Does a VPN Protect You from Hackers in 2023?
- VPNs protect you from hackers by hiding your IP address and encrypting all your online connections. It not only makes it difficult for hackers to intercept or snoop on your online activity but also discourages the hacker community.
- On the downside, virtual private networks do not protect from malware or other viruses. You’ll need to install antivirus and antimalware programs to protect your devices from them.
- In addition to using a reliable VPN, you should also practice safe internet browsing etiquette and use privacy tools like 2FA and password manager for extra security.
We have found that NordVPN with its Threat Protection feature works best as protection from hackers.
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Does a VPN protect you from hackers?
The short answer is: yes, VPNs protect you from hackers to an extent.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a powerful privacy tool and it can protect your identity, data, and devices if used properly. However, its magic against hacking is limited. It effectively hides your IP address and encrypts your connection, which can thwart IP-related hacking attempts. It cannot prevent malware or fraud.
To get complete security, you’ll need to use a VPN with additional tools like an antivirus program. Coupled with awareness about hacking and general internet etiquette, you can navigate the web freely and safely.
To make things clearer, here’s a comprehensive guide on how VPNs protect you from hackers and areas where it’s ineffective. Read on.
How Does a VPN Protect You from Hackers?
A VPN protects you from hackers by hiding your IP address and encrypting your connection. Together, these actions make you nearly anonymous and cover your tracks online. A hacker trying to access your connection is then repelled by this protection.
VPN Server Hide Your IP Address
When you switch on your virtual private network application, it effectively masks your real IP address i.e., your online location. It does this by routing your connection through a distant secure server before reaching your destination. For example, when you visit a website, it ensures that your real IP address is masked by that of the VPN server.
This IP-hiding action of a VPN action is critical to hacking prevention. Hackers typically target IP addresses to intercept connections and steal your data. Since a virtual private network replaces your IP address with a random one, a hacker will find it very difficult to find you.
This is also how VPN helps you circumvent geofences and censorship.
VPN Encrypts Your Internet Traffic
Another virtual private network action that prevents hackers is encryption. Along with IP hiding, a VPN also encrypts your connection (traffic) before it leaves your device. Since it’s virtually impossible to crack encryption without sophisticated tools, a VPN effectively protects you from routine hacking attempts.
This dual action of VPNs protects you not only from hackers but also snooping, internet service provider tracking, and other forms of surveillance.
Let’s take a quick look at the types of hacking attacks that a VPN protects you from.
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What Hacker Attacks Does Virtual Private Network Protect You From?
As a lifelong virtual private network user, I understand the confusion that may arise from calling a VPN a hacking prevention tool. It is not. Naturally, that can ignite a lot of questions about the type of hacking attempts that it can protect you from.
A VPN can thwart any hacking attempt that has to do with IP addresses, traffic snooping, and network infiltration. For everything else, you’ll need additional tools that I have explained in the next section.
For now, these are the most common hacks a VPN connection can protect you against:
Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks
A man-in-the-middle attack occurs when a hacker gains access to a connection between you and a server (like a website) and steals data. This is possible if that connection is not secure or not encrypted. The hacker only needs to find your connection to gain access.
When you use a VPN, encryption comes to your rescue. Since all your connections are encrypted with military-grade encryption, a hacker cannot access or snoop on your traffic. Sure, they might be able to target your connection, but they’ll never access your data or find out that you’re its owner. (Remember a VPN hides your IP address.)
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack refers to a situation where a hacker bombards your IP address with ping requests and unwanted traffic. Such attacks can lead to a shutdown or temporary paralysis of your internet connection, giving the hacker some time to enter your network, and eventually, your system.
As you can guess, DDoS attacks are only possible if the hacker knows your IP address. When you use a VPN, all your connections are routed through arbitrary IP addresses owned by servers. Notably, a hacker attempting a DDoS attack on such an IP address will only go around in circles and end up wasting their time.
Evil Twins (Malicious Wi-Fi Hotspots)
In networking, an evil twin refers to fake Wi-Fi hotspots or access points created by a hacker. It resembles a legitimate one and is usually spun off from an existing hotspot. Hackers usually create evil twins on public Wi-Fi hotspots to target unsuspecting users and gain access to their internet traffic and devices.
When you enforce a VPN, even if you connect to an evil twin, your data will be safe from the hacker. Due to encryption and tunneling, the hacker will not be able to intercept your connection.
