VPN options for IT nomads
Being an IT nomad in this day and age introduces several digital security challenges that should be taken seriously. Using a VPN while out and about is often a valid form of staying safe while conducting business online. Let's see what are our VPN options for IT nomads.
While using a VPN can significantly improve online security under many circumstances, it’s important to know that VPNs aren’t a silver bullet that mitigates all forms of attacks and risks of being online. Taking the time to understand how modern VPN solutions work can go a long way in improving the overall security of your digital space.
In a nutshell, a VPN encrypts the Internet traffic originating your device towards the outer Internet.
The most common and hassle-free solution is opting in a commercial VPN offering. These days, there’s an abundance of reputable VPN providers out there with very competitive prices. A simple Google search will likely return a lot of viable options.
Depending on the type of work you do, running your own VPN server (either in the cloud or on a physical server) might be a necessity. While that approach introduces a lot of additional work of setting up and maintaining a VPN instance, it gives you an unprecedented level of control in terms of cryptographic algorithms and protocols that can be used for establishing a secure connection. For example, many people opt into running their own VPN server so they can take advantage of the brand new and lightweight WireGuard protocol that’s rapidly taking over the marketshare but still isn’t widely available in commercial offerings.
Some of the considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing a proper VPN solution are whether the logs are stored and for how long, are DNS queries encrypted along with the rest of the traffic, etc. Many VPN providers may claim that they do not log any of the clients’ activity on their end, but keep in mind that they might be legally obliged to do so, and they may keep the logs for bandwidth metering and billing purposes as well. Also, some VPNs may not encrypt the DNS queries your device makes when reaching out to web sites and apps on the Internet and leaking DNS queries is often enough to compromise your privacy.
Also, there are many cases where VPNs cannot provide a sufficient level of protection. For example, if you’re accessing a web site that doesn’t support encrypted HTTPS connections, the connection will be encrypted only between your device and the VPN endpoint being used, while the connection between the VPN endpoint and the web site will be unencrypted and therefore prone to man - in - the - middle and other types of attacks. Evaluating the threat levels to your specific situation is recommended. If all you want to do is have an encrypted connection when using public WiFi, e.g. in an airport, perhaps opting for a wired connection instead is a perfect alternative.
No matter what your final decision is, doing your own due diligence always pays off!
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