Free VPNs Are Not Your Friend

Prior to the pandemic, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) weren’t in the toolbox of the average office worker. Many of us sat down at our desk and logged into our computer, websites, and programs, then got started on our day.

Whatever we needed was a click away, our access already nestled into a secure network. Work-from-home has changed the game and requires a security boost wherever possible.

VPNs help with that by establishing secure connections, protecting your privacy, and allowing you to access your work network from home or anywhere else.

At a glance, VPNs seem to function similarly to remote desktop connections, which many businesses are more familiar with now, however they have some key differences. A remote desktop connection allows you to control a specific computer via software while a VPN provides encrypted access to a network while away.

If you’re interested in a VPN for business or personal use, it can be tempting to go with a free option – but be careful. Some freeware (software published for free download) can be a great find, but much like work shoes or your mattress, you want to find something that does its job well, even if it costs a little more.

Cheap shoes and mattresses may leave your body sore while a free VPN could be a gigantic security risk to your company or home network.

Like many freeware programs, you can’t always trust a developer. There’s usually a catch, and for VPNs, that comes at the price of security. VPN services aren’t cheap to provide, for one, and the free ones aren’t shared out of charity; they likely have interest in selling your data, bombarding you with ads, infecting you with malware, or stealing your identity.

One of the main motivations for using a VPN in the first place is to create a secure connection. A paid service will provide that – that’s what they’re there for and that subscription is how fund their operations. A free service, however, is unlikely to have the same level of security or the same capability to patch vulnerabilities, even if they have good intentions.

Additionally, you want whatever VPN you use to actually work. Free VPN services can’t support users the same way as a paid service. At best, they can be slow, lagging, or non-functional while their resources are spread thin across their userbase. At worst, you may be roped into some shady cybercriminal practices like botnets.

If you’re a small business looking to set up a VPN, we recommend researching which of the trusted, big-name VPN providers match your needs and budget.

Many come with free trials so you can test them out before you buy. If you have a managed service provider like Tech Experts or an IT department, please reach out to your technology partner and ask about options.

A secure VPN service is worth the cost to protect yourself from cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and identity theft. Free is nice, but it’s better to take advantage of free things that don’t have the potential to infect and bring down your company’s network. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000 to learn more.

Using Public Wi-Fi? Consider A VPN

With more of us working remotely now, coffee shops are getting busier again as we look for somewhere other than home to work. But while it can be great for getting rid of distractions, it’s not so good for security.

That’s because public Wi-Fi is a hotspot for data theft. Any data sent over public Wi-Fi that doesn’t need a password to access is vulnerable to theft or manipulation from someone else using that network.

And it’s not just other Wi-Fi traffic you need to consider. There are also fake networks to be wary of. You think you’re connecting to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi… but how do you know it isn’t a fake version with the same name?

As soon as you log on, they can suck up all of your credentials and any other personal data on your device.

If your team is using public Wi-Fi regularly, best practice is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to keep your data safe. This acts as a private tunnel for your device to connect to a private network, keeping your info safe.

Work From Anywhere: How A VPN Can Help You

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Work. Most of us have to do it and, typically, we spend around a third of our lives doing it. While you are already dedicating a third of your life to your job, sometimes there is a need to get more work done.

The old statement that “there aren’t enough hours in the day” really applies to a lot of hardworking people who go above and beyond the expected contribution.

The dependency on technology is constantly increasing and, because of this, many of us have jobs that depend on computers.

Often, these jobs require us to be at work in our office, whether it be to run applications hosted on the work server or to access documents.

So, say you have a few extra hours of work to do. You need to use a program at your office or maybe just some stored documents. Now, you have to go in to the office on a day off… unless you have a VPN setup.

What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The internal network at your office would be considered a private network.

The IP addresses are not broadcasted for everyone to see and there is almost certainly some sort of security device keeping unwanted traffic out.

With a VPN, it creates a tunnel from your computer to your office, creating the illusion that you are actually inside that private network.

The VPN program will put your computer on the network virtually, hence the name Virtual Private Network.

The concept of a VPN and how it works is fairly straightforward. You may be asking yourself how safe it is. A VPN is typically viewed as one of the best layers of protection, not just for connecting to a network offsite, but for also hiding the data transmitted while doing so.

