How does a VPN protect your business?

What happens if a cybercriminal intercepts and reads your internet traffic through an insecure internet connection? Then they can find out a lot about your business. Using a VPN helps to prevent that. VPN expert David Janssen explains how a VPN makes your company more secure.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is software that encrypts your data before sending it over the internet. The name stands for Virtual Private Network. You install the software on your phone, laptop or tablet. “The VPN works as an in-between stage,” explains David Janssen, founder of comparison site “Normally, your data goes directly to a website’s server and back again. Now the VPN provider sits in between.” This gives you an anonymous connection to the internet (in Dutch).

Improve your security and privacy

The first advantage of a VPN connection, according to Janssen, is security against ‘readers’ – people who read your data without you knowing. This is because all your data traffic is encrypted. The second advantage is privacy, he explains. “Nobody sees where you are on the internet. Or even who you are, because your IP address is hidden.” Instead, a website only sees the IP address of the VPN provider. A VPN is therefore also popular with consumers who want to stream films that are not available in their home country. With a VPN, you can, for example, watch NPO TV programmes from the US, or watch the US streaming service Hulu from Europe.

People are often the weakest link

Not everyone needs a VPN. If you are always in the office and work on a well-secured network, for instance. Or if your employees never work from home or while travelling. But we do work from home more often, so for most companies, a VPN is indeed a good idea. “An organisation’s security is only as strong as its weakest link,” says Janssen. “It only takes one employee connecting to an insecure network to compromise the security of the whole organisation.” If you or your employees use a VPN connection by default, you prevent that from happening.

Reduce risk

An owner of a sign and advertising company in the east of the Netherlands has been using a VPN network for his business for years already. “Many of my colleagues who work on Apple products do not use extra security because Apple is traditionally well secured,” he says. “But I chose to have extra security for my network. The cost of about €100 per year is worth it because the risk of me being hacked is now a lot less. 100% security is not possible in my opinion, but this way I make it as difficult as possible for criminals. Often those criminals then look for an easier victim.”

Use a VPN when travelling

A VPN is also useful when you travel on business. “Entrepreneurs may not realise that they can be restricted in their communications and information outside the Netherlands,” says Janssen. “I was in Bali a few years ago, for example. There were elections there. Then the government blocked all social media. I can work remotely just fine, but without WhatsApp it becomes difficult. Through a VPN, I was still able to connect to WhatsApp.”

Find a trustworthy VPN

You must trust a VPN provider with all your data. How do you know the service you are using is reliable? “That is a difficult question,” admits Janssen. “Some VPN providers have proved untrustworthy in the past. For example, the US providers Hide My Ass and IPVanish. They claimed they did not track which websites their customers visited. But court cases showed that they did, and even shared this data with the police. In doing so, they lost credibility.”

Independent inspectors

“Make sure your VPN provider is transparent,” advises Janssen. Unfortunately, there is no quality certification to prove the reliability of a VPN service. “However, some providers do invite independent inspectors to examine their systems.” The Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond also lists points to consider (in Dutch).

Never use a free VPN

Never choose a free VPN, warns Janssen. “Many free apps are owned by Chinese companies. Then you can bet your data will end up with the Chinese government. And they are very interested in trade secrets.” So if you are using a free VPN, your internet traffic and data may not be as secure as you hoped.

A VPN is a small investment

A consumer VPN costs between €2 and €6 per month. These subscriptions are usually also suitable for small businesses, says Janssen. “You can add fewer users to a consumer VPN than to a VPN for businesses, but they are much cheaper.” The exact cost depends on the subscription type you choose. With a longer contract, you usually pay less per month.

A VPN is a good way to prevent cybercrime

Becoming more popular

VPNs are becoming more and more “mainstream”, notes Janssen. “A few years ago, it was seen as something for computer geeks. It was also associated with criminals. Why else would you want to anonymise your internet traffic? What do you have to hide?” A VPN is an excellent measure against cybercrime, according to Janssen. As are strong passwords and good anti-virus software. “Cybercrime has exploded, and that is not going to go away in the short term,” he says.

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