Does a VPN Protect You from Hacking?

7 min

The word ‘hacker’ strikes fear in many Internet users. Blockbuster movies tend to present them as almost all-powerful geniuses. They seem to be able to effortlessly crack open any cybersecurity mechanism in existence, be it private, governmental, or corporate. Such depictions thrive on our ignorance! 

The dangers out there are real, just not as sensational. Hackers can’t work miracles. They are in a constant arms race against cybersecurity experts. Luckily, in the vast majority of cases, the protection systems end up winning. One of the additions to your safety is a VPN connection.  Virtual Private Networks are widely used to circumvent geolocation, but this was not the real reason why they were invented and popularized. Their true strength lies in their security features, such as encryption, tunneling, and IP tweaking.  

But if a VPN can hide your IP address, can it also help prevent a hacker from accessing your files and other information? What about ransomware where you get locked out of your device unless you pay a sum of money to the hackers? Can a VPN help prevent that? Let’s find out in this article. But first, let’s focus on a basic question – what are the ways for hackers to fool and attack you?

How can hackers attack me?

There is one more thing regarding hackers that Hollywood gets wrong. Instead of breaking through near-unbreakable safeguards, criminals trick people into letting them in. As an Internet user, you need to embrace a simple truth. You, as a person, are a part of any security system. If you’re ignorant or naïve, you might easily become its weakest spot. Let’s list some methods how hackers target people instead of machines or programs:

  • Phishing – is a general term for the type of fraud where the culprit tricks you into revealing sensitive information. He might impersonate a bank clerk, a trader, a police officer, or your distant relative. He will lie about anything to convince you he’s trustworthy.
  • Spam – is often used as a method of phishing, but it’s so widespread that it’s worth mentioning separately. 45% of all emails are spam. This number has been declining in recent years, but it’s still a giant-scale phenomenon. Links and attachments in spam emails are simple ways to get your device infected.
  • Untrusted websites. There are websites out there whose purpose is to grasp your attention just long enough to perform an attack on your browser. They might contain adult-oriented content or just be full of worthless advertisements.
  • Unattended devices. You wouldn’t leave a wallet stuffed with banknotes alone in a crowded bar and go for a drink, would you? The same can be said about your keys, smartphone, intimate letters, and confidential documents. And your laptop! An attacker might need just seconds to plug in a USB stick, install invisible tracking software, and be gone. If you need to leave, always remember to block the computer so that a password is required.
  • Unsafe Wi-Fis. Mobility is crucial in the evolution of modern electronic devices. Hence comes the need to frequently change the local network. Using open or guest Wi-Fi is tempting but often not worth it. Some are set up deliberately by fraudsters to snoop on all the inside data transfers. It is essentially stealing your private information.

Back to the point, now. In what way can a VPN protect us from hackers?

How does a VPN protect you from hackers?

A VPN cannot help you if you unknowingly click on a malicious link online. Or if you download a freeware only to later find out that it contained malware. These actions are beyond a VPN’s control and should be prevented with anti-virus and anti-malware software.

In other words, a VPN cannot control what you do online. This can even include accessing your bank records and other private information, social networking, and downloading files.

On the other hand, a VPN can prevent hackers from accessing your IP address and other information while they travel the web. This is where encryption and tunneling come in. 

Tunnel architecture was formulated back in the nineties. The realization employs one of the tunneling protocols. Their data structures encapsulate information normally exchanged directly between your browser and any online server. Tunneling implies secrecy. Nobody must see data that ‘drives’ through the tunnel. To achieve this, VPN protocols employ an encryption algorithm. 

Encryption is the embodiment of VPN protection from hackers. Packets get ciphered, typically by AES’s widely accepted algorithm (Advanced Encryption Standard). Its two popular varieties are AES-128, which is used for securing everyday communication, and AES-256, which is military-grade and even tougher to crack.

Can hackers get through this VPN shield? The short answer is: never! There are 3 reasons for that:

  1. Cracking the cipher by brute force attack is simply guessing a key. The key is like a password, with the difference that it’s a sequence of 128 or 256 bits. The odds of guessing it correctly are unimaginably small. One would have to keep trying for an astronomically long time. On average, even with a supercomputer – multiple times more than the age of the Universe! Even adding in the lottery winner’s luck, would take millions of years. That’s how powerful mathematics is.
  2. AES has been ‘broken’ in the past, but don’t panic! Mathematicians struggled to crack the algorithm to prove its strength. Indeed, they managed to prove that under some circumstances it is less improbable to figure out the key. But still astoundingly improbable. So if you hear that AES has been broken, know that it’s just a fun fact, not true vulnerability.
  3. AES is the winner of the 1997-2001 competition run by the U.S. government to choose the best encryption algorithm. As a result, AES-256 has been approved by the National Security Agency to protect top-secret information. This says a lot about its strength. The most classified documents of one of the world’s most powerful institutions are safe under such a shield. Therefore, it is more than enough to provide VPN protection from hackers.