In theory, data transmitted over a VPN cannot be accessed or intercepted. This is why a VPN is viewed as a simple and safe way to access your private network, as well as to browse the Internet privately (private does not mean anonymous).

What are all the things a VPN can do for you?
A correctly configured VPN can put you on a network from anywhere where you have an Internet connection.

With a VPN setup, you can now work on those documents. You can use your software that is only available in the office where the database is hosted. You can even send print jobs over the VPN to a printer in your office. A fellow staff member needs a document printed and you are at home? No problem, you can send the request just like you were at your desk.

Who needs a VPN?
While a VPN doesn’t benefit everyone, it sure can make your life a little easier if you’re a road warrior, and maybe even score you some more time at home.

The cost and setup of a VPN is not at all daunting, making it a viable option for anyone with a need to access files and programs they normally couldn’t without being in their office.

How Can You Improve Your Online Privacy?

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

You have probably heard about the myriad of security blunders that have plagued the business and IT worlds. We’ve seen considerable security and privacy miscues from some of the world’s biggest businesses, organizations, and government agencies.

This includes data breaches, attacks from hackers, privacy concerns, and theft where massive amounts of private user data were lost and/or misplaced. If major institutions can fall victim to these privacy and security lapses, then so can individuals and society at large.

The Internet can certainly be a scary, confusing place, especially for the uninitiated, but there are many ways in which you can protect yourself, mitigate risk, and increase your privacy while having an online presence.

Use Strong Passwords For Your Sensitive Accounts
Using strong, unique passwords (symbols, long phrases, capitalization, punctuation) can help you avoid that gut-wrenching feeling that you get when you realize that someone has hacked your account and has access to your personal information. Not knowing what’s going to happen to your work or your memories is something no one wants to experience.

Creating strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts is a smart practice. The reason is quite simple: if one of your online accounts is hacked, then the others will soon follow. Consider a password manager like LastPass or Keeper to create, store, and manage your passwords.

Don’t Allow Or Accept Cookies From Third Parties
The purpose of the computer cookie is to help websites keep track of your visits and activity for convenience. Under normal circumstances, cookies cannot transfer viruses or malware to your computer.

However, some viruses and malware may try to disguise themselves as cookies, replicating after deletion or making it easier for parties you can’t identify to watch where you are going and what you are doing online.

Because cookies are stored in your web browser, the first step is to open your browser. Each browser manages cookies in a different location. For example, in Internet Explorer, you can find them by clicking “Tools” and then “Internet Options.” From there, select “General” and “Browsing history” and “Settings.”

In Chrome, choose “Preferences” from the Chrome menu in the navigation bar, which will display your settings. Then expand the “Advanced” option to display “Privacy and security.” From there, open “Content settings” and “Cookies.”

Use A VPN Or VPN Provider
A virtual private network, or VPN, can help you secure your web traffic and protect your anonymity online from snoops, spies, and anyone else who wants to steal or monetize your data.

A VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service. All external Internet traffic is routed through this tunnel, so your data is secure from prying eyes. Best of all, your computer appears to have the IP address of the VPN server, masking your identity.

To understand the value of a VPN, it helps to think of some specific scenarios in which a VPN might be used. Consider the public Wi-Fi network, perhaps at a coffee shop or airport.

Normally, you might connect without a second thought. But do you know who might be watching the traffic on that network? If you connect to that same public Wi-Fi network using a VPN, you can rest assured that no one on that network will be able to intercept your data.

Additional tips: keep your Windows operating system and your applications such as Microsoft Office up to date at all times, don’t post private information on your social media accounts, and use browser ad/tracking blockers.

Virtual Private Networks: What, Who And Why


Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

In our modern world, it is tough to come by anyone born within the last two generations who doesn’t use a smart phone, tablet, or other personal computing device daily.

With the ongoing tech revolution comes continuous news of hacked users, mass data collection, and online tracking reported by mainstream news outlets.

This is the reason Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming a necessity as computer users conduct more and more of their day-to-day lives online.

What Is A Virtual Private Network?
A VPN is a group of computers or networks linked together over an Internet connection. All the information sent or received over the Internet is automatically encrypted when connected to a VPN.

