Does a VPN protect you from hackers?
Staying a step ahead of hackers is essential if you want to keep your valuable data protected. From phishing attempts to DDoS attacks, hackers have countless ways to make you their target. So, what are the best tools you can use to protect yourself from these hacking attempts?
A virtual private network (VPN) can offer you extensive protection from hackers. It will hide your real IP address while securing your online activity with high-level encryption. When you conceal what you’re doing and where you’re doing it from, it’s much harder for hackers to intercept your valuable data.
In this guide, we’ve put together everything you need to know to use a VPN to protect you from hackers. We’ll cover the types of hacks you’ll be protected against and how to get started.
How to protect yourself from hackers with a VPN in 5 steps:
- Pick a top-of-the-line VPN with great security features, like NordVPN.
- Download and install on your favorite devices.
- Launch your new VPN.
- Activate features like an ad blocker and a kill switch.
- Stay connected to your VPN for continuous encryption and IP masking.
Most common hacks that VPNs can prevent
From exploiting public wifi networks to launching phishing schemes, hackers are always finding new ways to get their hands on valuable information.
So, does a VPN protect you from hackers? With its power of encryption and a growing number of security features, VPNs can prevent an increasing number of common cyber attacks. Let’s take a look at some of the main hacks that VPNs can prevent.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can bring down web pages with an overwhelming amount of fake bot traffic. Hackers create botnets by infecting an extensive number of computers. Then, they’ll use this network to bombard the target with bot traffic.
The target will be so overwhelmed with the bot traffic that it will be inaccessible to normal users. While DDoS attacks can have big targets, they can also aim for gaming platforms, banking servers, and online businesses.
Since a VPN will hide your real IP address, it comes in handy for preventing any involvement in DDoS. Without access to your real network location, a DDoS attack can’t accurately target you.
Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks usually occur on free public wifi or other open networks. To carry out this kind of attack, a hacker positions themself between you and what you’re accessing online. When a hacker can see what you’re doing, they’re ready for Wifi Eavesdropping or intercepting data they’re interested in.
If you want to prevent Man in the Middle attack, a VPN can do the trick. When you connect to public wifi with a VPN, all of your activity will be encrypted. A hacker can no longer eavesdrop on your data with VPN encryption – it won’t be visible to anyone at all.
Malware comes in all shapes and sizes. It can easily enter your system as you battle with annoying pop-up ads, end up on suspicious websites, or accidentally download an unknown file.
A VPN itself isn’t designed to block malware from gaining hold of your system. However, many of the top VPNs on the market are starting to include ad blockers as part of the subscription. While these aren’t as extensive as antivirus software, they can protect you from pop-up ads, trackers, and other online threats.
As we expect more convenience during our online experience, hackers are keeping up with ways to exploit it. Say you log into a site, providing your username and password. The server will recognize that it’s you, create a Session ID, and let you go about your business on the site without having to re-enter your credentials constantly.
Session hijacking attacks occur when a hacker gets a hold of your Session ID and can trick the server into thinking that they’re you. A VPN will encrypt your activity, blocking the hacker from getting the valuable Session ID in the first place.
Free public wifi hotspots
If you’re short on data, free wifi can feel like a much-needed oasis in the desert. Unfortunately, it’s much riskier than that. Since the connection isn’t encrypted, it’s much easier for a hacker to intercept your online activity. So, does a VPN protect you on public wifi?
Luckily, yes, a VPN is a great method of protection on public wifi. When you connect to an open wifi network through a VPN’s encrypted tunnel, your data is suddenly unreadable by anyone else. Most VPNs on the market use AES-256-bit encryption or better, providing military-grade protection that could take current tech millions to billions of years to crack.
Anyone online can become a target of a phishing attack – but luckily, these can be easily avoided with a little awareness.
Phishing attacks will attempt to trick people into supplying personal data. They might try to get you to download an app that will collect payment information or continue onto a website to enter valuable credentials.
