A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to create a secure connection while using public networks. However, today’s network environment is filled with issues like Firesheep and Wi-Fi spoofing, making the security of your online activity even more important. In addition, as virtual offices and telecommuting become more prevalent, relying unsecured public networks is a hazard.
You or your employees have probably taken advantage of free Wi-Fi at the airport or local coffee shop to upload business files via an unsecured connection. Working from a café is common in today’s world, but at a huge cost.
A VPN works like a firewall by protecting your computer data whenever you are online. Technically, a VPN is like a Wide Area Network (WAN) that features the same functionality, look, and security as expected on a private network. VPNs are now a popular choice for businesses and even private individuals concerned about their online security.
A VPN taps into various dedicated connections via encryption protocols that create virtual P2P connections. In the event a cybercriminal tries to access data transmission, the encryption ensures that they cannot read it. If you are still not sure whether a VPN service is for your business, consider the following benefits.
Reduced Cyber Attacks and Security Breaches
Being targeted by hackers may sound like something that happens to certain businesses and people. Unfortunately, the only headlines you see are those of the biggest breaches that have happened.
Case in point is the increase of zero-day vulnerability by a massive 125 percent from 2014 to 2015. When you use a VPN and keep your employees off public networks, you are taking a proactive step towards reducing the likelihood your business will be targeted.
When your employees are aware of Internet vulnerabilities, they are less likely to log into your business resources on public networks. If they travel a lot, they are less likely to work while on the road for long stretches. One sure way of boosting productivity is peace of mind, which employees get when they know when and where they can connect to your network.
Increased Client Trust
If your business involves collecting data from clients, patients or customers, you can increase their trust by using a VPN. You can also make use of tools, such as a network monitoring solution, to ensure that your network is up at all times.
While many of your clients may not understand what a VPN does, a little education will go a long way in making them feel secure. Wouldn’t you rely on a service provider that goes the extra mile to ensure your personal data is secure?
Stay Local, Even when Abroad
If your business processes require that you or your employees travel a lot, a U.S. based VPN may be necessary for replacing the real IP address you are at. Travel to some countries may see you come across restrictions that prevent you from communicating with your office. For example, the Great Firewall of China is used to reroute queries and even erase content.
Therefore, to stay in constant communication with your office and complete your work, you will need a VPN. Furthermore, some of your customers and clients may be wary of trusting emails sent from overseas. A VPN ensures that your business posts, emails and others represent your home base.
Implementing a VPN for your offsite employees is an easy, fast, and effective online security solution. However, it only works when everyone is on board, which you can do by informing everyone that you are starting the VPN protocol, its benefits, and how he or she can gain access to it.
The popular press is awash with news that hackers have breached HBO’s cyber defenses and have allegedly stolen steal than 1.5 terabytes of data, including scripts from unaired Game of Thrones episodes. As fascinating as this news may be to consumers of popular culture, it obscures more serious cyberattack news stories that have far deeper consequences. Consider, for example, the five most significant network hacks from the past several years.
- In 2014, hackers exploited a vulnerability in OpenSSL using a tool known as “Heartbleed” to break into a virtual private network (VPN) that a major corporation had used to encrypt data and communications. Individuals and businesses routinely rely on the added encryption provided by a VPN to ensure confidentiality of communications. This recent hack reveals that even VPNs have their weaknesses.
- A foreign government was believed to be behind a 2015 hack attack on the insurance giant, Anthem Health. That hack compromised more than 78 million consumer health and insurance records. More recently, the governments or government proxies of North Korea, China, Russia, and the United States have all been accused of participating in hacking activities.
Image source Flickr
- The “Petya” ransomware attack crippled more than 60 percent of computers and networks in the Ukraine in early 2017. A subsequent analysis of the attack suggested that although the attackers demanded a ransom to release frozen systems, the attack might have had a moiré sinister purpose of disabling the Ukraine’s technology infrastructure.
- The Dyn distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that struck a significant number of computers and networks in North America and Europe in late 2016 was the largest ever cyberattack launched on the internet. The attack continued for several days, affecting servers utilized by Twitter, Netflix, CNN, and other major web players.
- The Wannacry ransomware attack in early 2017 was stopped early in its tracks by good luck and quick thinking on the part of the individuals who first noticed it. Still this cyberattack crippled parts of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and enriched the hackers who demanded and were paid more than $100,000 to release various systems and networks.
