Labor Day is right around the corner, which is a great time to talk about the important topic of security in the workplace. With data security and personal protection such a major focus for businesses both large and small, professionals are turning to the growing arsenal of security tools and services to keep cybercriminals at bay. One such tool is a virtual private network, and everyone from major corporations to mom-and-pop businesses to individual citizens are relying on them for additional protection.
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a way of connecting to the Internet via a public WiFi network without anyone being able to track your activity. The most common comparison is that of a “tunnel.” Think of a public WiFi network as a giant crowd of people standing around, going from website to website in full view of everyone. A VPN acts like a tunnel that lets you burrow underground and connect to those same websites without anyone seeing you or stealing your information.
People who aren’t familiar with the security risks that businesses face might automatically assume that a VPN is the kind of thing a “bad guy” might need. After all, if you weren’t doing anything wrong, why would you want to hide it? But that’s not entirely accurate. Companies conduct business every day that they don’t want others to see. It may be in the form of their customers’ credit card numbers, proprietary information about their company, a brand-new top-secret project for key team members to work on, or any other information that they don’t want accessed and shared by others.
Even as little as five years ago, businesses looked fairly similar in the way that employees connected to the company network or with each other, and that was pretty much restricted to on-site operations. But the increase in telecommuting and the recognition that there’s great talent out there who’d like to work for your company if only they didn’t live on another continent means that businesses can have employees connecting from literally around the world. This equates to an even greater potential for a data breach or other compromising incident.
Of course, a VPN doesn’t only apply to highly sensitive company Internet traffic. You might have a company laptop that has been authorized for certain types of personal use. Using a VPN while checking your email or your social media won’t put your company at risk. You’d be especially wise to use a VPN when connecting from a foreign country, or even just while on vacation since you can’t know who’s monitoring your connection and therefore your activity. VPNs are even available for your smartphones and tablets in order to protect your mobile device internet activity.
By employing a VPN before connecting, employees can protect sensitive data and prevent Internet tracking. Utilizing any of the widely available platforms for creating your own secure network connection adds another level of security to the steps you and your team already take.