While it’s up to you not to willingly give up private data, VPNs can help you from encountering these attacks in the first place. Their ad blockers can prevent you from seeing pop-up ads and malicious websites that are the home to phishing attacks.
How does a VPN protect me from hackers?
Premium VPNs are offering more outstanding features than ever to make their products increasingly secure. So, does a VPN protect you from hackers? And how does it keep you safe? Let’s take a look at the three main features VPNs use to keep you shielded from cyberattacks.
VPN hides your IP
Your real IP address can become a vulnerability when a hacker gets their hands on it. When they learn your IP address, they can begin attempts to gain access to your device. Once they’re in, they’ll be ready to seize any valuable information you might have stored on it.
VPNs will hide your real IP address. When you connect to your VPN, your traffic will be sent through one of your VPN’s servers and a corresponding IP address will be generated. When your real IP address is masked by your VPN-generated one, you’re keeping your valuable digital location hidden.
One of the best defenses against all kinds of hacking is high-level encryption. VPNs excel at encrypting your data well beyond the reach of hackers. Most premium ones offer AES-256 encryption, which is commonly used by governments and military organizations regularly.
This cipher is so strong it’s considered essentially unbreakable. Some estimates project that it could take up to a trillion years to crack this encryption. With those kinds of numbers, you can feel confident that it’s more than enough to hide your online activity.
Ad blocker feature
With some of the top-notch VPN providers, you’ll get an ad blocker included in your VPN subscription. These protect you from annoying pop-up ads containing malware, suspicious websites known for phishing attempts, and trackers intent on gathering your data.
NordVPN, for example, has a well-rounded ad blocker included in its VPN plans. You just have to activate its Threat Protection feature to keep yourself safe from malware-infused pop-up ads and pesky trackers.
A kill switch is another key security feature to help shield you from hackers. Most premium VPNs include a kill switch, which immediately disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops.
It will protect you from ever accidentally doing something online without protection. If your VPN suddenly disconnected without a kill switch, you might not notice and continue browsing online without protection for your IP address or online activity.
VPNs with secure protocols helps to provide a stable and secure connection. It’s initially the sets of rules and processes that determine how the encryption tunnel is formed.
The most secure tunneling protocols, such as WireGuard and OpenVPN, are constantly being reviewed and maintained by worldwide communities, which means that any security slip-ups get quickly fixed.
Some VPN service providers, like NordVPN or Hotspot Shield, have developed their own tunnelling technologies – NordLynx and Catapult Hydra. These proprietary tunneling protocols can provide faster bandwidth, increased security, or superior firewall bypassing capabilities.
What other tools can help me protect from hackers
Premium VPNs offer better security suites, but nothing beats investing in specialized tools to get the job done. Let’s take a look at three additional tools that can keep your data private and your devices secure.
Use password managers
Creating strong passwords and taking advantage of two-step authentication are key to creating secure online credentials. If you’re worried about remembering the growing number of complex passwords you need, a password manager is a great solution.
Password managers are a great way to keep all of your unique, intricate passwords safe and accessible. You just need to remember one password to access your manager. From there, you can automatically fill in your login information for any account you need.
Ready to get your own? Check out our roundup of this year’s most secure password managers.
Install antivirus software
Picking great antivirus software is a must when protecting yourself from hackers. You can regularly scan your device for any signs of both new and known malware. If anything is detected, it will be quarantined and eliminated.
A VPN can’t go back in time to undo malware and virus exposure the way a quality antivirus software can. If you forget to connect your VPN or activate its ad blocker, your antivirus software can help clean up any malware that manages to sneak through.
To get you started, we’ve compiled the complete guide to this year’s best antivirus software.
Invest in ad blockers
Not all VPNs offer comprehensive ad blockers. Some only offer limited protection, like blocking trackers but still allowing pop-ups. If you want to make sure you’re fully protected from lurking threats, you can go with a full-coverage ad blocker.
A great ad blocker will keep you from visiting suspicious websites, hide all ads (if they’re malicious or simply just annoying), and block trackers from following you around online. Ad blockers are compatible with a variety of web browsers and often have mobile apps for different operating systems.
