Is the Internet safe? How to stay protected online
With over 7 billion people in the world there are at least 2 billion computers adorning a variety of desks and tables in the homes of those people. Now it’s time for an alarming fact. Of those 2 billion computers almost all are vulnerable in some way to hackers, viruses and exploits. That means of course that right now the screen you are looking at could be the next target.
After all, who wouldn’t have a grand time with your bank account information, credit card numbers, and social security information? Now someone has all that precious information and wants to add insult to injury to avoid being tracked by a sleuthy network monitor, so they plant a virus into your system via email or webpage pop up, and you’ve just lost every picture, file, game, or piece of data dear to you! All a hacker needs in order to access a plethora of things you’d rather keep hidden is your IP (internet protocol) address.
Most people have heard of an IP address, but not everyone knows what it is or what it does. This is a 10 digit numerical label assigned to each device on a network that accesses the internet, and it serves two main purposes: Host/network identification and location addressing. Ever wonder how websites know where you are located? Since your laptop most likely does not have a GPS device, you can thank an unprotected IP address for this one. This can also allow hackers to create small hidden pathways into your computer system and place bugs and viruses, key loggers and the like in order to leech out specific information as well as allowing certain websites and companies to place trackers in your system. This will reveal exactly what sort of websites you’ve been browsing and what you’re doing on your computer. If you thought the internet was the hot seat for privacy, think again! So how does one protect themselves and their loved ones against these kinds of silent attacks? The answer is actually much simpler than you might have figured – antivirus and VPN.
Antivirus is a pretty common household name nowadays and almost every one of those 2 billion computers has some sort of antivirus program running all of the time, whether it be a standalone antivirus, an “all-in-one” type program, which features antivirus along with a VPN, junk file cleaning, password keeper, private firewall and other must-haves for maximum internet security, or a standalone VPN program. There is an array of free antivirus applications out there but to get the full protection it is crucial to install paid antivirus and necessary to also find a VPN – quite frankly, every person with a computer should know and utilise this extremely important security measure.
What is a VPN, what does it protect you from and how does it work?
VPN stands for virtual private network, which allows an internet user to safely and securely access a public and otherwise unprotected network without the possibility of leaving information about themselves or their computer out in the open by changing or hiding your device’s normal IP address. It also allows you to connect to these secure access points almost anywhere in the world. Most VPN programs have different end-point locations you can choose from in different countries, and whichever of those countries you choose is where your IP address will now say you are located.
Consider a VPN like a super secret spy tunnel that you have dug from here to some other country of your choosing. You dug this tunnel because you wanted some privacy. Once you are in your tunnel, you are hidden and can go about your business. A VPN not only cloaks you from prying eyes, it also changes your IP address into another IP address from whichever location you are connected to, allowing those pesky tracking websites to misfire when they shoot those trackers your way, and also misdirecting hackers so they skip your actual IP address completely. VPNs are useful to have both when you’re out and about using various free hotspots around the city, and at home, especially if you do not have a username and password on the router you are using right now. You may want to set one up immediately, using the WPA format, by putting the address from the sticker on the bottom of the router (192.168…) into your web browser and following the instructions. Remember, when Wifi is free it is often unprotected and much easier to siphon information from guest Wifi users when someone is skilled enough to know how.
VPNs, used in conjunction with an Antivirus program, will ensure the health and safety of your computer and information if used correctly. This simply means that if you decide to head out to a coffee shop to surf the net for a few hours, you most likely will log right on to said coffee shop’s “Guest Wifi” and surf to your heart’s content. After all, what is stopping you? If you had an antivirus and VPN installed on your computer, you would get a pop up after connecting to the guest network reminding you that you are not protected and your information is not safe. You can choose to turn it on usually with just one click of a button, which lets the VPN choose the fastest location, and surf safely now! Hackers today are having an easier time than ever accessing user information meant to stay private, but users have never had an easier way to get protected and stay protected.