Free WiFi is everywhere, from coffeehouses to your local library, providing instant connectivity at the push of a button. However, despite the convenience of widely available web access, safety risks make logging on in a public space highly dangerous. Without security protocols in place, it only takes a matter of seconds for hackers to break into a device. Once inside, they can procure bank account information, credit card numbers, and logins to popular websites.
Utilizing a VPN to protect against identity theft can be the best way to stand strong against the likelihood of attacks. Whether you’re using unsecured public networks or any access point with poor protection, a VPN can keep you safe.
What Is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a way to connect to the Internet while masking your identifying information. When in use, a VPN encrypts your data transmission. This makes it impossible to intercept confidential or private information, like usernames, passwords, and the content of emails. A VPN can also prevent attacks from malware like trojans and worms.
Despite the sophisticated functionality, using a VPN to protect against identity theft is very easy. In most cases, connecting is as simple as logging in and clicking connect, making protection fast and convenient.
Identity Theft and the Internet
Identity theft is a serious problem, with over 14 million affected American consumers in 2018. Identity theft can be small, like using a debit card number to make a minor purchase. It can also be more serious, like stealing a social security number or opening new bank accounts. While not all identity theft starts online, a vast majority of it does. The Equifax data breach, for example, compromised the personal information of 143 million individuals.
The consequences of identity theft can be far reaching, including:
- Time and money invested in legal support to attempt to rectify data breaches.
- Depleted financial resources when money is stolen. Around 40% of identity theft victims use their own money to attempt to remedy identity theft
- Lower credit scores due to fraudulent credit usage.
- Emotional stress, including anxiety and depression that can interfere with jobs and relationships.
- Legal trouble, if an identity thief uses a stolen identity to commit crimes.
Unfortunately, there’s not always a good way to protect data already in the hands of someone else. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to protect data transmission during normal online activities. A VPN to protect against identity theft can be an excellent way to keep information safe.
How Free Networks Interfere with Data Security
Free WiFi at Starbucks sounds like a great way to stay connected, but the dangers outweigh the benefits. Hacking both desktop computers and mobile devices through a public network is extremely simple. In these circumstances, most hackers favor what is known as a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack.
MitM is a hacking strategy that tricks Internet-enabled devices into believing that a hacker’s computer is a trusted middleman between the device and access to the Internet. Simply put, any information sent through the web via this connection will first pass through the hacker’s machine.
This problem only compounds for those who choose to remember favorite WiFi connections from regularly-visited places. Auto-connections when in close proximity often lead to MitM attacks without users even knowing it. The average phone user has dozens of apps sending and receiving data idly in the background. As such, auto-connecting to a public hotspot can put innocent people in danger without them lifting a finger.
Some hackers will even take this concept a step further, setting up WiFi hotspots in areas without a public network to further lure in unsuspecting visitors.
Identity Theft Protection with a VPN
If you’re already deleting your Apple Pay cards and switching back to paper bank statements, that’s fine. However, there’s an easier way to stay safe. Using a VPN can eliminate the need for a return to the analog days by providing protection around the clock. When used properly, a VPN encrypts all data transmitted across any network. They keep your emails private, your bank account numbers secure, and confidential business information safe from prying eyes.
The Internet can be a dark and dangerous place, particularly when the proper protections aren’t put into place. However, the right VPN to protect against identity theft can make a difference, affording protections that will safeguard personal information and protect proprietary data from compromisation, no matter how many lattes you like to drink while surfing on public WiFi.