Typically, VPN services offer the highest forms of encryption to protect said data, providing peace of mind for anyone conducting personal or business-related tasks where sensitive information may be present.

As the technology has evolved, VPN applications have become very easy to install and operate. Many of the popular personal-use VPN software developers have made it as simple as installing the app and turning the VPN service on.

Premium VPN services even allow users to choose to mask their IP address, making it appear as though you are accessing the Internet from an entirely different country, which can be quite useful if you do not like your web activity tracked by ad-targeting websites like Facebook or YouTube or your Internet Service Provider.

Who Most Commonly Uses VPNs?
Many different individuals and organizations use VPNs for varying reasons, but the need for a strong layer of security is the fundamental purpose for everyone.

From a business standpoint, VPNs can be easily set up and maintained so that employees can securely access company resources and tools from anywhere on any network or Internet connection without the fear of having sensitive information intercepted.

Further, this encompasses all aspects of a business’ need for security of payroll information, employee and customer information, scheduling, and any other confidential company documentation.

The population of personal VPN users has expanded dramatically in the past year. VPNs are the perfect solution for frequent travelers and those who value their privacy, which has become increasingly difficult to maintain.

Why Should You Use a VPN?
Most of us consider ourselves law-abiding “digizens,” using networks for entertainment, communication and knowledge – but other net users may not be so nice or trustworthy.

A VPN can protect you by concealing your web activities from those with prying eyes under layers of encryption that makes all of your web traffic nearly impossible to intercept or track.

This is especially relevant if you are a frequent user of public Wi-Fi networks, such as your favorite lunch spot or coffee shop. The act of accessing vital information on your devices through a public network is easier than most realize.

Given this, I highly recommend the use of a VPN for your daily Internet use, whether it is personal or professional.

Joining the privatized world of VPNs is an easy and extremely beneficial process.

VPN providers are generally friendly and typically on hand to help should a problem arise.

If you are just getting started with VPNs, consider acquainting yourself more in-depth through a Google search of the top VPN applications and their different features.

Remote Employees And Network Connections

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As businesses begin to downsize their ecological footprint, the need for remote or satellite employees grows. Business leaders and owners are now faced with the daunting question on how to allow remote employees access to their existing network without compromising network security.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of VPN.

VPNs allow secure access to business resources by creating encrypted pass-throughs via the Internet. The Internet, combined with present-day VPN technology, allows businesses a low cost and secure means to extend their networks to their remote employees.

The two most common methods in which to set up remote access are IPsec (IP Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Both methods work well and both have their advantages depending on the needs and size of your business.

VPNs created using SSL technology provide remote-access connection from almost any Internet-enabled location or device using a web browser interface.

No special client software needs to be preinstalled on either device. This makes SSL VPNs a true “anytime, anywhere” connection to company-managed desktops.

There are two different SSL VPN connections to choose from: clientless and full network access.

Clientless requires no special software. All traffic is transmitted and delivered through a web browser.

There is no need to install or download any unique software to establish the connection. With clientless access, only web-enabled programs and apps are able to be accessed, such as email, network file servers and local intranet sites.

Even with such limited access to network resources, this style of connection is well-suited for most businesses.c868266_m

Additionally, because there is no need for special software to be supported by the IT department, businesses can cut down on managed overhead.

A full network access VPN allows access to almost any program, application, network server, and resource connected to your business network. Unlike clientless access, full network access connection is made through the use of VPN client software. Because the client access software is dynamically downloaded and updated, it requires little or no desktop support.

As with clientless access, you have the ability to customize each connection based on employee access privileges. If your remote employees require the full functionality of installed programs and applications as if they were sitting inside the office building, utilizing a full network VPN connection is the obvious choice.

IPsec based VPNs are the staple of remote-access connection technology. IPsec VPN connections are created by using installed VPN client software on the user’s workstation and connecting device.

Client software allows for greater customizability by modifying the VPN client software. Businesses are able to configure and maintain the appearance and function of the VPN client, which allows for easier implementation for connections with other desktops, kiosks, and other special need cases.

Many businesses find that IPsec connections meet their requirements for the users, but the advantages of self-updating desktop software, accessibility from non-company managed devices, and customizable user access make SSL VPNs a front runner for remote-access connections to your office.

If you have any questions or would like more information about how a VPN can help your company, you can reach Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)