Pro Tip – I do not recommend unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you have to, only use them as a last resort.
Wi-Fi sniffing is another term for packet snooping where a hacker gains access to a Wi-Fi hotspot and thereby all its connections. Similar to an evil twin attack, here the hacker takes advantage of unencrypted connections to steal data.
Wi-Fi sniffing can be thwarted by using a reliable VPN that offers 256-bit AES encryption.
Remote hacking is a general exploitation method where hackers target your IP address to gain backdoor access via your connected devices. This is possible if you do not use a privacy tool or if your devices use HTTP connections. Hackers can gain remote access to your system.
When a VPN connection hides your IP address, it prevents hackers from targeting you and your connection. Behind a virtual tunnel, you are an anonymous browser. A hacker will never be able to target you specifically.
Also known as DNS cache poisoning, it refers to a setup where your traffic is fraudulently routed to another server. This server (say, a website) will look and feel the same but will be set up by a hacker in an attempt to collect your behavioral and personal data that you may share with it. DNS spoofing can lead to financial fraud as your credit card and other personal details are at risk.
Using a VPN will make it difficult for the hacker to collect your data due to encryption. Even if you visit a fraudulent website, your connection will be secure. However, visiting such a website and sharing your data through other media (like SMS or WhatsApp) may still make you a victim.
Other Remote Hacking Attacks
In addition to the above, a VPN can also help prevent the following, less common attacks:
- Session hijacking
- IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks
- VPN server hacking
- Encryption key compromise
Most reputable VPNs offer several other features like kill switch and DNS leak protection that help you safeguard yourself online.
What Cyber Threats Can a VPN Not Prevent?
As I’ve noted in the introduction, a VPN is not a magical all-rounder tool. You should still be aware that VPNs are not full-proof. While it can stop MITM and evil twin attacks, it is powerless when it comes to malware, ransomware, and cryptocurrency-related attacks.
Note: NordVPN Threat Protection Feature works as an antivirus and can protect from viruses and malware.
Here I’ve listed a few common attacks that a VPN CANNOT prevent:
Using a VPN service does not protect you from viruses. If you download malicious software from the internet and install it on your computer, a VPN will not detect it. You’ll still be under attack, especially if the virus has the ability to connect to the internet. The same is the case if you use an infected flash drive or CD-ROM.
Similarly, keyloggers, backdoor viruses, and system paralyzers are all capable of infecting your device and data.
Malware and Ransomware
Similar to viruses but more harmful are malware. They can enter your devices and wreak havoc in ways that can also put your personal data in danger.
Ransomware is even worse where it can shut you off from your own system and deny you access unless you pay a ransom (usually a very high sum).
Both malware and ransomware are impervious to a VPN’s protection. You’ll need advanced antivirus and anti-malware software to prevent your devices from being affected.
Sometimes, the apps you download can compromise your internet-connected device and data. A VPN service can never detect such an anomaly in these apps, which can cause data corruption and system imbalance. You’ll need an antivirus software to keep these vulnerabilities in check.
Lastly, a VPN cannot be a solution to human mistakes or a lack of common sense. I know this may sound condescending but there’s no other way to put this message across. If you download an infected file or connect to a hotel’s free WiFi hotspot without switching off a VPN, you will put yourself at risk.
In such scenarios, no software can help you as most hacking attacks happen in the backend without your knowledge. In some cases, you won’t even know that you have been hacked.
How to Find a Secure VPN to Prevent Hacking Attacks?
The most critical way to safeguard yourself from random hacking attempts is to get a reliable VPN. I have used several VPNs in my years of interacting with privacy technology and I feel some are better than other apps. Here’s how I find a good VPN that can tackle hacking attacks:
- Choose from reputable VPN providers like NordVPN or Surfshark.
- Take advantage of the free trial. Most providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Use the VPN app and test it out elaborately. Here’s a quick guide.
- Continue using it forever if it suits your needs.
Apart from these, I also recommend basing your choice on a set of parameters. Here’s how to choose the best VPN for security from hackers:
- Military-grade encryption – Choose a provider that offers 256-bit AES encryption. Anything inferior is not worth the money.
- Physical RAM servers – Go for a company only if it has physical RAM servers spread across the globe.
- No-logs policy – VPNs with a strict no-logs policy means your anonymity cannot be challenged by a third party like your government.
- Cross-OS support – An app that can be installed across operating systems and devices is the best one for overall protection.
- Multi-device support – A subscription that supports up to six devices or more is ideal.
