Does a VPN Protect You from Hackers in 2023?
VPNs are great for streaming and securing your data, but does VPN actually protect you from hackers?
Yes, VPNs prevent hacking since they encrypt your data, making it completely unreadable. What’s more, VPNs stop cybercriminals from tracking your real IP address and using it to remotely hack your device.
If you’d like to learn more about that, check out the rest of our article. We’ll also discuss other ways to protect yourself from hackers and whether or not a VPN can be hacked.
How Does a VPN Protect Your Data?
A VPN mainly does 2 things to secure your traffic:
- Encrypts your data — VPNs make your internet traffic completely unreadable, so nobody can spy on it.
- Hides your IP address — a VPN prevents anyone from seeing your IP address, so they can’t use it to track you on the web.
Do VPNs Stop Hackers? Yes — 4 Cyber Attacks VPNs Can Prevent
Yes, VPNs definitely protect you from hackers — here are 4 different types of cyber threats a VPN can keep you safe from:
1. Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks
A MITM attack is when a malicious actor positions themselves between you and the web server you’re exchanging data with. The aim is to spy on your traffic or redirect your connection to a phishing site. For example, if a cybercriminal sees that you’re sending connection requests to facebook.com, they could try to redirect you to a fake Facebook site.
VPNs can prevent these types of threats because they encrypt your online traffic. So, hackers can’t spy on it to see what sites you’re browsing. Without that information, they’re not able to accurately redirect your data to fake sites. If you wanted to access Facebook, but a hacker would redirect you to a fake PayPal site, you’d become suspicious and leave it.
In addition to that, some VPNs come with an ad blocker — NordVPN’s Threat Protection is a good example. On top of blocking ads, that feature can also block connections to malicious sites. So, a VPN ad blocker can further protect you from MITM attacks.
2. Fake WiFi Networks
Cybercriminals can set up their own networks that imitate legitimate hotspots. For example, a hacker could create a fake network that is a copy of an airport or coffee shop’s hotspot, which you might normally connect to. If you accidentally use a fake hotspot to access the web, the cybercriminal running it could spy on your data.
VPNs can’t block connections to fake hotspots, but they don’t need to. By encrypting your data, they keep all your browsing private even if you accidentally connect to a fake WiFi network.
3. Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks
A DoS or DDoS attack is a type of cyber attack where a malicious actor floods your network with too much traffic. The goal is to force your network offline, leaving you without internet access. DoS attacks can only keep you offline for a few minutes or so, but DDoS attacks (which are very common) can force you offline for hours on end. DoS and DDoS attacks are very common in gaming — for example, a sore loser could DDoS you to prevent you from playing.
For a DoS or DDoS attack to work, the hacker needs to know your IP address. Well, if you use a VPN, it prevents anyone from seeing your real IP address — only the VPN’s IP will be visible. So, the cybercriminal won’t be able to use your IP to target your network with DoS or DDoS attacks.
Malicious actors could still perform a DoS/DDoS VPN hack. However, that usually won’t do much since most top VPNs have anti-DDoS protection on all of their servers.
4. Remote Hacking
If a cybercriminal has your IP address, they could try to remotely access your device to steal your data or install malware on it. Basically, they could try scanning for open ports and brute-force a connection to access your device.
VPNs can protect you from these cyber attacks because they hide your IP address. Hackers can only see the VPN’s IP address, and they can’t do anything with it because VPNs take security measures to prevent port and brute-force attacks.
What Cyber Attacks Can’t Be Prevented with a VPN?
While VPNs can prevent many cyber attacks, they can’t protect you from every cyber threat out there. Here are the best examples of cyber attacks VPNs can’t prevent:
VPNs can secure your online traffic, but they can’t protect your devices from direct malware infections. So, if you accidentally download and interact with a malicious file, the VPN app on your device can’t prevent any infections.
A few top VPNs offer some direct malware protection. For instance, NordVPN does that through Threat Protection and Ivacy does it through Secure Download. Those features scan the files you download (without compromising your privacy) and remove any signs of malware. However, even these features have their limitations, as they can only scan very small files. So, they can’t protect you if you download large malicious torrents, for example.