The scope and scale of these massive cyberattacks should cause all businesses, regardless of size, to reassess their cybersecurity strategies. In all likelihood, like HBO, the entities that were affected by these cyberattacks had erected defenses against hacking and gave their employees at least some rudimentary education and training in eliminating the human error and conduct that exposes a network to cyberattacks. Yet as these attacks suggest, even commonly-suggested cyber defense strategies, such as VPNs, are not fully effective against determined groups of hackers, particularly if those hackers have government resources behind them.
This does not suggest that businesses should abandon all hope and give up on their cyber defenses. Rather, they need to confirm that those strategies are up-to-date and consistent with the latest tools and techniques to fend off cyberattacks. Realizing, however, that none of those tools and techniques will be foolproof, businesses also need to develop a plan to respond when they do experience a successful attack. Cyber security insurance is a mandatory part of that plan.
Cyber security insurance will cover a business’s direct losses when a cyberattack damages data and hardware, which gives the business some assurances that its profits will not be entirely consumed by the need to recover those elements. Insurance can also protect a business against third party liabilities and regulatory fines that may be levied when a business loses its customers’ personal or financial information. Depending on the size of the business, a single cyberattack can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $2 million or more. Few businesses are equipped to absorb these kinds of costs directly. Cyber security insurance can cover these losses and allow a business to continue its operations with a minimum of interruptions after it experiences a cyberattack.
Today’s workforce is more agile than ever before as technology transforms the way we do business. Thanks to Wi-Fi and mobile devices, employees are often encouraged to work from anywhere or bring their own devices into the office. But with this newfound flexibility comes new risks.
While many companies are making the move to mobile, so are cyber criminals. Below are a few reasons crafty hackers are specifically drawn to mobile devices and what you can do to insulate yourself against this growing threat.
Unprotected Wi-Fi: Remote employees love free Wi-Fi, but many are completely unaware of the risks of joining an unfamiliar connection. Cyber eavesdroppers can often steal information in transit over insecure Wi-Fi connections, even if the data is being sent to a secure network. Especially cunning hackers may even set up a phony hotspot to snare unsuspecting users and pilfer their most valuable data. Don’t conflate ‘work from anywhere’ with ‘work from any connection!’
If you want to connect to the internet safely and privately, update your Wi-Fi settings to block open sharing with other devices. Consider using a Virtual Private Network or VPN to turn your public connection into a personal one. Finally, turn off your Wi-Fi connection when you are not using it. This will reduce the time available for hackers to penetrate your firewall.
Image source Flickr
Trojan Horse Apps: Sad to say, many of the consumer apps available for download on the app store are downright dangerous — either because they are unguarded or malicious. Phony flashlight and calculator apps, for example, have been known to contain spyware which tracks a user’s keystrokes or phone calls, and can even be used to listen in on their conversations or sell personal information to advertisers.
Mobile app security depends on a keen eye and warry thumb. If an app doesn’t seem right, don’t click it. Don’t just trust the reviews, be on the lookout for grammatical or spelling errors, unnecessary permissions or apps which eat up a considerable amount for no discernable reason. Take notice of these red flags to better protect your mobile app security.
Losing Your Phone: It seems all too obvious, but one of the easiest ways to open yourself up to digital infiltration is to drop your phone in a public place. If you haven’t locked your device with a PIN or password, a single swipe is all it takes. Does your phone or tablet connect to your email, social media, banking and box services? Too bad, because a smart hacker will have no trouble stealing your identity, locking your social pages, vandalizing your finances and transferring your business data to god-knows-where.
Remember, protecting your phone means implementing safeguards before you lose it. Always lock your devices using a PIN, password or thumbprint. While it’s not perfect, it might be enough to discourage some thieves. Download device locator or remote wipe apps to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands.
Mobile Phishing & Spoofing: The majority of hackers prefer to use methods tried and true, and no attack is more common than phishing attacks. While phishing scams are still used to swipe personal account information and login credentials through spam emails and bogus sign-in pages, some cybercriminals have updated their techniques for the mobile age.
Beware of SMS or text messages containing web links from unknown sources. You could be putting your mobile app security at risk. The same can be said for social media sites as devious cyber crooks masquerade as a familiar user or company. If you are unsure about a link, avoid it or communicate your concerns to the sender in person to avoid catastrophe.
Protecting yourself from digital intrusion is not only important to your own security, but also for the safety of your business, your customers and your partners. Safeguard your mobile devices using the tips above and stay educated about up-and-coming threats. After all, the world of mobile security is still in hot competition with hackers and cybercriminals around the world.