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Why VPNs are essential kit when working from home

woman working from home laptop with a vpn
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

To state the obvious, working from home - or remote working - has become increasingly popular. The benefits include greater productivity, more flexible hours, and less time wasted on commutes. This trend has been accelerated with the global Covid-19 pandemic, with enforced social distancing and workplace shutdowns.

When online, users are continuously vulnerable to threats, whether due to outdated software, spyware, or visiting suspicious websites. While antivirus software, an up to date browser and the latest patches to your operating system are important defenses, a VPN is another important tool to keep yourself safe online.

VPNs are good for business

Realize that the bar for security gets raised higher when doing work for your employer as downtime due to a corrupted system will not be tolerated, and hijacking of corporate data is not what any business wants.

A business VPN, as it uses an encrypted tunnel to transmit data securely, is a great defense to prevent eavesdropping on communications between the employee and the company. Furthermore, the IP address of the employee gets obscured, ensuring anonymity while online.

Privacy concerns for home workers

Is there really much concern about privacy, and who is interested in your information? While there are ongoing concerns of attacks while online, the real threat may be closer than you think, and in fact right under your nose.

All of your data goes through your internet connection, which is provided by your ISP. While for years internet service providers were thought of as a disinterested utility provider, that is no longer the case.

Back in 2017 in the US - with the passage of law - ISPs are now allowed to collect data, and sell it to the highest bidder. What is more concerning is that this data is not in aggregate, but rather these are individual web browsing histories. An analogous situation happened in the UK with the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, popularly known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter.’

No company wants its data out in the open, which makes a good argument for a VPN right there. Furthermore, there are companies in certain industries, such as healthcare or legal, where privacy of data is paramount, and goes beyond just a smart thing to do.

Security on public Wi-Fi

While working from home, sooner or later more than a few workers want to take advantage of being out of the company’s location, and are free to go out as needed. After all, things can get easily stale in the same four walls, and many a writer gets their creative juices flowing by heading to the local coffee shop, library or fast food establishment. These days, just about all of these places encourage it, as they provide free public Wi-Fi for their patrons.

The problem with this free Wi-Fi is that it is not like the Wi-Fi from your home router. At home, the router is password protected, which provides decent security (especially when the WPA2 protocol is used). On the other hand, these open Wi-Fi spots often have no encryption, or a shared Wi-Fi password. This makes users susceptible to a packet sniffing attack.

The best defense of this situation is getting an effective VPN - ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the best around right now - that encrypts the data prior to transmission, and therefore keeps it safe when using an open Wi-Fi hotspot.