Make no mistake, if you do not utilize a VPN when using public internet or a foreign Wi-Fi connection, while you might not be hacked every time, you are certainly rolling the dice with your personal security. This is because once you are on a shared network, your computer becomes much more visible, easier to find, hack and even remotely access by anyone else on that network. The more open the network and the more public the place, the more the risks increase.
Regardless if you are using your own connection or you’re in a foreign country, a good anti-virus software and strong firewall will detect and/or block any file changes to your systems, preventing an attack from infecting and spreading on your device. Therefore, purchasing good anti-virus software is the simplest thing you can do to protect your computer, particularly while traveling and using new or un-trusted connections.
A good anti-virus software should only cost you around $40 a year, well worth the price for the protection it provides. As for your computer’s firewalls, you can freely adjust these settings by simply typing “firewall” into your computers search menu.
Anti-virus software will only prevent an attack from spreading on your device. When it comes to preventing an attack from finding your device in the first place, this is where a “Virtual Private Network,” commonly referred to as a “VPN,” comes into play. For those of you whom might be unfamiliar, VPN’s work by redirecting all of your “internet traffic” through a “proxy server.”
While this might sound like incredibly complicated “computer lingo,” it is actually quite simple to understand. Say you make your home in New Hampshire, but you are traveling to Egypt. A VPN will allow you to connect to the internet in Egypt, then use it to find and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi router and transfer your internet activity through it, rather than through some random router in the middle of Egypt. Once connected, the location of your computers “IP Address” and your internet activity will be completely hidden and encrypted behind your VPN.
To put it another way, even when you use a Wi-Fi connection in Egypt or anywhere else in the world for that matter, your computer will only be physically accessing “the Internet” from New Hampshire. So, even when you are using the internet on the ground in Egypt, it will be as if you were on your computer back at home, because you will literally be using the same network connection in either instance.
There are two different ways you can go about setting up a safe and secure VPN or Proxy Server for your computer. The first will cost you money, but is far simpler. The second is completely free, but it is rather “involved” and you will have to put in the time and do all of the research for yourself.
Before I go any further, I could not advice you strongly enough against using free VPN services; you should never install one of these programs or Apps on your devices. With that said, there are a number of established and trusted VPN Service Providers out there. A good service will cost you anywhere from $40 – $120 a year to use and a simple Google search return will direct you to some of the industry’s biggest names.
The second option, learning how to build and install a VPN on your own device, gets a bit “technical” at times, but setting up your own VPN connection does make your computer far more secure than any service you could possibly purchase – no exaggeration. For the purposes of this article I will not explain how to install a VPN or use your home’s Wi-Fi router as a proxy server, instead I would direct you to YouTube or Google, where you can find a number of good tutorials on these subjects.
Getting ‘Into The Weeds’ A Bit Now…
The existence and use of VPN’s has become somewhat controversial over recent years. For example, in 2016, countries like the United Arab Emirates made VPN ownership illegal. In 2017 Russia also went on to do the same. Other countries including Saudi Arabia, and even the United States, have made VPN ownership alone grounds for criminal investigation. Meaning that you wont necessarily be arrested for buying or using a VPN service, but you will be investigated as for what you were using it for. Once again, the old “Federal Saying” on these matters hold true – “if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.”
However, there is a simple way to avoid all of this. Learning how to build you own VPN is 100% legal and considering that you would be doing everything for yourself, on a computer and router that you already own, no one would ever know or need to know that you are using a VPN in the first place 😉
There is also a slight difference in the fact that purchasing a VPN will hide all of your internet activity from your internet service provider. Where as if you create your own VPN and use your home router as a proxy server, all of your online activity remains visible to your internet service provider. For the same reason, when using your own systems as a VPN, your personal IP Addresses will remain out in front of all your network activity, where as a purchased VPN will use their own servers, thus concealing your IP Address acting as an extra layer of security.
With that said, earlier I stated that building your own VPN is far more secure than anything you can purchase. This is because a VPN you build will simultaneously protect all of the files on your computer, something a purchased one does not. A purchased VPN will only conceal the location of your computer, it literally does nothing to prevent, stop or fix a cyber attack or hacking attempt against it. I know I have used “computer” a lot in this article, but the term is interchangeable. If it was not clear before, VPN’s are available on any device you can use to access the internet, including phones, tablets -et cetera.
Lastly, especially when traveling, you are going to want to “encrypt” all of your personal devices. This ensures that if your phone or device ever gets stolen or lost, no one will be able to access the information on it. Apple has a famous pass-code option for their phones and every phone or computer has similar settings requiring password authentication for personal access. if you do not utilize this practice at home, you should reconsider your convictions when traveling to a foreign place.
This article is free and open source, published through a PPLicense
Categories: Cyber Security