Roughly 50% of all businesses admit that they were hacked at least once in the past few years.
This should be all the wake-up call businesses need to bolster their cybersecurity posture. However, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Forecasts for the cybersecurity landscape are getting increasingly dire. The hackers are becoming more intelligent, more resourceful, and more sophisticated than ever. It’s estimated that an incredible 300,000 new malware are created every day!
It’s evident that businesses need stronger cybersecurity policies and infrastructure. Thankfully, most of them are taking appropriate steps to counter the growing cybersecurity threats. One of the most powerful tools at their disposal is a corporate virtual private network (VPN).
Hundreds of millions of individuals across the world already use VPNs to protect their privacy and security online. Organizations are also deploying corporate VPNs to enable their workforce to access sensitive corporate data over secure and encrypted connections.
What is a Corporate VPN?
A corporate VPN allows the employees of an organization to access the corporate network – be it on-premises or on the cloud – using a secure, end-to-end encrypted connection.
The relevance and, therefore, the sense of urgency behind VPN deployment has never been higher before. The rising incidences of cyberattacks, the popularity of remote work culture, and the increasing awareness of cyberattacks have compelled everyone from SMEs to large businesses to embrace corporate VPN as part of their overall cybersecurity strategy.
The mere use of VPNs drastically reduces the degree to which businesses are exposed to online threats. Their entire internet traffic remains hidden in plain sight from everyone who may have access to the traffic leaving and entering your corporate network.
How is Corporate VPN Different From Consumer VPN?
Businesses have vastly different requirements from their VPNs than what consumers do. For consumers, the highest priorities are privacy protection over public networks and access to geographically restricted content. While security and privacy protection are also major areas of concern for businesses, they also emphasize an increased level of control, enhanced workforce productivity, and priority customer support.
For these reasons, corporate VPN services are packaged quite differently in comparison to consumer VPNs. In several cases, corporate VPNs are accorded dedicated servers for increased security and reliability. When using third-party corporate VPN services, businesses often enjoy dedicated customer support to ensure minimal disruption to their operations due to VPN downtime. However, some businesses choose to deploy VPNs on-premises on their own server so that they have complete control over the security, operations, and usability.
That said, the technology powering the corporate VPNs is usually the same as consumer VPNs, barring a few (not so often) changes. The two diverge primarily based on their usage and, therefore, the needs of the respective users.
This brings us to the next question.
How Does the Corporate World Use VPNs?
The rapidly growing incidences of cyberattacks on businesses and the rise in big-ticket data breaches have compelled the world’s governments to act. And they have. In recent years, several countries have passed stringent cybersecurity legislation that requires businesses to employ robust security measures to protect their customers’ data and secure the access to such data.
In the light of these developments, cybersecurity has graduated from an afterthought or another item in the To-Do lists for organizations into a compliance requirement. Failure to satisfy the compliance requirements can lead to punitive measures, including fines, bankruptcy, and punishment for criminal negligence.
When the stakes are this high for businesses, corporate VPNs go a long way in securing confidential corporate data from malicious people. What’s more, corporate VPN’s benefits go beyond security. Here’s how businesses use VPNs for their purposes.
Advanced security is the most important benefit offered by VPNs. Deploying an organization-wide VPN will encrypt all the data traveling between your corporate networks and the internet. Your internet services provider (ISP) is a prime target for modern hackers for several reasons. Invading just one ISP’s systems can grant them complete access to all their unprotected customers’ internet traffic. So, they get better ROI on their investment, whether it’s time, effort, and/or money, when compared to hacking just one internet user.
There is also the possibility of your ISP, or a rogue employee in their organization, selling your corporate information for personal benefit.
With a corporate VPN, any “listener”, who has gained access to your internet traffic, will not be able to “read” your data. The encrypted traffic will be rendered unusable for them, thereby protecting you from their malicious intent.
The importance of VPNs for remote employees cannot be overblown. The size of the remote workforce is growing. Then there are frequently traveling employees who may have to access public Wi-Fi in airports, coffee shops, and so on. There are also the employees in mission-critical roles, who often have to switch to work mode to tackle an emergency, no matter where they are.
All of these people are often forced to use personal networks or public networks to connect to the internet and access corporate data. Such networks are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. If a hacker invades one such employee’s devices, they can gain unauthorized access to sensitive corporate information.
A secure VPN allows remote employees to access corporate networks, communicate with on-premises employees, and work seamlessly without compromising the security and privacy of the corporate data.
As the corporate IT infrastructure continues to migrate to the cloud, the cybersecurity threats are also evolving. One of the most effective ways for businesses to protect their networks, apps, and data on the cloud is by restricting access from unauthorized sources.
Organizations enforce this rule by allowing access to their cloud environments from only a predetermined set of IP addresses. This way, organizations can ensure that anyone not using one of those IP addresses can never gain unauthorized access to their cloud setup.
