Everyone these days seems to be “hacking” or getting hacked! and whether it’s my business or my home or even my own phone, I seem to be reading more and more about hacking being the new “world war”.  It worries me and it especially worries my business where data loss can be the difference between being successful or a big lawsuit!  I’ve been recently experimenting with new ways to add security on an Android phone, a blog for another day, however, what I wanted to talk about today was VPN’s and how they help with mobile phone security.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for “Virtual Protected Network” and those of us that have worked in any larger company over the past 20 years or so have probably heard of the phrase and have probably used a VPN system to log into our work networks from home or whilst out and about.  In a nutshell, a VPN creates a secure “pipe” to wherever you are connecting which stops any prying eyes from getting into your data.  Normally, without a VPN getting online would be like walking along an open road where anyone else can bump into you and potentially put their hand into your back pocket.  Having a VPN gives you the same road to travel down but it’s encased in a thick metal tunnel with only you allowed inside.

 

Why are they useful?

In a world of free WiFi, open networks and more, connecting our phones to the internet is actually fraught with danger and keeping our data safe is actually more of a crapshoot than you might think.  We connect to all kinds of networks during a typical day and when we connect to these various routers, WiFi or even 3G/4G networks it can be like walking down a busy street, more akin to “Las Ramblas” in Barcelona.  Depending on the rules that are set up on the routers that you’re connecting to this could be a nice friendly street, full of lovely honest people who wouldn’t dream of trying to pinch from you, but the reality is that most routers are not configured well and even then it’s becoming commonplace for a hacker to be lurking about your local Costa, so that busy road you walk down can be full of hackers that can easily get into your back pocket!

So just why would you need this?  We’ve all been fine for years, why is a VPN needed now?  Well, mobile phones have meant that instead of the odd laptop being linked to the internet, we’re all now hooked up.  As the numbers grew, so the scenario becomes a place where hackers want to be.  Add to that the fact that most internet cafe routers are simply not configured correctly as are many mobile devices connecting to them and that’s a recipe for a network or devices that can easily expose their data.

The problem also is the use of that data and the users of it.  hacking is not the glorious thing it used to be where a few hackers were simply trying to impress each other with the skill of their knowledge and techniques.  These days it’s a fact that the typical person that’s hacked these days is a normal, non-techy and it seems to be increasingly their phones getting hacked rather than their PC’s.  Just think of all the passwords, photo’s, bank accounts, home IOT apps and more that can be stolen and worth a lot of money if they get into the wrong hands?  We’re all carrying this valuable data with us and businesses have the added issue of being responsible for their own and others data.

Google in fact has basic VPN features built in

Google, in fact, has basic VPN features built-in

And it’s not just hackers!

Hackers aren’t your only problem too!  “Legitimate” businesses are also stealing your data in the form of anonymous marketing data all the time, so if you think being connected to 4G is safe then think again!!  Also, data like where you are, your IP address and more are used to track and trace your every movement.  Now, I’m not saying that a VPN should be used to hide all our tracks as we all go about our lives in a sinister manner, but it’s also not right that we are being tracked like this whilst none of us know the true reasons and also the true effects of this in the future.

So a VPN app on your Android phone can overcome quite a lot of this.

 

The main benefits of using a VPN

So you’ve now got your VPN app running, but just what does it do and what are the main benefits of using one?

Well, firstly there’s the VPN itself, which creates a nice secure tunnel through which you and your data are now protected by.  However, a VPN does more than this.  It can also change your IP address so if you don’t want to have your every move tracked whilst online (which by the way I still strongly believe is a right), then you can.  This also allows you to block adverts and to also allows you to have anonymity online, at least to a degree!  Lastly having your data encrypted automatically means that if anyone were to get to you, the data they would see would need encrypting which means you probably aren’t going to be worth the bother!

A mobile VPN has other features

A mobile VPN has other features

A VPN isn’t a silver bullet!

Look I want to point out that whilst I’m all for giving everyone the right to anonymity online, I also don’t condone abusing this.  If you are up to anything dubious yourself where perhaps being more anonymous would help you greatly in performing a criminal act yourself then that’s not great.  However, VPN networks alone are actually still not going to get you this anyway.  Whilst a new IP will definitely help, if you’re up to no good, there’s still a way for the law to get to you as there’s still a trail of breadcrumbs that could lead right to your phone. If you plan on dabbling on the darkweb or wanting to go completely undercover then this is not the tool or blog for you!

Also, a VPN is not all you might need.  Hackers and malware can still get on your phone in many different ways so you still need to have classic tools like anti-virus, anti-malware etc on your phone to protect against the classic threats we all read about on the news, a VPN is not enough to protect against that.

 

A word on performance

What’s the catch?  Well apart from a good VPN app costing a little bit of your hard earned cash, all this processing also can take time which means your connection could seem quite slow. Yes there’s a performance hit on your connection and some apps are better than others but any kind of VPN usage will ultimately reduce your connection speed.  Now, this could range from being unnoticeable, especially if all you do is browse the internet, do some social media and check your emails, however, if you’re using Netflix or streaming videos then you might notice it.

 

Some extra advice

So to end this blog, I wanted to give you the last bit of advice.  So, be careful when choosing the VPN app you will use itself.  Some are better than others, some are just quicker, some have more features and some are just plain easier and better quality to use than others.  From my experience, shelling out a little cash seems to shake out the better ones from the worse ones.  However also be wary of VPN apps themselves being a bit rogue too!  At the end of the day, always buy through the google play store and look for the ones that are getting the right reviews.

So do I use a VPN myself?  Yes but not all the time but don’t forget that I’m a techy guy so my phone is set up right, I also use malware apps on my phone and all my data is safely in the cloud!  However, I find using a VPN when out and about to be a really good tool to have, especially when not wanting Google to know my every move!  Whilst not a silver bullet a good VPN’s will greatly pout hackers off your phone or business and used with other security tools can be really effective for business mobile platforms too.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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