To stay safe from malware, we strongly recommend using an antivirus alongside a VPN.
VPNs offer some level of protection against phishing attacks, but they can’t protect you if you engage with a phishing message. For instance, if you reply to a phishing email and share your login credentials or credit card number. VPNs don’t have any control over what you type in your emails or messages.
Also, many phishing attacks rely on information you publicly make available. For example, if you post your email address or phone number on social media. A VPN can’t prevent hacking in that situation, as it can’t hide the personal information you publish on your social media page.
VPNs encrypt your connection to a website, but they can’t encrypt what you do on that site. Once the VPN server receives your encrypted traffic, it decrypts it and forwards it to the website you want to access. From then on, it’s the website’s job to secure your data using HTTPS encryption.
So, if you use shady HTTP websites, VPNs can’t secure the data you share on them. If such a website is hacked and suffers a data breach, there’s no way for the VPN to prevent your data from being leaked.
Can VPNs Be Hacked?
Yes, hacking a VPN is possible, but this is only the case for very weak VPNs, which are not safe to use anyway. Here’s how malicious actors could try hacking a VPN:
- Break the encryption — VPN encryption is pretty much impossible to crack. However, if the VPN only uses the PPTP protocol, cybercriminals could brute-force its encryption because it’s very weak.
- Steal encryption keys — encryption keys are responsible for encrypting and decrypting your data. If a hacker has access to them, they can spy on your traffic even if you’re connected to a VPN. Stealing encryption keys is extremely difficult, though. Plus, many VPNs use perfect forward secrecy, which regularly changes encryption keys for each VPN session. So, even if an encryption key is compromised, it can’t be used to decrypt a user’s entire traffic.
- Steal logs — if the VPN keeps logs of user data, malicious actors could try to steal them. They’d either do it through a data breach or they’d use phishing attacks. This is why you should always use a VPN with a strict no-logs policy.
- DDoS attacks — hackers can DDoS a VPN’s servers to force them offline. That said, pretty much all top VPNs have anti-DDoS protection on their servers.
What Are the Best VPNs That Can Protect You from Hackers?
There are tons of VPNs on the market that provide great security. We went through all of them and picked the best VPNs for protecting your data against hackers:
NordVPN secures your data with many advanced security features. For starters, it has full leak protection and RAM-only servers, meaning every server reset wipes all data. Also, a big part of its server network is co-located, which means this provider ships its own hardware to the data centers it uses. Only NordVPN’s staff has access to those servers, so malicious actors (like rogue data center employees) can’t compromise them.
We’re also big fans of this provider’s Threat Protection feature. It blocks connections to shady sites, gets rid of malicious ads, and also stops you from downloading malware-infected files. You also get Dark Web Monitor, which alerts you if hackers have leaked your data on the dark web.
In addition to that, NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy that passed 2 independent security audits. Also, it has double VPN servers, which provide more protection against hackers by encrypting your data twice.
NordVPN has several affordable plans and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. To read more about this provider, check out our full review.
- Thousands of lightning-fast servers
- Unblocks streaming services
- Fully supports Torrenting and P2P
- Strict no-logs policy and RAM-disk servers
- Ad blocker and malware protection features
- Robust security features and military-grade encryption
- 24/7 live chat support
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Only 6 simultaneous connections
- No free trial
Surfshark provides excellent security and supports unlimited connections, so you can use it on as many devices as you want. This VPN is a great pick if everyone in your home needs a VPN to protect their data from hackers.
All of this provider’s servers run on RAM memory, so nobody can physically compromise its servers to steal your data. Surfshark also provides access to double VPN connections and CleanWeb, which is a really good ad blocker. We actually tested CleanWeb by accessing 10+ shady HTTP sites, and the feature always blocked our connections.
We also like Surfshark’s Nexus feature, which automatically rotates your IP address while you’re connected to a VPN server. That makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to track your online activities.
