more complicated is that today more and more people are expected to make extraordinary actions — like work from home, use non-standard software or procedures — on an ordinary basis,” he said. “This is also part of the reason why the risk goes up. Many usual assumptions were simply thrown out of the window.”
Digital experts claim that this is the most dangerous time to be online with the least informed being users being amongst the most at risk. Unfortunately, hackers are exploiting the fear surrounding COVID-19 creating fake websites and sending out scam emails. This is leading to users handing over their private information without thinking twice about it.
These emails may ask you to open up an attachment in order to see the latest statistics, with some emails being so well researched that they include information about your home town or area. As soon as you click on the embedded link or attachment, it leads to malicious malware being downloaded onto your computer.
The malware, once on your computer allows cybercriminals to log your keystrokes, take control of your computer, or even access your personal and financial information.
“Other common coronavirus-related scams, according to Markuson, include, fake coronavirus maps similar to the legitimate Johns Hopkins University interactive map which has been tracking COVID-19 cases globally, and fraudulent coronavirus websites that host phishing scams, distribute.”
This is why so many people and companies have invested in VPNs to keep all their online movements safe and secure.
According to Dark Reading, VPN usage surges are significant since the spread of COVID-19 which is apparent in VPN usage statistics.
“One provider of VPN services, NordVPN, says it has seen 165% growth in the number of average daily users, up from an expansion of 40% just last week. Google has marked a six- to tenfold increase in searches for VPN-related queries since the beginning of the year. And other VPN providers, such as Atlas VPN, have seen a massive rise in the amount of data flowing through their networks, with Italian users more than doubling their use of that provider’s network.”
These surges are seen all over the world, especially when it comes to businesses as more than a fifth of the world’s population is working from their homes.
“The Netherlands has seen the biggest growth in employee business VPN usage statistics, with the number of users surging by 240%. That’s followed by Austria and Canada, which have seen VPN usage grow by 208% and 206% respectively. France, Belgium, and Denmark have also seen significant spikes in business VPN usage, with all three countries experiencing growth of between 180% and 190%, while in Spain, the use of NordVPN Teams business services has grown by 95%.”
When it comes to people working remotely, the use of VPNs is incredibly important, with the possibility of sensitive corporate data leaks meaning catastrophic consequences for all parties involved.
Daniel Markuson, digital privacy specialist at NordVPN Teams says,
“We see the increase due to more and more companies encouraging their employees to work from home, [and] many countries are also starting a quarantine,” says Markuson. “Companies must provide their employees with appropriate tools, and one of those tools is a VPN.”
Why VPN Use is More Important than Ever
Whether for personal use or for professional reasons, here are some of the emerging influencers when it comes to the increasing importance of VPNs.
1. Private Communication
With the knowledge that your ISP and government organizations can collect and monitor your online data, using a VPN just makes sense. It doesn’t mean that you are partaking in anything of a criminal nature or that you’re hiding something, but why should anyone violate your Constitutional right to privacy?
Now that you aren’t able to see your loved ones in person, you’re probably messaging and video calling them on a regular basis. However, if you’re questioning whether someone is eavesdropping on you, you’re not alone.
A VPN will encrypt all of your online communications so that your private messages will remain private.
2. Use Online Banking Services Safely
There is a high chance that you’re not running as many errands as you were before, which extends to your online banking needs. Although online banks typically have pretty good security, savvy internet users know that its definitely worth taking extra precautions, particularly at the moment.
Your VPN will safeguard your most sensitive information such as logins and passwords, with an extra layer of encryption. Even those that are just now dipping their toes into the VPN pool are able to protect their sensitive data with this user-friendly online tool.
3. The Popularity of Ransomware
Even without COVID-19, ransomware was gaining popularity. This includes seizing control of some devices for days, weeks, and even months prior to holding that device hostage and hackers asking for payment in order to release the files that are stored there.
Not only are these attacks fast, but they are also efficient. This makes small businesses an effective target.
According to a recent report from the Ponemon Institute:
“In fact, cyberattacks on small businesses are more common than many think, with more than two-thirds (67 percent) of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees having experienced a cyberattack, and 58 percent having experienced a breach,”
The same report also discovered that as many as 60% of small businesses could ultimately go out of business because of a cyberattack. But why would cybercriminals want to target small businesses?
Firstly, online criminals know that small companies also collect data, and they can offload that same data for a profit on the Dark Web. This includes sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, medical records bank account credentials, and credit card information.
Just last year, a small medical practice in Michigan was targeted in a ransomware attack that saw their files encrypted.
“The attackers claimed to be able to provide a key to unlock the encryption, but in order to obtain the key to decrypt files, a payment of $6,500 was required.
Since no payment was made, the attackers deleted all files on the system ensuring no information could be recovered. The partners decided to take early retirement rather than having to rebuild their practice from scratch.”
Small businesses are often connected to larger businesses, whether to share information, complete transactions, or to manage supply chains. It is generally presumed that larger companies are more difficult to penetrate. This is why hackers target their smaller partners in an attempt to get into the system of bigger businesses.
