What are virtual private networks?

A few weeks ago, Ranveer wrote a post about the different ways you can surf the net anonymously. In it he mentioned that you could surf using a VPN client. In this article I am going to explain what a VPN is.

A VPN (or virtual private network) is a secure network connection, which can be used to send files, browse the net and download material securely. As the transfer is protected by encryption, the data sent can’t be read if intercepted.

A padlock on an ethernet cableThere are three key parts of a VPN: a host computer which can send and receive data; the internet, which is used as a medium to transport/transmit the data; and a device which can connect to the network, in order to receive the data. The last part of the network (the receiver) isn’t essential, but without anything to view the data, what’s the point in sending it?

Put simply, a VPN allows two computers to talk, as though they were connected on a private network, when in fact they are connected via a public network – the internet.

The way VPNs work is by establishing virtual point-to-point connections, using encryption or dedicated connections. Unless you are an IT engineer, you probably don’t need to worry about how it works though, just know that it does!

VPNs are very useful for businesses, as it enables employees to access secure internal files, remotely, without a security risk, as the network connection is private.

There are many reasons why an organisation may choose to have a VPN. VNPs can reduce firms need to hire dedicated secure long-distance lines to transmit data, as they use the existing infrastructure in place which the internet uses.

VNPs also reduce the need for long-distance telephone calls, which can often be very costly, therefore reducing them could save a business a lot of money!

As a VPN is a way of privately and securely connecting, it therefore be used to access the internet anonymously. That links back to what Ranveer discussed in terms of browsing the net anonymously. The way a VPN works, the data you request from a website when browsing, would go through the VPN first, before it gets to you, therefore if you are in the UK and the VPN is in the US, the site would think you were in the US due to it being the VPN requesting the data. Make sense?

There are definitely benefits of having a VPN for businesses, and if secure data needs to be shared to remote locations, it is one of the safest. That said, if the host has an unreliable IP, then the entire network is affected. Furthermore, they can also be costly to set up, as you need expert knowledge to establish them, which is why many organisations choose to outsource them, offloading the costs onto a third party who’s core business is VPN, and can therefore offer the service cheaper.

Do you have access to a VPN as part of your work? I would be interested to know, so if you do feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

How to safely operate a bring your own device policy

Technology is growing by leaps and bounds and companies of every size are constantly looking for ways to leverage all of the benefits that these technological advances can bring them. It may not be cost effective for companies of any size to jump on every single new technological wonder, even when the price of technology is at an all-time low.

There is a way for companies to benefit from the latest and greatest technological gadgets without having to make any type of monetary investment. Portable devices are making their ways into the hands of people all over the world. Just about everyone has a smartphone, and tablet computers are quickly becoming the norm.

Many companies are choosing to adopt a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy in order to take advantage of these technological advances without incurring any type of costs, but there are security risks involved with a Bring Your Own Device Policy. Here are five things that companies can do to ensure their data does not end up in the wrong hands.

Know who is accessing data, and what devices they are using to do it

The very first step towards a successful ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy is understanding what types of devices are being used to access data. It is also important to understand which employees are accessing which data.

A security audit is a great way for businesses to get a better understanding of exactly what types of devices are being used by employees to access sensitive corporate data. This will help a company determine exactly how to move on to the next step in securing their data in the mobile world.

Decide what data devices can access

The very first conclusion that many companies are jumping to is restricting access to corporate networks via personal devices. This is not the right choice. A security audit should have identified what types of devices are accessing the network.

The next step to properly protect data is to classify it and the networks that are being used to send and retrieve the data. By classifying data, businesses will be able to get a much better look at the areas that need protection, and the areas that do not. Once the data has been classified it will be much easier to see the bigger picture. Companies will be able to set forth a policy that allows certain groups of people access to certain areas of data.

Identify problem apps

Not every app will play nice. Some apps have been known to have huge security vulnerabilities. These apps, without notice to the user can copy and send address lists and personal photos through the corporate network.

The two most popular mobile device operating systems are both guilty of these two examples. iOS which powers Apple devices, and the Android operating system have both been known to have these same security problems. Once the problem apps are identified, they can be prevented from being installed through company networks. Another solution is to restrict app downloads to a company approved app market place.

Create company policies to help reduce mobile security problems

Once these other issues have been addressed, companies will need to create strict policies that will teach employees what can and cannot be done with their own devices on a company network. If an employee uses their own mobile device to conduct work in the work place, a strict policy should dictate what he or she can or can’t do with the device. These policies must also have strict repercussions for any employee that chooses to violate them.

Enforcing policy with software

A security key on a keyboardThere are several solutions on the market that can and will help corporations manage all of this information. These resolutions are called Mobile Device Management Solutions. These types of solutions will allow corporations to enforce the policies that have been set during all of the previous steps.

A mobile device management solution will protect data, manage apps, address mobile device security, protect content, and protect emails. A mobile device management system will also be compatible with every major mobile device operating system on the market.

Allowing employees to use their own portable devices should not present a security breach to any company regardless of its size. Proper planning will always be the best way to prevent any sort of problems.

What are the risks of getting infected by malicious software?

Have you ever thought of what is going to happen when you are infected by a computer malware? About a decade ago, computer virus aims were to replicate themselves and destroying key operating system functions. If you got a computer malware infection at that time, most probably your operating system will be corrupted by the malware and you will need to format your hard disk to solve your problem.

Today, malicious software behaves a little different. We have more than 10 types of computer security threats such as virus, trojan, worms, spyware and many more. Each type of malware has their own speciality and here are top 3 risks of getting infected by a computer malware.

1. Having your login credentials stolen

It is very popular today that a keylogger/keystroke logging is used to log a victim’s login credentials. Once the keylogger has a set of your username and password, they can login into the account and do almost everything unless your account is protected by a two factor authentication.

2. Losing hard disk space

Hard disk space today can be very cheap but we should not waste it on storing malicious software. Malware such as worms will replicate in your operating system and take up your hard disk space. You will not feel the burden at the beginning but as the process gets longer, you will start to feel the pain of having insufficient disk space.

3. Spending money on unnecessary stuff

There is also a type of malware where they scare you off by telling you that your computer has hundreds of infections which you actually don’t have. Upon scaring you, they urge you to purchase a bogus antivirus which claims that can clean all the mentioned infections. All in all, you end up actually paying for nothing.

4. Being part of a minion for DDoS attack

Have you ever thought of how DDoS can bring thousands to millions of traffic to a server? It is actually all the computers which are infected with some sort of trojan that explains how the attacker can have such massive amount of traffic. By getting a malware infection, you are at risk of becoming part of this big project which you do not want to be.

5. Losing your privacy

Another form of malware which is known as spyware is built to spy your daily activities. By knowing your daily activities, the attacker will be able to understand you better before attacking you. For instance, if you regularly surf to adult sites, the attacker will probably start off with some fake adult material to lure you into their trap.

Looking at someones internet usageBack to you now, are you able to take all the risks mentioned? If you are not, be sure you have a good habit when it comes to internet and computer security and always remember that having an antivirus and firewall is not sufficient for a good security.