Can a VPN Protect You From Hackers?
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
VPN is a tool that has many benefits beyond unblocking your favorite streaming services. Its fundamental technology gives you the security you need to protect your privacy on the internet. One of them talked about features of VPN is its ability to prevent hacking attempts.
Hacking refers to unauthorized access to a system. It is done to steal data, which then ultimately is used for nefarious purposes. For example, stealing bank account login details would allow a hacker access to your account. Security is the foundation on which user privacy can thrive, and a VPN helps protect your data on unsecure networks.
A Quick Overview for VPN
We have had the chance to explain how a VPN works several times previously. Let us take a quick refresher on how VPN works.
Virtual Private Network uses a remote server as a proxy for a user’s internet requests. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) is relieved of its duty to fulfill these requests by looking up the correct domains through its DNS resolver. It uses encrypted to add a layer of security to prevent any third-party from sniffing at the data packets and see what destinations the user is visiting.
Using a VPN doesn’t take the ISP out of the process entirely; it simply uses the ISP to route data to its server. It then connects to the destination webserver and returns the result to the user.
The VPN server makes a connection request to the webserver, so its IP address is what registers at the destination, not the user’s IP address.
You can learn more about VPN in our blog here.
VPN and Encryption
Encryption is a fundamental pillar of a VPN. It makes data transmission secure. Encryption is the process of converting plain-text like this sentence into cipher-text. Cipher-text is encoded text that appears as gibberish; a key is required to decrypt the text and convert it into plain-text. It is a reliable way to ensure that data is not intercepted and altered during transit.
FastestVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption for communication between the client and the VPN server.
How Can a VPN Protect from Hackers?
Now that you have been introduced to encryption let us explore how it ensures protection against hackers.
Encrypting everything during transit means that any third-party such as the ISP or a hacker who is listening in cannot see the contents of the data packets. Like we mentioned earlier, using a VPN does not omit the ISP out of the equation. The ISP is your gateway to the internet – and the pathway to the VPN server – and routes your data to its destination.
We have introduced you to the dangers of using public Wi-Fi in our previous blogs. A Man-in-the-Middle attack is an ever-persistent threat if you are not careful about using unsecure networks without a VPN.
Much of the internet today is using HTTPS for end-to-end encryption. And search engines like Google Search, for example, heavily favor websites that use HTTPS. You can learn about HTTPS and how it secures web communication in our blog here. For a brief overview, what you need to know is that HTTPS lets you communicate securely with a website using encryption. DNS queries are one part that’s not encrypted even though the actual content is safe. It can reveal all the destinations that you visit anyone listening in.
What is Man-in-the Middle?
Man-in-the-Middle refers to a bad actor who is eavesdropping on the communication between you and a webserver. The hacker can land you on a fake login page that has been fabricated to look like the real thing despite encryption.
HTTPS authenticates a webserver through a certificate that has been issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). The Certificate Authorities are trusted entities and stored in every web browser. If there is a certificate that does not match a CA, the web browser will warn you. Hackers can even get around this by spoofing the certificates. A hacker can use phishing techniques to install itself as a certificate authority in your web browser. Once that happens, it can comfortably show you any fake login page and steal credentials.
Previously, it was possible to register a domain using non-ASCII characters that resemble ASCII characters such as “a” and impersonate a real domain. The user would not be alarmed because the domain looks perfectly okay in the URL. Fortunately, newer versions of web browsers detect and warn if such a domain has been passed on to you.
Always Use VPN on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is the most common place where Man-in-the-Middle attacks thrive due to weak security. A hacker can create a fake Wi-Fi access point that resembles the real one and allow you to connect to it. Intercept the communication between you and a web server; it can see inside every data packet. A hacker can do what’s known as SSL stripping to show you the HTTP version of the website if the webserver does not use HSTS for strict-policy HTTPS or direct you to a malicious website.
It is not uncommon to see Man-in-the-Middle attacks pair with phishing to achieve success. It is why you need to educate yourself on the various phishing techniques that exist.
VPN encrypts everything, keeping you safe from MITM attacks on whichever network that you use.
A VPN can only go as far as to protect the data in transit; it cannot prevent phishing attempts that can occur due to lack of exposure to such techniques. We implore you to check out our other blogs and get yourself up to speed on the several dangers that exist on the internet.