With government agencies and tech giants spying on what you are doing online, businesses have no choice but to look for solutions that can offer them a private internet experience. Internet privacy has become a big concern and many businesses are adopting VPNs software to stay anonymous online.
Like everything else, it has its pros and cons. Unfortunately, most businesses focus on the advantages of VPN and totally ignores the downsides. Sadly, these downsides come back to haunt them and many businesses have to pay a heavy price for it. If you want to know why VPN is not the most secure option to stay anonymous online, then you are at the right place.
In this article, you will learn about how your VPN can quickly turn from your ally into a cybersecurity threat.
1. Single Layer Protection
VPN encrypts the traffic that flows through its tunnel and masks the IP address of the user making it difficult track. It acts as a bridge that connects employees with enterprise network. As soon as you enter the enterprise network, enterprise security infrastructure take care of your security and privacy. If your enterprise security infrastructure or your third-party VPN has security flaws or you are relying heavily on single layer of protection then, you might be at risk. Look for features such as blacklisting malicious URLs that alerts you of danger when you are about to visit a suspicious website.
2. Use of Weak Protocols
Most VPNs use three to five different protocols. Some of the most popular VPN protocols are as follows:
Unfortunately, all of these protocols come with its fair share of drawbacks. For instance, L2TP is old and offers no encryption while PPTP is no longer considered secure. IKEv2 was considered safe until Edward Snowden shared information showing that NSA has found a way to break its encryption. OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol currently available but its complex setup process might detract some users. A new protocol called Wireguard is showing some promise, but it is still in its development stage.
3. Weak Encryption
Just like protocols, most VPNs use outdated encryption algorithm which puts user at a greater risk. Many VPNs still use encryption algorithms such as DES, RSA, SHA-1, which are already proven to fail against brute force attacks and also has some flaws, which can easily be exploited by cyber attackers. If you are looking for a VPN, make sure they use stronger encryption algorithms such as AES, ECDH or RSA with 1536- or 2048-bit keys. Make sure you implement them currently because a poor implementation can also make them vulnerable to attacks.
4. Free VPN
You might have heard a saying that goes something like this, “You get what you pay for” but did you know that it holds true in case of VPNs as well. Most individuals and even some small business opt for free VPN options. The problem with those free VPNs is that they don’t offer the level of security that you get from premium VPN services. Another issue with free VPN services is that they track all your activities online so they can show you relevant ads. They start to treat their users as a product and their partnerships with different advertising networks help them to earn revenue by showing you ads. Even if that is not enough to send alarm bells ringing, then this would surely do. There is evidence that free VPNs also serve malware to their users.
When you choose a free VPN service, you will have to deal with limited bandwidth and data per month. If you need unlimited bandwidth and data, free VPNs might not be a great choice. Investing in paid VPNs not only give you the peace of mind from a cybersecurity perspective but also give you access to unlimited data and bandwidth. When you consider all these factors, you will realize that a premium dedicated VPN service is worth your money.
5. Weaponized HTTPS
Yes, most experts will tell you that switching to HTTPS is a great way to secure your website but what they did not tell you is that hackers can also use it to fulfill their malicious designs. They can use it to hide malicious activities or use it as a component to launch cyber-attacks. Even worse, it can also be used to bypass authentication. Gone are the days when the green lock sign beside the URL was considered a security indicator. Today, you should keep an eye on traffic coming from untrusted source otherwise, you can fall victim one of those attacks.
6. Authentication Bypass
Secure VPNs ensure that every user is authenticated and authorized. Back in April, Pulse Secure admitted that there are some vulnerability in its Pulse Connect Secure and Pulse Policy Secure products. By exploiting those loopholes, hackers can successfully get access to your arbitrary files stored on a destination network or best dedicated server by using HTTPS request. Thankfully, the vulnerability has been patched but this incident taught us an important lesson that you need to choose a VPN that only let authorized user access files by implementing a solid user authentication and authorization system.
7. Insecure Key Handling Routines
Last but certainly not least is poor key handling procedures used by VPNs. All VPNs depends on sharing of encryption keys. The problem with using a VPN is that they are run on laptops or desktops, connected to public networks. That is why it is important to establish secure key handling routines otherwise; your encryption keys could easily land into wrong hands. Once your encryption keys land into wrong hands, you can not do much to remedy the situation as hackers can decrypt data and steal it. Always update your VPN version to ensure optimal security. Older version are more prone to cybersecurity attacks.
What things do you consider when choosing a VPN? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.