Pro Tip – Whatever VPN you choose, never go with a free app. Free VPNs themselves pose a risk and usually do not offer any protection.
Additional Tools to Shield Yourself from Hacking
Just depending on VPN is not enough. You should get tools to protect yourself from hackers which can have an overall detrimental effect on hacking. Here are some must-have cyber security tools that I live by:
- Antivirus applications from a trusted provider like Kaspersky
- Anti-malware applications
- Privacy browsers like Tor
- VPN web browser plugins or add-ons
- Password managers
- Two-factor authenticators
Apart from this, I also rely on tools that are open-source and help me navigate the web freely and securely.
How to Secure Your Devices and Data from Internet-Based Vulnerabilities?
By now, you must be wondering “What else can I do to protect myself against hackers?”
Well, rightly so. The problem with hacking attacks is that in most cases they are totally random. You cannot browse the web with the assumption that you’ll be safe if you do not venture into anything dangerous. While that’ll help, it does not guarantee protection from hacking.
However, there are a few things that you can do to ensure maximum security. I have configured the following things across my devices so that there is no stone unturned for my devices’ and data’s protection.
Here’s how to secure your online activities:
- Regularly update all your applications across devices. Even better is to set them up for auto-update.
- Use strong passwords everywhere. Use different passwords for different apps. Get a password manager.
- Configure a VPN on your router to ensure all your devices are protected.
- Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on critical apps like bank’s online accounts and wallets.
- Do not install unofficial or cracked apps and games.
- Read device permissions of apps carefully.
- Log out of applications that you do not use every day
Have any more tips that you think will be beneficial for the Cyberwaters community? Send us a message.
Shielding yourself from hackers does not have to be hard. You can use a VPN to protect yourself to a great extent. Using additional privacy and online security tools like an antivirus program will add to the effort and fill gaps and vulnerabilities that hackers may otherwise use to snoop on your internet activity and steal from you.
I believe this guide has given you a fair idea about the steps you can take to prevent hacking attempts. If you have any more inventive ideas, please let me know.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Preventing Hacking Attacks
Here are answers to some key questions that you may have regarding preventing hacking attacks, using VPN efficiently, and securing your devices.
Does a VPN protect you from hackers?
Yes, VPNs can protect you from hacking attacks such as man-in-the-middle, malicious hotspots, DNS spoofing, and more. However, they don’t protect you from viruses, malware, ransomware, and other sophisticated cybercrimes.
Does a VPN protect me from hackers on public Wi-Fi?
Yes, a VPN can protect you from low-scale and targeted hacking attempts that occur on wireless public networks. It does this by encrypting your web traffic.
Can a hacker bypass a VPN?
While it’s difficult to hack into an encrypted tunnel or break a VPN’s encryption, advanced hackers may find a way. However, such sophisticated hacking mechanisms are often targeted at government officials, spies, journalists, and world leaders.
What should I do if I’ve been hacked?
If you think you’ve been hacked, immediately shut off your internet connection. Then, run an antivirus and antimalware scan of your device to detect any infection. Contact your system provider or network administrator for more assistance.
Does private browsing protect you from hackers?
Yes, private browsing claims to encrypt your traffic, thereby protecting you from hackers. However, the efficacy of this protection will depend on the type of private browsing. Not all private browsing modes are secure and devoid of prying eyes. For example, the Incognito Mode in Google Chrome does not encrypt your connection. It only hides your browsing history.
What is the best and most secure VPN against hacking?
Do I need a VPN on my iPhone?
Yes, you should ideally have a VPN on your iPhone as well as all your other devices like computers, laptops, and tablets. You should have it regardless of your operating system and device.
How do hackers circumvent encryption?
Hackers usually circumvent encryption by either stealing the encryption keys or gaining access before encryption or after decryption. It’s safe to say that both methods are highly complex and not typical.
Can hackers break encryption?
Some advanced hackers may have sophisticated resources that can break VPN encryption. However, breaking encryption is not common.
Can hackers steal encryption keys?
Yes, hackers can steal encryption keys to circumvent encryption. They can do this by infiltrating a VPN company’s system or executing a brute-force attack.
Can hackers exploit human error?
According to several estimates, over 90% of cybercrimes occur due to human error. Setting easy passwords, not using a VPN, and connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots and making a financial transaction are a few examples. These give an easy passage to hackers to gain access to your system and steal data.
VPN and privacy researcher