In this guest post, Elodie Castillo, Content Operations Manager at Softonic, discusses the importance of a VPN for remote workers.
Look both ways before you cross the street, don’t talk to strangers, and use a VPN when working online. All of these rules aren’t yet taught in kindergarten, but in today’s world, maybe they should be.
On average, someone tries to hack a computer every 39 seconds. And these hacks only make up about 50% of all cyber attacks. All told, hacks, phishing schemes, and malware are costing businesses around the world millions of dollars every year. The newest vulnerability that hackers are looking to exploit is you, a remote worker.
With record numbers of employees now working remotely, the risks and costs of managing your data as it moves between your computer and your company’s servers are only increasing. It’s time that remote workers learn how to stay safe online. And it begins with a VPN or virtual private network.
A VPN works by establishing a secure connection between your device and the world wide web. In the encrypted tunnel created by your VPN, your information and data can be accessed and shared safely and securely. VPNs will not be the answer to all of your cybersecurity worries. However, they are an important first step towards safely working as a remote worker. And, as you’ll see, they can do far more than just keep you safe online.
1. Connect with the Office Securely
As any cybersecurity expert will tell you, any connection to the internet is a potential security risk for your company’s servers. That’s why offices spend thousands of dollars building up their cybersecurity measures.
But what happens when you leave this protective bubble?
In the outside world, you become a potential weak point in your office’s security. A VPN fixes this by creating a secure connection between you and your office. You get access to all of the data housed at work while still getting all of the benefits of your office’s security setup.
This way, you can do your job from wherever you like, and your company can rest assured that their data is never leaving safe hands.
2. Protect Your Personal Data and Identity
A VPN isn’t just for your company’s benefit. It also helps protect you.
Remote workers often do a lot of their business online. Whether you’re accessing your banking info, tax records, or any other sensitive information, you want to make sure your data isn’t being leaked.
The most important way a VPN will help you stay safe online is by securing this information, whether in public or at home.
On the bus or in a cafe, you probably often use free wifi to access the internet. Unfortunately, these public hotspots are often being used to collect your information, which can later be used against you in phishing schemes or ransomware attacks. VPNs mask your identity, protecting you from these sorts of schemes.
Even on your home internet, online actors are tracking your web presence and IP, building a sophisticated model of you. A VPN helps keep you protected online by shielding you from their eyes wherever you go.
3. Get Around Internet Restrictions
The internet is not as free and open as it once was. Governments and private businesses are happy to put up firewalls and geo-restrictions if it serves their needs. A VPN helps you scale these walls and gives you access to the goods on the other side.
For some people, accessing geo-restricted content is the primary reason to use a VPN. If you work or live in countries like China or Russia, you may not be able to access internet basics like Gmail or Twitter. A VPN will help you get around these blocks by making it appear that you are in a different location altogether.
Even if you aren’t living in a totalitarian state, geo-restrictions and firewalls can be bothersome. If you live in another country, you may not always want to be redirected to a website in a foreign language. A VPN can adjust your location so that you can get your preferred version of these websites. Furthermore, have you been in a hotel that has an erroneous firewall stopping you from getting work done? A VPN can tunnel through this firewall and let you work in peace.
You may not always think about it, but there are restrictions everywhere on the net. As you can see, a VPN can help you get around these restrictions to make the most out of your online experience.
4. Avoid Data Throttling
Data throttling is when your ISP (internet service provider) decides to slow down your internet speed intentionally. Typically, this slow down is due to data caps. Other times, your ISP might be actively slowing down the specific website that you are on.
Either way, if you work online, you know internet speed can mean the difference between a job taking eight hours instead of 12. A VPN hides your IP address, effectively getting you around these throttling measures. So you never again have to worry about your internet being slowed down intentionally while you are working.
5. Don’t Lose Out to Country Price Discrimination
There are a lot of benefits to being a remote worker. One of the most important is that it allows you to live anywhere. But living abroad can bring with it a lot of extra costs. A VPN can sometimes help you cut down on those. But how?
Many companies base their prices on where you live. A flight, a piece of software, or a phone call can all have different prices depending on where you live. By altering your location with a VPN, you can do away with price discrimination and bring down the costs of living abroad. So if you often use Skype to call home, you could use a VPN so that you appear in your home country, effectively bringing down the per-minute price of that call.
This is just one example of how a VPN can save you some money. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to find new and creative ways to take advantage of region-specific pricing.
A Word of Caution
Overall, a VPN is a tool that every remote worker and their company should be using. It takes very little know-how to use, and it helps you stay safe online.
However, not all VPNs are made the same. Some free VPNs on the market have even been shown to leak their users’ data. Not what you want from a product designed to protect that information in the first place.
As well, different VPNs have different features and security levels. Some may have data caps, while others may have a limited number of locations available. Also, depending on your situation, you may want something that protects you more completely across multiple devices.
So, before you make your choice, make sure to check out some VPN comparisons that break down the best VPNs in the field.
Once you find the right one for you, you can start to reap all of the benefits that a VPN can bring.
Whether it’s for privacy reasons or you just want to watch Hulu from your hotel in Bangkok, a VPN is going to make any remote worker’s life a lot easier. And since most VPNs connect automatically, they are truly a “set and forget” protection that keeps your remote workplace secure wherever you are. As more people begin to telecommute, the benefits, as well as the dangers, of remote working are becoming more clear.
With that in mind, it’s time for more remote workers to learn the basic ABCs of how to stay safe while working remotely. The best place to start is with a VPN.
Elodie Castillo is the Content Operations Manager at Softonic, the leading global online software and app directory based in Barcelona, Spain. The company has over 10,000 apps listed across dozens of categories such as VPNs, graphic design, productivity, video games, and travel. Softonic has been featured on the New York Times, CNET, and more.
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