Lastly, hackers normally attack businesses for one main reason – profit. While large corporations often include entire teams that handle cybersecurity, smaller businesses have those same efforts handled by someone that works in other areas as well. This makes them particularly vulnerable to hackers.
Business VPN services cannot guarantee you immunity from such attacks, but it will certainly make it much harder for your business to be targeted.
4. Avoid Network Throttling
Your new daily routine probably includes an hour of exercise daily as well as around eight hours of staring at your computer screen. if this is true, you might have noticed that your bandwidth fluctuating during the day, particularly when streaming, downloading or torrenting.
This is likely due to your ISP throttling your connection because of your heightened online activity.
While using a VPN can sometimes slow down your connection, if you use a premium service, you can actually have your online connection running faster than before. This is because a VPN hides your online traffic from your VPN. They are then unable to analyze your usage or decide when to throttle your connection.
5. Avoid Location-Based Pricing
Many online retailers tend to charge users different prices for the same product depending on their location. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Oftentimes, countries that have a lower GDP will have lower price tags than other countries. Additionally, companies will often charge customers from their own countries less than international buyers.
This is often associated with things like hotels and flights, but it can also be found in gaming and online content. With a VPN you can change your IP address to a multitude of places all over the world and shop around for the best price.
Best VPNs for VPN Security
If you need a remote VPN, these two options are the best in the industry.
This VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which means that when it comes to your online privacy, you’re set. In fact, Surfshark promises not to “collect IP addresses, browsing history, session information, used bandwidth, connection time stamps, network traffic, and other similar data.”
You will need a fast VPN to get your business affairs in order every day. Although Surfshark is fairly new on the block it is not only fast but also offers more than 1,000 servers for you to connect to.
Maximum protection is something you can count on with security protocols such as IKEv2, OpenVPN, and a kill switch. Additionally, Surfshark has AES-256-CBC/AES-256-GCM cryptography standards, which will be a problem to crack for any cybercriminal.
The Multi-Hop feature is an excellent added benefit as it allows you to connect to multiple locations at once which doubles your protection. There is protection from malware, trackers as well as an ad-blocker. The latter feature is a highlight as many online VPN virus attacks come in the form of fake ads. Because of VPN virus attacks, it will also take less time for your page to load as there are no ads.
By far the best part about Surfshark is that you can have unlimited connections which means you can protect all the devices in your home with one subscription. Installing your Surfshark VPN will take just minutes. Should you have any issues you can contact support staff on the Surfshark website available all hours of the day.
For excellent VPN security choose Surfshark. Here are some of its highlights:
- Great download speeds
- Zero logging
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited platform protection
- Unlimited Server Switching
- Some servers work with Netflix
- Strong encryption
- Torrenting allowed
- CleanWeb feature
- Unlimited devices
- Whitelister feature
Want to know more about Surfshark? Find out everything you need to know in our detailed review.
If you need a remote VPN, ExpressVPN is one of the best business VPN services around. You will have access to more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations worldwide. ExpressVPN, like Surfshark is based in the British Islands, a country without any data retention laws. This means that ExpressVPN is allowed by law to hide all of your online movements from government bodies and ISPs.
Security is something that ExpressVPN takes seriously, which is why it provides users with supported by powerful military-grade protection and also uses protocols such as PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and OpenVPN.
All of these protocols are different from each other and come with their own level of security, allowing you secure online banking, streaming business communication, torrenting, and gaming. Should your VPN be turned on? The answer is yes, your VPN should always be turned on when you’re online for those security protocols to come into practice.
Considered the fastest VPN on the market, ExpressVPN is unique in that it guarantees an uptime of 99.9%.
VPNs often come with varying privacy policies. ExpressVPN has outlined within its logging policy that information like your browsing history, IP address, any website you might visit, torrent you download or DNS inquiries will never be recorded.
For the best remote VPN, we highly recommend ExpressVPN. Here’s why:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Ultra-fast streaming speeds
- Compatible with Android TV (Box) and Fire TV
- Apps available for every device
- Hides your streaming activity
- No connection logs
- No activity logs
- P2P possibility
- Ping times that are minimally affected
- ExpressVPN works extremely well in high censorship countries
- Military-grade encryption
- Large international server network
- 30-Day money-back guarantee
- Outstanding customer service
- 99% uptime guarantee
- Up to five simultaneous connections
ExpressVPN also offers a special deal, get 3 months free and 49% savings with their annual subscription plan!
Want to know more about ExpressVPN? Find out everything you need to know in our detailed review.
Conclusion: Reflections on VPN Security
VPN security is immensely important at the moment. As COVID-19 spreads around the world, so too does the increasing amount of online attacks on both individuals and businesses.
In order to avoid possibly catastrophic situations, it is highly recommended for users to activate a VPN whilst online. VPN usage surges are a testament to this. Are you doing enough to protect your online identity?