Using a VPN will protect your home network at your Wi-Fi router’s gateway and on your devices. Setting up a VPN on your router can protect your entire home network—computers, smartphones, security systems, and anything you interconnect. Likewise, installing a premium VPN on individual mobile devices will safeguard you from hackers when you log on to public Wi-Fit hotspots.
What a VPN does for your home security
VPN stands for “virtual private network.” A VPN routes your connection and web browsing via an encrypted “tunnel,” making your connection safe from trackers and hackers. Your connection goes to an external private VPN server you select at the beginning of your session. That external server masks your actual location and identity.
The term virtual refers to the fact that your connection is controlled by software, rather than hardware and dedicated connections. The “tunnel” is the transmission of data packets encased within another packet—a packet being a collection of data routed to and from your destination on the internet.
Whether you set up your VPN at the router—a more complicated process, requiring a VPN-ready router—or load the VPN on one device at a time, a VPN provides an encrypted layer of privacy where you cannot be located or tracked online.
A VPN safeguards mobile browsing
When you connect your smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, you expose yourself to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack—that is, unless you are using a VPN.
What MITM attackers do
The MITM attack occurs when a hacker inserts his or her connection between two parties on the web. For example, you are on an unprotected public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop and transferring money between your checking and PayPal accounts.
The hacker detects your transaction and sends you an error message posing as your bank asking you to repeat the purchase for whatever reason…And asks you to reenter your username and password just to pretend that everything is safe.
How they do it
To carry out their skullduggery, MITM attackers employ a variety of clever techie tricks that are either live or designed for later execution through Trojans, bots, etc. They often employ the use of fake websites or bogus apps that trick victims into giving up personal information and passwords. They can even steal unsecured data—session cookies, for example—that can be used to enter your email account, a gateway to much of your online life.
How you can protect yourself against MITM attacks
The absolute safeguard against MITM attacks is to never connect to public Wi-Fi. There are, however, other ways to secure your web browsing while traveling:
- If you have unlimited mobile data available, you can just use your smartphone’s connection or tether a laptop to your smartphone and use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Check with your Android or iOS operating instructions.
- You can use a portable Wi-Fi router for a safer and more secure connection to the internet. Portable Wi-Fi routers cost around $100 or less, and you can log into your internet service while traveling.
However, if public Wi-Fi is your only and best option while away from home, a stand-alone premium VPN will shield your activity from MITM attacks.
Stay home while enjoying streaming services and get better shopping deals
A VPN on your router or individual device allows you to bypass blocked overseas streaming and gaming services. You can also log in to locally blacked-out sporting events when the service reads your connection as an area authorized to stream their content.
Smart shoppers and travelers looking for the best prices can use a home VPN to hop around servers. Airlines, travel companies, hotels, and car rental companies frequently price their services based on where the customer is logged on from. Also, many e-commerce sites have variable pricing for their high-end products based on the buyer’s location, which could be a more affluent area than where the products are sold.
Home Bitcoin Miners and traders need a VPN
If you do business in cryptocurrency or are part of the Bitcoin mining community, you should load a VPN on your device. Yes, the blockchain process is encrypted and guards against hackers. If you add a VPN to your connection, you can escape cryptojacking malware and phishing attacks through an additional layer of encryption and privacy.
A word of caution
Your home VPN connection is not an antivirus tool. The VPN cannot prevent you from falling for a phishing attack or downloading a piece of malware. It is an extra layer of protection that you should employ in addition to:
- Your own computer’s firewall and encryption tools
- Commercial-grade antivirus software
- Sensible, hard-to-crack passwords
- Alertness to social engineering scams through emails and text messages
Finally, go for the premium grade—The Free VPNs are no bargain
There are lots of free VPN services. Download them and use them for free—and they will use you as a source for data mining and target for adware—among other not-so-savory purposes. Your best bet is a premium, monthly subscription VPN like Surfshark which features:
- A “no-logs” policy that collects no user activity
- Best-in-class encryption (256-bit—twice the security of most free VPNs)
- Industry-standard and most secure OpenVPN connections
- Most reliable geo-blocking bypassing
You can improve the security of your home network with:
- A VPN on your router, and/or
- A VPN on your mobile devices
Router VPNs protect your home system at the source. Mobile device VPNs protect against MITM attacks.
Both approaches bring additional advantages to the VPN encrypted connection and location masking. With a VPN, you can hop locations and shop around for cheaper ticketing and e-commerce shopping bargains.
A VPN, however, is not an antivirus program. You need to take extra measures to include a VPN in your overall security strategy.
Finally, avoid free VPNs and go for premium grade services that provide the best overall security and privacy you need to protect your home.