Last update: 06.20.2019
Short answer: it depends.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no all-in-one app for avoiding hackers, VPNs included. That said, a VPN can play an important role as one part of your cybersecurity arsenal.
By using a Virtual Private Network, you can significantly reduce the chances of your online traffic being intercepted by cyberattackers. Especially if you connect to an unsecured network, such as public wifi.
Whenever you connect to unprotected public wifi, your data becomes a sitting duck. The moment it leaves your device for the server you’re trying to access, it’s pretty much up for grabs to every potential attacker in the vicinity.
Unless you use a VPN.
How a VPN can help you stay safe from hackers
Simply put, VPNs encrypt your online traffic and route it through a secure server as it travels to the website you’re trying to visit. This means that potential attackers will only see a stream of indecipherable data leaving your device for parts unknown.
In this case, even if hackers decide to intercept your encrypted traffic, it won’t yield them any valuable information, such as:
- Account usernames and passwords
- Personally identifiable information like your personal emails, documents, or photos
- Credit card details
- Cryptocurrency wallet keys
As you can see, using a VPN is a great way to keep your data safe from being intercepted by hackers. That said, not all VPNs are created equal. Which is why we’ve selected three top-notch VPNs known for their flawless security standards and additional features to help you keep cyberattackers at bay.
These VPNs are the best for protecting your data from hackers
- Excellent security
- Largest server list on the market
- Awesome for Netflix
- Good for torrenting
- Very easy to use
- Affordable prices
- Watertight security
- Massive server list
- Great for streaming
- Very good for torrenting
- Very fast
- 24/7 customer support
- Superb security credentials
- Very user-friendly apps
- Great free version
- Good multiplatform support
- Unblocks Netflix (Plus version)
- Live chat support
Can VPNs be hacked?
One of the most common concerns for people who use Virtual Private Networks is their likelihood of being hacked.
While most VPN providers are sound, there are plenty of instances of companies which fail to deliver uncrackable encryption and watertight leak protection. In those cases, hacking is always a possibility.
But the risks aren’t limited to poor-quality providers. Even VPNs with excellent 256-bit AES encryption and OpenVPN protocols can be hacked with a little technological trickery. This was part of the Snowden revelations, which revealed that the NSA was using interception techniques to capture encrypted traffic.
Some key VPN vulnerabilities, and why they matter
Hackers could potentially target a number of aspects of any VPN provider, including:
It’s becoming rare for VPNs to offer encryption based on older techniques like 128-bit AES ciphers, but it does still happen. If a provider doesn’t clearly state that it uses 256-bit “military-grade” AES encryption, then the cipher it uses is most likely crackable, given enough computing power.
If data isn’t “wrapped up” properly in the VPN tunnel, hackers can “unwrap” it fairly easily. Again, older standards offer weaker security here (such as PPTP). But OpenVPN-based protocols tend to be fairly tough to hack.However, even then hackers are constantly looking for loopholes, such as the VORACLE vulnerability, isolated in 2018.
All VPN data must pass through banks of servers, where it’s decrypted and sent on to its destination. But what if these servers were compromised? How would you know?Some providers rent all of their servers and even outsource maintenance to third parties. Others rent servers but maintain them themselves. And some own all of their infrastructure. Generally speaking, that’s a much more secure solution.
Normally, users will need a client of some form to connect with Virtual Private Networks. These clients can present their own hacking risks. For example, plenty of security apps available on Google Play have been flagged as malware conduits – especially the free versions.
5. Malware VPNs
You might also add the risk of VPN companies actually being criminal enterprises in their own right. This could stretch from selling user data illegally to their marketing partners, or actively spreading ransomware.It does happen, but it’s fortunately quite rare. Still, it’s something users need to be aware of.
VPN protection and how to make it more secure
Most of us aren’t likely to be caught up in a Deep State investigation. Instead, our main security issues will probably relate to criminal groups. And here, the picture is pretty encouraging.
By and large, VPNs do a good job at keeping your data protected from garden-variety hackers.
More importantly, they tend to make you much safer than you would be without a VPN installed.
256-bit AES encryption, solid IP and DNS leak protection, Double VPN technologies, and advanced VPN protocols all add up to a package which blocks off most attackers.
Red flags to avoid when choosing a VPN
Here’s the thing. Virtual Private Networks aren’t a monolithic block.
In fact, the market is segmented into providers which deliver excellent, reliable, secure services, and operators who have lower standards.
Which is why you should be extra careful whenever you encounter the following:
- Free VPNs without premium versions
- Providers who appear overnight on app download databases
- Companies with big claims, but no contact details
Make sure you avoid all of the above. Such providers are more likely to infect your computer with malware that aids hackers than to prevent your data becoming a target.
As far as official hacking goes, the safest thing you can do is select a premium provider with 256-bit AES encryption and a location outside the 14 Eyes network.
The 14 Eyes is an informal (but very active) network of intelligence agencies which tends to include close allies of the United States. If a Virtual Private Network is based in the 14 Eyes, it’s likely that the NSA or local intel agencies are aware of its systems and architecture. And there’s a strong chance that it is vulnerable to official surveillance.