Corporate VPNs typically come with dedicated servers and IP addresses, so that all employees can use the same set of IP addresses to access such protected systems. Even when an organization is spread across multiple geographies, employees in all those geographies can use a common set of IP addresses to access such protected cloud environments.
Business Travel Security
The interconnected nature of the modern business landscape has transformed business leaders and key employees into globetrotters, so to speak. Whether you need to visit manufacturers, service providers, partners, or clients in other countries, you may face several problems when using the internet, with security and privacy being the chief concern.
Some countries enjoy considerable disrepute for their state-sponsored corporate espionage activities. You certainly don’t want your confidential corporate data being stolen by the state-sponsored hackers when you are in such countries, do you?
A corporate VPN secures your internet traffic from all such threats. Unless your device falls into their hands, you can rest assured that your internet connection is fully encrypted and shielded from the prying eyes of the local hackers during your travels.
Restricted Website Access
For one, your destination country may have banned or restricted certain websites from the local internet. For instance, you cannot access Facebook in China.
Secondly, several businesses restrict their website access to only incoming traffic from within certain geographies, as an added layer of security. That makes sense when you consider the case of a furniture seller based in London. If they do not offer product shipping to customers outside of the UK, then there’s really no point in making their website available to non-UK internet users. So, preventing non-UK visitors from visiting the website is a smart way of preventing hackers located elsewhere from attacking their website.
You can use your VPN’s dedicated IP address to access all the websites you couldn’t otherwise access back home.
VPNs are a powerful productivity driver for all employees who are outside the company’s premises. It could be a remote worker or an employee who has had to attend an emergency video meeting over an extended weekend.
Corporate VPNs allow such employees to access the same corporate instant messaging app, CRM, team collaboration tool, and other resources that their colleagues, who are working out of the office, can do. This seamless access to corporate resources drastically boosts the productivity of the employees. Communication between employees is unhindered, team collaboration does not suffer, and the productivity of the off-premises employees remains consistent.
SERPs and Marketing Results Check
Marketing agencies and digital marketing managers use VPNs, especially the third-party VPN services, in several creative ways.
When you launch a search on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and others, the search results you get are personalized to your current location. For instance, London’s search engine users tend to get different results compared to their counterparts in New York. The search engine results page (SERP) is fully tailored to the user, including their current location.
So, when a digital marketer, who is located in another city or country, wants to know the most current SERP for the keywords that matter to their client or employer, it could be a problem. The SERPs that the digital marketer gets will be tailored to their own location and not to that of the company’s areas of operations. A VPN solves this challenge at the click of a button. Modern third-party VPNs allow users to choose servers (and IP addresses) located in a vast number of countries. The digital marketer can connect to the VPN server located in the client or employer’s area of operation, and see the SERPs for that location.
Alternatively, the organization can give the digital marketing VPN access to its corporate network too.
The multi-location VPNs are a gamechanger for the modern digital marketer. They often have to check the SERPs for their company in several cities or even countries. The multi-location VPNs make this exercise as easy as a click of a button.
Corporate VPNs grant administrators a granular level of control over who can access what and when. This offers several advantages in terms of security.
Firstly, the administrator can share temporary VPN credentials with an intern, a temporary employee, or a contractor on a need-only basis. When the user does not need access to sensitive corporate information anymore, their access can be revoked or set to expire automatically.
Secondly, the administrator can grant role-based access to sensitive corporate information like databases, source codes, customer data, and so on. Connections originating from one set of IP addresses can be given ‘View Only’ access, while those originating from another set of addresses can be given ‘View and Edit’ Access, and so on. Although this can be done at the software level without a VPN, this method adds another layer of security.
It is not just the digital marketers that are using VPNs for non-security purposes. QA engineers have been using VPNs to test their products, services, and systems for several years.
Businesses that operate in several geographies almost always invest in localization. Their websites, products, and services are often tailored to the local population – languages, payment methods, shipping methods, and so on. Not to mention the local legal and compliance requirements.
For QA engineers in such companies, the quickest way to test the organization’s online assets for localization is by connecting to a VPN server located in the respective geography. Although there are other ways to do it, such as IP address spoofing, force-localization using URL query strings, and so on, a VPN is the most reliable option.
There is now a growing trend of SMEs using third-party VPN services to improve their cybersecurity posture. This is hardly surprising when you consider the fact that the VPN costs have plummeted into single-digit subscriptions (often close to $5 or so) per employee per month.
Large enterprises, on the other hand, use a combination of third-party VPN services and on-premises VPN infrastructure to suit their varying needs.
Irrespective of your VPN strategy, the fact remains that a corporate VPN is critical for your corporate data’s security, privacy, and integrity.