The use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has driven skywards. The pandemic has created an appetite to work from anywhere that looks set to continue. In turn, remote staff and staff working outside of the corporate office have created security issues.
The result is that the predicted global market value of VPNs will be $107.6 Billion by 2027. That is a lot of VPNs. But is this a storm in a digital teacup or is the VPN a vital piece of technology that can help a company stay secure?
Here are some of the reasons why you need a VPN on your router.
What Is a VPN and What Does It Do?
A Virtual Private Network or VPN, as it is more commonly known, is a software tool, typically a browser plug-in, that encrypts any traffic that passes through the browser. This traffic could be personal or company data, emails, passwords, data for a financial transaction, and so on.
A VPN connection works to mask the IP address of your computer by rerouting your network through the server of a VPN host. The VPN then obfuscates your true IP address, helping to keep browsing habits private.
Using a VPN is important because it provides anonymity, protecting your online privacy and sensitive information from hackers, and other third-party entities that may be monitoring your online activity.
In addition, a VPN routes all the traffic between your computer and the internet through an encrypted tunnel, so any data that passes through the VPN is encrypted and, therefore, protected from prying eyes and interception.
Three Reasons You Need a VPN
Cyber attacks and accidental insider incidents resulted in 22 billion data records being exposed or stolen in 2021. As staff continue to work at home, some or all the time, or travel and work remotely, ensuring a remote work environment is secure is vital.
Remote working increases the risk of a data leak as remote workers may use an insecure network connection to share and work within corporate apps, send emails, etc.
Securing the traffic between the employee’s home/public network, the internet, and the corporate network is part of the fundamental steps needed to make remote work as safe as office work. This need to secure traffic outside of the normal controls, or perimeter, of an organisation, means that part of the arsenal of its security effort is a secure VPN.
VPN servers come in several flavours, and a corporate or business VPN typically has more functionality than a VPN used by an individual. For example, a corporate VPN server will allow centralised administration to add users, create encrypted tunnels to specific apps, such as corporate email accounts, securely connect remote offices to the branch office network, and so on.
Here are three key reasons why a VPN connection is needed in the modern remote and expanded office:
To Prevent Interception of Network Traffic
VPN servers act as a secure perimeter where data is funnelled through an encrypted tunnel. Without some form of encryption, any internet traffic passed over an internet connection will be potentially open to interception.
Cyber security threats such as Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks, cookie theft, and fake public Wi-Fi hotspots are all protected against if a VPN is used. Just to give you an idea of how widespread these threats are, in 2021 there were 542 million fake Wi-Fi hotspots in the world.
If an employee works from home, uses a cafe or other public place to work, or travels for work, then a VPN will ensure that they are always using the most secure method to transfer documents and other data, log in to apps and websites, and to send emails, etc.
Without a VPN in place, all of these could be at risk of interception, theft, alteration, and misuse.
To Provide Secure Remote Access and Control
Remote and home office workers are outside of the protection of any perimeter security. A remote-access VPN provides an additional layer outside of traditional perimeter security to protect employees’ access to data. If a secure VPN is installed, an employee can securely log in to the corporate network to access data, share resources, etc., the VPN encrypting the traffic.
In addition, a corporate VPN provides a layer of access control to validate the employee has access to the network: a secure VPN will require additional login credentials before this access is allowed. A secure VPN will assign the correct level of access based on the employee’s IP address or username.
In other words, VPN use will create a perimeter within a perimeter to ensure your corporate data and other resources are protected when accessed.
To Uphold Corporate Privacy
A secure VPN will provide an anonymous IP address, swapping out an obfuscated IP address for the actual IP address of the user. If an employee is using a VPN for corporate work, any internet browsing and associated online activity will be anonymised on behalf of the company.
However, if this is a corporate VPN, the company will have an audit of the sites an employee is visiting.
Remote Work and the Secure VPN
A secure VPN offers important protection against cyber security threats and privacy invasion. A corporate version of a secure VPN also provides fundamental controls over secure resources and network access. Choosing the right secure VPN is down to understanding why you need one and who will use the VPN.
In an era where working from anywhere is the new normal, a secure VPN adds an extra layer of protection that an organisation needs to secure its network and data.