Here are a few examples of how it helps.

VPN Protects You from Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks

When you use a VPN, it encrypts your traffic and moves it through a tunnel. This hides not only your IP address but also your traffic. Therefore, a hacker intercepting your connection will never be able to access your information through basic or intermediate means. 

If they employ a sophisticated system to target and hack into your traffic, they might find a way. However, generally speaking, a VPN is good enough to protect you from MITM attacks. Attacks like this are the reason why it was invented in the first place.

Protection from IP Hacking

Another form of hacking involves targeting your IP address and entering your system through a backdoor i.e., a less secure device. For example, a hacker might find out your main broadband internet’s IP address and enter your system through a smart TV or a smart home device that’s also connected to your home’s central network.

Here the main victim, again, is your IP address. With a VPN, there is no question of targeting your IP address.

When you use TuxlerVPN, your original IP address is constantly masked by another residential IP address. A hacker will never know your real IP address, thus preventing any form of remote hacking such as DDoS attacks.

Such protection is especially handy when you leave the comfort of a safe home network. People too often trust unknown sources on the Internet. In public places, you should always think before you choose Wi-Fi. Stay away from the ones without password protection. When at a restaurant, café, or hotel lobby, look closely at the SSID (network’s name). The mere fact that it appears to be owned by the place might be misleading. A hacker may just be sitting nearby and broadcasting his Wi-Fi – a trap for reckless Internet users. And even if the institution does administrate the network you connect to, you can’t trust all its other users. Some might try to snoop on your data transfer; others look for vulnerabilities in the network itself. Using a VPN in public places is never a bad idea.

VPN Can Also Protect from Isolated Hacking

There are a few more events in which a VPN can be your savior. Here are two such common events:

  • Cookie theft – Hacker accessing your current browser session
  • Open and free Wi-Fi networking – Hacker accessing your browsing via WAP2

As you can see, any hacking attempt involving your IP address can be prevented using a good-quality VPN.

VPN for safe remote work

Since the dawn of the Internet, some networks connected to it chose to remain partly separated. Companies and public organizations own a lot of inside, non-disclosable information. Only agreement-bound employees and associates can read it. The company servers store that data and supervise the local intranets the workers can access. With the proper network configuration, the mere fact that a computer is plugged in a certain place allows it to freely access data not available elsewhere. However, this separation from the outside world introduced impediments to practical use by authorized persons.

As the Internet evolved and became omnipresent, people started to require access from outside the office. The increasing popularity of mobile devices has been fuelling this trend for years now. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the need for remote access to skyrocket. Luckily, the VPN was already there to the rescue. It is an answer to the above need, and it serves it perfectly. It is even encoded in its name! Virtual means there is no physical cable connecting your device to the server. A private network is a separate intranet that you can remotely access via VPN. In reality, this is always actually a server owned by the VPN provider.

Without VPN protection, the traffic of a common worker could be intercepted. Strictly confidential company information would be jeopardized. Since the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, we all started going online more than ever before. As a result, more opportunities for cybercriminals arose. Remote working must always be protected!

For your job, you connect to the office network and your computer becomes its extension. Does VPN stop hackers from attacking your private endeavors as well? Naturally! The network configuration is different, but the technology is analogous. You need to subscribe to a VPN provider, which gives you access to his VPN connection. For private purposes, you connect to his server – not an office network. Then, via a dedicated app, all your connections automatically become safeguarded.

What Can a VPN NOT Protect You from?

Naturally, this question is worth answering. While a VPN can protect you from DDoS and MITM attacks, it cannot influence your surfing habits. This means it cannot prevent a phishing scam or malware from entering your device through a fake website.

While these are better dealt with safer browsing habits and other privacy tools, a VPN can still be a purveyor of more private web communication. After all, a VPN’s main job is to protect your identity online, which also happens to be the target of some hacking attacks.

So, does a VPN protect you from hacking? The answer is both a yes and a no. While hacking attempts surrounding your IP address and internet traffic can be thwarted using a VPN, protection from other serious cybercrimes like phishing and ransomware will require you to improve your browsing habits. For what it’s worth, a VPN is a great companion for anyone who uses the internet today.

Still don’t have a VPN? Try TuxlerVPN.

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