How can a VPN help protect against identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when thieves steal your personal information and use it to commit crimes in your name — like taking over or opening new accounts, filing tax returns in your name, or renting or buying property. A VPN can help protect against identity theft by helping protect your data. It creates an encrypted tunnel for the data you send and receive that’s out of reach of cyberthieves.
If your smartphone's Wi-Fi is enabled at all times, your device could be vulnerable without you ever knowing it. Everyday activities like online shopping, banking and browsing can expose your information, making you vulnerable to cybercrime.
A VPN can protect the information you share or access using your devices. That’s especially important when using a public Wi-Fi network, where a cyberthief on the same network could capture your login credentials and the credit card number you type in when you shop online.
You can’t prevent identity theft. No one can. Some security aspects — like a data breach at an organization where you have an account — are out of your control. But a VPN can help safeguard the information you send from and receive on your devices.
What should you look for in VPN services?
The VPN market is crowded with options, so it’s important to consider your needs when you’re shopping for a VPN.
Think about what is important to you. Do you want to be able to surf the web anonymously by masking your IP address? Are you afraid that your information could be stolen on public Wi-Fi? Are you a frequent traveler who wants to be able to watch your favorite shows while you’re on the go.
Learning about VPNs may seem like it requires a specialized vocabulary. Here’s a glossary with definitions of some of the most common terms you’ll see.
Encryption is essential to helping keep your data unreadable by hackers, private companies, and possibly by government agencies. Encryption jumbles up your data so that others can't make sense of it without the specific decryption key. AES, which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, was an encryption method developed by Belgium cryptographers Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen. In 2002, AES became the U.S. federal standard for encryption. It has since become the standard form of encryption for the rest of the world, too.
A record of all your internet activity using a particular web browser, including keywords you searched for and websites you accessed.
One of the main reasons users rely on VPNs? They want to get around geo-restrictions. These restrictions are often put in place by entertainment companies that only want to distribute content to certain regions. For instance, Netflix might offer content in the United States that it doesn't show in the UK. It might offer programming in the UK that Netflix users in the United States can't access. By using a VPN with an IP address based in the UK, U.S. viewers can try to access Netflix programming that isn't available in their home country. The VPN service — and the VPN connection — hides the location where the actual internet connection is made. Check your streaming service agreement for its Terms of Service, and also be mindful that some countries may have penalties for using VPN to circumvent its rules.