Is your net­work se­cure?

Learn how a vir­tual pri­vate net­work can help en­hance your dig­i­tal safety and ward off hack­ers

Woonsocket Call - - BUSINESS/FINANCE -

Whether you are us­ing a com­puter at home or a smart­phone at a cof­fee shop, pry­ing eyes may be work­ing to in­ter­cept your web traf­fic. That’s where a vir­tual pri­vate net­work (VPN) can help; it’s an es­sen­tial tool that en­crypts and se­cures your In­ter­net con­nec­tion, help­ing to keep those with ma­li­cious in­tent at bay.

Fol­low along to learn more about VPNs, how they work and how you can eas­ily add one to se­cure ev­ery e-mail and brows­ing ses­sion any­where in the world.

What is a VPN?

“Pub­lic WiFi is not se­cure,” says Ellen Se­griff,

Head of Pri­vacy and Cy­ber In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity at UBS. “A VPN se­cures any kind of brows­ing that you’re do­ing, and it’s anony­mous.”

A VPN cre­ates a se­cure vir­tual tun­nel be­tween your de­vice and a re­mote server. This en­crypts web traf­fic be­tween your com­puter and that server, stop­ping snoop­ing eyes from gain­ing ac­cess. “A VPN builds a strong wall of en­cryp­tion. It pre­vents oth­ers from lis­ten­ing in and any man-in-the-mid­dle at­tacks,” Se­griff ex­plains.

Many large com­pa­nies re­quire em­ploy­ees to use a VPN when con­nect­ing re­motely. Though us­ing a VPN may seem like a has­sle, it keeps your busi­ness e-mail and web con­nec­tion safe when you’re out of the of­fice and us­ing shared and/or un­se­cured WiFi.

How a VPN works

To un­der­stand why you should con­sider adding a VPN to your per­sonal com­puter and smart­phone, it helps to learn how they work. Here is a high-level over­view of what hap­pens when you con­nect to a web­site or your e-mail with a VPN.

In prac­tice, us­ing a VPN is easy. Let’s say you just ar­rived at a hotel. You un­pack your bags and boot up your lap­top for a quick e-mail check-in. When you turn on the lap­top, you open a lit­tle pro­gram that ac­cesses the VPN – us­ing the clos­est server – right af­ter you con­nect to WiFi. Then you browse the web like usual.

Be­hind the scenes, the lit­tle but­ton that turns on the VPN does a lot of work. When you browse the web or check e-mail at a hotel with­out a VPN, the traf­fic from your de­vice trav­els through the hotel’s wire­less router un­en­crypted, and your web re­quests go off around the world to var­i­ous servers. With a VPN, how­ever, all of your traf­fic goes from the hotel’s router to a se­cure server. Be­fore leav­ing your com­puter or the re­mote server, ev­ery byte of data is en­crypted, and only your com­puter and that server have the keys. Any­one who in­ter­cepts your data at the hotel or else­where only gets en­crypted, gar­bled data.

Get­ting started with VPN

Your busi­ness may al­ready have a VPN to im­prove se­cu­rity for ev­ery­one, but you can add a per­sonal VPN to your fam­ily’s de­vices for en­hanced se­cu­rity.

“There are a lot of ser­vice providers out there you can look into. Check to see what price point makes the most sense for you,” Se­griff says. “En­cryp­tion can slow down your brows­ing. Look at the band­width and the lo­ca­tions of the VPN servers.”

Adding a VPN is eas­ier than many peo­ple re­al­ize. You can get one up and run­ning in just a few min­utes. “A VPN is a way to stop a hacker in his tracks when try­ing to ac­cess your data,” ac­cord­ing to Se­griff. That is a tech­nol­ogy of­ten worth an in­vest­ment.

Stay se­cure ev­ery­where on­line

In the dig­i­tal age, you must en­sure you’re mak­ing smart cy­ber se­cu­rity de­ci­sions. “That re­quires al­ways be­ing alert and al­ways be­ing aware,” Se­griff ex­plains. Keep in mind that a ma­jor­ity of cy­ber at­tacks orig­i­nate from click­ing a link in a bad e-mail – even a VPN will not pro­tect you from that kind of at­tack.

While there is no 100 per­cent ef­fec­tive method to evade hack­ers, you can make their job a lot harder. With a VPN, you re­move a ma­jor vul­ner­a­bil­ity that on­line crim­i­nals use to steal your money, iden­tity and dig­i­tal as­sets. Pair a VPN with in­tel­li­gent In­ter­net prac­tices and your in­for­ma­tion is that much safer from harm.

Christo­pher J. Bouley is vice pres­i­dent of Wealth Man­age­ment at UBS Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Inc., 500 Ex­change Street, Ste 1210, Prov­i­dence, RI 02903. He can be reached at 401-455-6716 or 800-333-6303.

Vice Pres­i­dent-Wealth Man­age­ment UBS Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices CHRIS BOULEY

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