Also, for a small additional price, you can get access to Surfshark Antivirus and Surfshark Alert. The first service protects your device from malware infections, and the second service alerts you if hackers leak your data on the dark web.
This provider has very affordable plans and backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’d like to read more about it, check out our full Surfshark review.
- Very affordable
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Ad-blocking feature
- Unblocks streaming platforms
- Allows split-tunneling and has multi-hop VPN feature
- No-log policy and strong security features
- GPS spoofing on Android devices
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No free version
- Does not allow P2P seeding
3. Atlas VPN
Atlas VPN has a really good free plan that provides strong security, so that you can safely browse the web. You only get 10 GB of data per month, but that’s still enough for a few hours of hacker-free web browsing.
Upgrading to this provider’s free plans, which are super cheap, gives you access to unlimited data. You also get high-end security features. SafeSwap, for example, regularly refreshes your IP address throughout the VPN session. You can also use Tracker Blocker, which stops malicious trackers from compromising your privacy.
On top of that, AtlasVPN comes with MultiHop+ servers. These servers send your traffic through 2 servers, so that you get extra encryption. Even better, the exit server regularly rotates, so that cybercriminals can’t trace your online traffic. What’s more, the provider’s Data Breach Monitor feature alerts you if your data has been leaked.
In addition to very affordable plans, Atlas VPN also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Very affordable plans and it has a free version
- Fast Speeds
- Unlimited device support
- WireGuard protocol and strong security features
- Unblocks streaming services
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Limited Linux app
- Based in the US
- Not so many servers
How Else to Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks
Here are other ways to protect your data from hackers:
- Use an antivirus — you need to use the antivirus alongside the VPN, so that your device is protected from malware infections.
- Update your software — always install the latest updates, as hackers can compromise outdated apps.
- Secure your router — change the default username and password. Cybercriminals can find that information online and use it to access your router.
- Keep your social media private — don’t post personal information on your social media accounts. For example, don’t make your phone number or email address public.
- Use strong passwords — create long, complex passwords and make sure you use a different password for each account. If you need help keeping track of all passwords, just use a password manager.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA) — 2FA adds another step to the login process to verify your identity. For example, in addition to entering your username and password, you need to enter a code that’s randomly generated on your phone.
VPN & Hacker Attacks FAQs
Here are the most common questions people ask about using VPNs to secure your data against hackers:
What Data Can Hackers Steal from You?
If you don’t encrypt your traffic, cybercriminals could spy on it and steal:
- Login credentials.
- Email addresses.
- Phone numbers.
- Credit card numbers.
- Bank account information.
How to Get VPN Protection from Hackers
Here’s how to get a VPN to stay safe from hackers in 5 steps:
- Sign up for a secure VPN — our top pick is NordVPN.
- Download and install the VPN provider’s app on your device.
- Open the VPN app.
- Connect to a VPN server.
- Surf the web securely!
Will a VPN Protect Me from Hackers on Public WiFi?
Yes, as VPNs encrypt your data, making it completely unreadable. If cybercriminals were to spy on your VPN connection, they’d only see gibberish lie “Jfa$532jiJUFN.” What’s more, VPNs also hide your IP address, so hackers can’t use them to DoS/DDoS you or try to remotely hack into your device.
Best of all, a VPN will even keep you safe if you accidentally connect to a fake WiFi network. Even though cybercriminals might run it, they won’t be able to steal your data since it’s encrypted.
Do Free VPNs Stop Hackers?
Usually, no. Many free VPNs lack essential security features that protect you from hackers, like strong encryption or a no-logs policy.
That said, if you insist on using a free VPN, try Atlas VPN’s free plan because it provides strong security features. We still recommend upgrading to the provider’s paid plan, as it gives you access to even better security features.
Does a VPN Protect You from Hackers? The Bottom Line
Using a VPN is an excellent way to protect your data from hackers. The VPN makes all your data unreadable and stops cybercriminals from seeing your real IP address. We covered the best anti-hacker VPNs in this piece, but we’d also love to hear which VPNs you use to protect your data from cybercriminals.