Let’s first try and understand what VPNs provide before we get into what it doesn’t.
- VPNs give access and the privilege to browse the internet without any restrictions.
- It masks the user’s IP address, prevents them from experiencing any bandwidth restrictions or data caps.
- It encrypts your internet by transferring your data through secured data tunnels, which gives you an extra layer of security and privacy.
Having said that, there are also certain things that a VPN can’t shield you from, be it your smartphone or your computer. It is of utmost importance to understand that VPNs are not the alternatives to a great anti-virus software.
Yes, VPNs will encrypt your network and hide your IP address, but you are on your own once you visit a fishy website full of spam or virus or for instance, if you download some malware or compromised files from some spammy websites.
Here are some instances of what a VPN falls short of providing-
1. VPNs can’t save your device, be it your iPhone or your computer from –
For instance, if any of these infect your device, there’s potential to damage your device, irrespective of whether you are using a VPN or not! Hence, pairing your device with a VPN and antivirus software might do wonders for your device in terms of security and privacy.
2. VPNs cannot protect you from the most forms of full-fledged cyber security attack! Some attacks are very sophisticated and complex, which even a VPN can’t prevent.
3. Any form of cyberattack that doesn’t need your IP address to spread the misdeed, your VPN can’t save you. It goes without saying that VPN helps in masking your IP address, but certain cyberattacks that don’t need your IP address to attack you like phishing attacks or any form of malware attacks.
4. These days cybercriminals can gain access to your device by virtually injecting certain malicious files, software, or codes in your system, be it your iPhone or computer. Also, in another way, you may get exposed to dangerous malware when you visit certain unauthorized or unverified websites or try to download some files from that website.
5. In other cases, hackers also take the help of fake emails from unverified sources which contain malicious files, which can compromise your system in a threatening manner if you open that file. Whether you are connected to a VPN or not, it won’t matter then. So, it’s always better to have precaution rather than seek a cure!
6. Lastly, a VPN won’t be of any help against phishing attacks. It is estimated that hackers and threat actors create more than 1.5 million phishing websites every month. It gets pretty hard for an average Joe to distinguish from the original to the counterfeit. Hence, one wrong click and you will be exposed to certain threats lurking on the internet.
The best one can do is verify the website before clicking on it, and if it seems fishy, just block it! There’s another way around it and a VPN won’t be of any help if you click on it. One more smart move would be to use certain anti-phishing browser extensions for being one step ahead of any phishing attacks.
Enough of how VPN falls short on providing, let’s look at some of the instances where a VPN can stop some of the cyber attacks-
1. MITM (Man-in-the-Middle) Attack
MITM or Man-in-the-Middle attack is a kind of cyber attack where a hacker or a threat actor will come in between you and the web server that you’re accessing or using on the internet. In layman terms, it is basically eavesdropping on a virtual level as the hacker steals the data from the server between you and the website you are using. At times, it can also be some information from your past activities as there are always digital footprints embedded in the website.
The hacker only needs to know which network you are on and by exploiting the encryption model of that website, they can easily barge in and intercept all your data transfers. The worst part of it is that you won’t even know that this is happening with your data. And this way hackers and threat actors can easily steal any form of sensitive and confidential information like login details or credit card credentials.
One important thing to note here is that most wi-fi networks, especially public wi-fi networks use the outdated WPA2 security standard, whose encryption is very weak. Hence they are most vulnerable to MITM attacks. Even their next rendition, which is the WPA3 standard, is also not entirely secured.
So, how does a VPN help in this situation?
Well, a good VPN encrypts your internet connection giving it an extra layer of privacy and security. These encrypted data tunnels are so layered that it is nearly impossible to crack them down. In addition to that, while using a VPN, your IP address will go through a multitude of different locations, making it harder to trace. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. The hackers won’t be able to find out which one is your real IP address. Since, they won’t know your true IP address they won’t be able to figure out which websites you are surfing, hence making it impossible for them to intercept in between to steal your data. VPN for the win here!
2. Remote Hacking
Remote hacking is one of the oldest and most effective tricks pulled by hackers and threat actors by which they get access to your system using your IP address. It is a predominant fact these days that almost every website on the internet tracks your IP address. If the hackers can bypass the security protocols of any website, they will have access to your IP address. Then they can use your IP address as a digital key into your system. They can easily have access to anything that’s connected to your home’s wi-fi ranging from your smartphone or your smart TV, your computers, and even your CCTV or smart fridge, etc.
So you may wonder- how does a VPN be of any help here?
Well, a VPN successfully masks your IP address, making you untraceable on the internet and consequently preventing hackers from gaining access to it. Hence, being connected to a VPN while browsing the internet, the hackers won’t be able to trace your real IP address, making you safe and secured without any hassle.
3. DDoS/DoS Attack
DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack, by definition, is –
“A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of Internet traffic.”
Read more at – www.cloudflare.com/en-in/learning/ddos/what-is-a-ddos-attack
The hackers aim to forcefully make you go offline by crashing the service or the server of the website, which you are trying to access. Yes, they can be frustrating and annoying, and it is fairly easy for hackers to achieve this.
Try to visualize for a moment how annoying it can be when you are logging on to a website for your work or maybe any other entertainment purpose but you are getting kicked out constantly and you are not given access to it!
Now you may ask, how can a VPN help in this regard?
Having a VPN at your disposal, you need not worry about any DDoS attacks as your IP address is going to remain hidden. To have a targeted or specific DDoS attack, the hacker needs to have access to your IP address, which they won’t have if you are connected to a VPN. How and where is he going to target the attack if he doesn’t even know your address? By staying connected to a VPN, you remain safe from any such threats and can enjoy uninterrupted browsing of the internet.
VPN becomes a savior here!
To sum up, it can be rightly said that VPNs will prevent the kinds of cyberattacks that require access to your IP address. But, it won’t be of much help to the certain advanced and complex forms of cyber attacks that have been mentioned above. However, having a VPN at your disposal does increase your chances of being safe from many cyber security threats online lurking online or getting hacked. In addition, it also gives you access to the internet without any interruption by making sure your internet goes through encrypted data tunnels. Choose wisely, be safe.