Other safety measures you can take
Even with the best tools, you’ll still want to practice excellent cybersecurity hygiene. By making regular updates and optimizing your settings, you can help maximize your existing threat protection. Let’s check out what other safety measures you can take today:
- Secure your router. You can make your home wifi more secure with a few simple steps. First, enable your WPA2 setting. This will require any new device to enter the right password to connect. Next, remember to change your wifi password regularly, using complex passwords for best results.
- Enable firewall. If your computer is on the newer side, chances are it has a built-in firewall. By checking your settings, you can make sure this safety feature is enabled and working. Firewalls help protect you from external threats, block suspicious programs, and keep out uninvited traffic.
- Keep software up-to-date. New software updates for any device often contain important security patches to keep your data safe. As new security flaws are discovered in your current software, updates are issued to keep you protected. The more often you download your updates, the more protected you’ll be.
What doesn’t VPN protect you from?
VPNs specialize in keeping third parties from eavesdropping on your online activity but don’t expect hackers to stop there. Besides all the mentioned threats that a VPN protects your from, there are some that a VPN can’t prevent:
- Malware. Malicious software, such as exploit kits and malware, are frequently used by hackers to get access to your device. For example, when you unintentionally click on a pop-up advertisement or open a link in a suspicious email, malware is downloaded directly onto a phone or computer. A VPN won't protect you if malware is already on your device. Quality antivirus software or an ad blocker can help prevent these.
- Phishing attempts. Hackers frequently bombard users with phishing emails while posing as trustworthy establishments, such as banks or online payment services. They will attempt to make a sense of urgency in the email to pressure their target into clicking a link. You can prevent this by clicking only the verified links that you trust and know are legit, as VPNs won't protect you once the hacker has your data.
- Human error. No amount of cybersecurity tools can shield you from a human error. Even the strongest VPN won't safeguard you if you unintentionally disable your antivirus software or keep browsing a high-risk site.
How to choose a VPN that can protect you from hackers
To pick the best VPN to protect you from hackers, you’ll want to focus on a few key things:
- Encryption: check to make sure your VPN offers great encryption.c AES-256 encryption comes standard with most top VPNs and offers great protection for your online activity.
- Ad blocker: not all VPNs include a comprehensive ad blocker. Choosing one that does, like NordVPN, can help block trackers and malware threats.
- Kill switch: a good kill switch will make sure you never accidentally do anything online without the protection of your VPN. Check to see if your VPN has a kill switch that’s compatible with your favorite devices.
Does VPN protect you from hackers and malware: video review
We’ve prepared a quick roundup on VPN protection from hackers and malware in the video below.
So, to wrap things up, does a vpn protect you from hackers? Essentially, yes. A VPN is a great way to keep anyone unwanted from accessing your data. VPNs offer top-tier encryption protection, making your online activity practically impossible for hackers to observe. It will also keep your real IP address hidden, making it harder to target you in a cyber attack.
Picking a VPN with a great ad blocker, like NordVPN, is the best way to protect yourself against malware and trackers. This added security feature can help keep away threats that VPNs themselves aren’t designed to combat.
More VPN guides from Cybernews
How does a VPN protect you from hackers?
A VPN powerfully encrypts your data and online activity, making it impossible for hackers to casually eavesdrop on you. It will also mask your real IP address using a new one generated from a VPN server. This will keep your real location hidden and add another layer of online protection.
Can you be hacked with a VPN?
Technically – no. Hackers can’t get through standard VPN encryption. A brute force attack would take millions to billions of years to crack the current standard AES-256 encryption. This cipher is known for being essentially impenetrable and is a good choice to keep your online activity safe.
Can I be tracked if I use a VPN?
No, your real IP address cannot be tracked when you connect to a VPN. It is possible for your ISP to see you’re using a VPN, though. If you use a VPN with obfuscated servers, even this information will be hidden from your ISP and any other interested third parties.