Even though data breaches top news headlines every other week, it’s still tempting to think that no one is interested in your data. But a hacker doesn’t need to target you in particular to get their hands on your most sensitive information. Let’s look at the cyber-threats out there and how a virtual private network (VPN) can help.
Attacks Skyrocketed During the Pandemic
While the world was adapting to the new normal, criminals took advantage of the chaos. From scams offering fake COVID-19 tests to ransomware attacks crippling health institutions, hackers weren’t sitting on their hands.
In March 2020, cyberattacks had surged by 400 percent compared to the previous months. By April, Google was blocking 18 million phishing and malware emails on a daily basis. In September, the world witnessed the first-ever ransomware-related death, when a hospital’s servers in Germany were encrypted and held to ransom. As a result, the hospital was forced to redirect patients elsewhere.
While not all cyberattacks are literally a life-or-death question, some can be seriously damaging. From a broken device to a drained bank account, falling victim to hackers will bring you a world of trouble.
Being in a Developed Country Won’t Save You
You might think that cybercrime is more prevalent in less digitally literate countries. However, NordVPN’s Cyber Risk Index puts North American and Northern European countries at the top of the target list. The reasons? Time spent online and higher income.
A staggering 20 percent of the general population in the U.S. and the U.K. have been victims of cybercrime. These individuals tended to be younger and more tech-savvy.
This doesn’t mean that being careful about cyber-risks is pointless. There are plenty of cyber-tools and digital habits that can help you level up your security.
How a VPN Protects Your Data
A VPN is a digital tool that improves your security and privacy online. It works by cloaking your online traffic with an encrypted tunnel. Encryption scrambles data, so not even your ISP can peek at what websites you visit.
A VPN also hides your IP address. An IP can reveal your location and your ISP. However, a VPN changes that. It redirects your connection through a secure server and changes your IP, hiding your location in the process.
Some services, like NordVPN for example, have extra features to advance your security. The “CyberSec” feature blocks annoying and malicious ads so you can surf online without dozens of pop-ups bombarding your device. It also blocks websites known for hosting malware, so you don’t end up accidentally infecting your gadgets.
NordVPN also provides a variety of specialty servers:
- “Onion over VPN” combines the security of a VPN service with the anonymity afforded by the Onion Router.
- Connecting from a restrictive country? Obfuscated servers hide the fact that you’re using a VPN in the first place. It masks VPN traffic as regular browsing activity so that you can enjoy the internet without restrictions.
- The “Kill Switch” feature ensures that none of your data gets exposed. If your VPN connection drops even for a second, it disables all internet access until the VPN reconnects.
NordVPN also has a strict no-logs policy. It doesn’t collect your connection timestamps, session information, bandwidth usage, traffic data, IP addresses or any other data. So, even if someone were to ask about you, the service would have nothing to provide. You don’t have to take their word for it either — independent auditors have confirmed the policy.
Stay Safe Online by Following These Tips
A VPN is not the only way to stay secure online. Even though it’s a must in your digital protection toolkit, your safety also largely depends on your behavior. Here are the ways to safeguard yourself online:
- Use strong and unique passwords. Keeping track of them all can be challenging, but using a password manager can help.
- Use an antivirus. It’s going to be the first line of defense if your device does get infected.
- Always update your software. Updates have critical vulnerability patches that hackers could otherwise exploit.
- Keep a backup of your files. If criminals hold your files to ransom, having a backup may save you some money.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible. It gives you an additional layer of security against cybercriminals.
- Don’t click on unknown links or attachments. If something looks suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Hotspots often have weak security, so they’re easy to hack. If you must use public Wi-Fi, turn on your VPN first.