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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Secure Your Mobile Devices

Many people enjoy the convenience of  public Wi-Fi hotspots. Through them, people can access the Internet using their mobile phones, laptops or tablets. Frequent travelers can stay connected while in airports, hotels and restaurants. However, Wi-Fi users are often unaware of the risks they are exposing themselves to by using these unsecure connections.

Public wireless connections are notoriously easy for hackers and other malicious third parties to exploit. Using data sniffers, they can intercept data packets as the user is transmitting them. This may allow them to get log-in IDs and passwords, financial and credit card information and other personal data. For people who must frequently use public Wi-Fi, it is imperative that they take security precautions. The best way for them to secure their device is through a virtual private network, or VPN.

How a VPN works

A VPN will protect a user’s data as it is communicated through an unsecure connection. It does this by first encrypting all data and then transmitting it securely across the Internet through “tunnels.” It also prevents third-parties from monitoring users’ browsing habits.  When users log onto the Internet using a VPN, they are assigned a virtual IP address. This will mask their actual IP address and allow them to browse with privacy.

Data Encryption Protocols

There are a variety of security protocols that may be offered by VPN service. These protocols determine the method by with data is encrypted and transmitted. The most commonly used VPN protocols are PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. The protocols vary in their levels of security and speed.
  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is the most commonly used of the three. It is native to most devices and is the easiest to set up. It secures the user’s information with 128-bit data encryption. While this is the lowest bit encryption of the protocols, it is still sufficient for protecting all but the most sensitive or classified documents.
  • L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with IP security) is a very secure protocol. In addition to offering 256-bit data encryption, this protocol encapsulates data twice. It further secures it with authentication certificates. While the protocol works on most devices, it requires more configuration. This protocol also uses a lot of data resources and may result in a slow connection and a slow device all around. For users who must transmit extremely sensitive data, this protocol is a good option.
  • OpenVPN – This protocol offers fast speeds and 256-bit data encryption. However, it is not compatible with most mobile devices. It is generally only used on desktop machines. Set-up is more complex than with the other protocols as it requires special software to be installed.

Choosing a VPN Service

When selecting from the many VPN service providers, users should look for a company with a history of proven reliability and service. Frequent travelers, in particular, will want to look for a provider that offers multiple servers in global locations. Online reviews are a good place to start when researching different VPN services.

  WI-Fi is extremely convenient. Users who are concerned with data security can continue to benefit from it by securing their device with a VPN.
Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned 
  •  License: Image author owned 
Alex Taylor believes the internet should be freely accessible. By using a Virtual Private Network or Netherlands VPN one can access websites from around the world without restrictions. His articles help explain the importance of security on public Wifi and hotspots. The fastest Netherlands VPN Provider can be found at http://www.goldenfrog.com/vyprvpn/netherlands-vpn/.

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