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How VPNs Protect Your Identity Online
When people talk about the benefits of virtual private networks (VPNs), the first thing that usually comes to mind is that they mask your computer’s unique IP address to improve your privacy online. This is handy for those who want to stay anonymous, as your IP address can be used to track everything from your Internet service provider to your physical location. But other benefits are far greater – and often overlooked.
Ward Off Fraudsters
The chief goal of a virtual private network is to protect your sensitive information while you go about your business online. VPNs offer an excellent way to protect yourself against identity theft, fraud and other types of cyber-crimes that occur to millions of people on a regular basis.
There are a number of ways that a person would be able to access sensitive information like credit card numbers, bank account usernames and passwords, and even your social security number while you're online.
Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
If you connect to an unsecured, public Wi-Fi network, you're actually putting all the data on your computer's hard drive at risk.
All it takes is the right Web browser plug-in to see the activities of everyone else on the same network. So, if for example, you sign onto the Wi-Fi network at your favorite coffee shop and check your bank account statement, someone else on the same network could easily see the site you visited as well as your username and password.
From there, they have all the information they would need to log into the site themselves and find account numbers, routing numbers and more.
Using a VPN, on the other hand, means that the information you send and receive over the network is encrypted, even if the connection you're using is inherently vulnerable. So, in the same coffee shop scenario, someone with a malicious Web browser plug-in wouldn't actually be able to see what you're doing while you use the network.
That’s because information about the sites you're visiting, as well as identifying information like your bank account username and password, would all be funneled through the VPN before being sent out onto the Internet, at which point it becomes encrypted. Even if a person tried to access this information, they will only see the encrypted data - not the username and password contained inside.
Thanks to additional security measures in place on most VPN connections, you would also be immediately alerted to the intrusion attempt as well.
The best VPNs also come with built-in security features that can be used to combat fraud.
This means you’re protected by various anti-malware, anti-spyware and anti-adware software, much like those you would install yourself on your computer. If you attempt to download a virus onto your computer that tries to steal your personal information, for example, the VPN will detect the virus and stop the download before the file transfer is complete. Most virtual private network services also have anti-phishing software in place, which means that nobody will be able to steal your usernames and passwords if you try to log into a service through a realistic-looking, but malicious, website.
Combined, these factors and features mean that a good VPN is a powerful tool in keeping you safe online, shielding you from identity theft and fraud.
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