VPN Services, Protecting Your Identity

When you think about a VPN in the traditional business context, you think of connecting your remote computer or multiple locations together via a virtual private network (VPN), using the Internet or some other media.  The VPN piece of the solution creates a secure connection over a non-secure media, such as the Internet.

The term VPN has been expanded to include the ability for users to send and receive data while remaining anonymous and secure online.  There are many VPN service providers out there, some are free, and others charge about $3 to $7 per month.  If you are truly concerned about security, you should not use the free service providers.  For the most part, they have very limited features and with the price being free, you need to consider how they are making money, and how serious they are concerned about protecting you.

How Do These VPNs Work:  Typically, you have to install client software on your computer.  The client allows you to securely connect to another network.  Once connected to this third-party network, your traffic will be sent to the Internet through one of many (often many thousands) of IP addresses from all over the world.  When you surf the web or access any web services, all your traffic will appear as if it was coming from the third party.  The technical term for this is obfuscation (to make things confusing or ambiguous, hide or conceal).

Key Performance and Protection Items:  The more IP addresses a VPN service has, the harder it will be for your identity to be discovered.  Network speed performance is based on the performance of the VPN servers to receive and resend your traffic.  These two items typically drive the cost of the service.  The process of selecting a VPN service provider must include reviews that include performance, support, and privacy.  You need to spend the time to   understand what you can expect from these service providers.

Another key item to consider is, what country the VPN company is in and what country the servers are located in.  Each country has their own privacy laws and based on where the company is located and where the servers are located, it will affect the overall privacy of the traffic you will be sending through these providers.

Potential Issues with VPN Services:

  • Performance: If your VPN service provider has issues, you will be affected by their performance (meaning slow Internet browsing and responses).
  • Access to Sites and Services: You may get blocked from sites you usually visit or need.   Many firewalls are being configured to do Geo blocking/permit.  If the IP address you are assigned to surf from is in a range that belongs to a country that the firewall is programmed to block, you will be denied access to the site (you can typically override the client if necessary).  More advanced service providers will let you choose what country you want your traffic to originate from.
  • Privacy: If you are seeking the service of a VPN, you are most likely doing so to maintain anonymity.  As mentioned earlier, every country has their own privacy laws.  The privacy of your traffic going through the VPN will be based on the country that the VPN service provider is located and the physical location of the servers they are operating.

For a recent review of current VPN service providers follow this link to cnet.com’s “The Best VPN Services for 2019” written by David Gerwirtz, July 11, 2019 https://www.cnet.com/best-vpn-services-directory/?ftag=CMG-01-10aaa1b

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Posted by Jack Gerbs in Cybersecurity, Information Security, Recent Posts, Small Business, Virtualization

New Introduction Video from our CEO, Jack

Posted by Charles Wright in Cybersecurity, Information Security, Physical Security, Recent Posts, Small Business, Telephone Systems, Virtualization, Wireless

Capital One Data Breach from My Perspective

Capital One was breached and had 106 million applicants’ information stolen. This breach is one of the largest data breaches to occur. In comparison, the Equifax breach affected 150 million people. Capital One’s breach included 100 million US and 6 million Canadian applicants. These numbers are significant because with the US population estimated at being 330 million people, including minors, this means the breach affects an incredible percentage of US adults.

How did this happen? Capital One has embraced a cloud strategy and uses Amazon’s cloud services. Paige A. Thompson, a 33-year-old, hacked through Capital One’s firewall and was able to steal the applicant data. The stolen data includes applicant information from 2005 to early 2019. The data elements included in the breach include: addresses, dates of birth, self-reported income, social security numbers, bank account numbers, email addresses and more. Fortunately, only 140,000 social security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers were stolen. This is a very small percentage of the overall breach. Additionally, no credit card numbers or user passwords were stolen. The criminal complaint against Ms. Thompson is, she intended to sell the data on-line. Capital One has stated that it is unlikely the stolen information was disseminated or used for fraud.

What you need to know and do: Because no passwords were stolen, there is no immediate threat of fraudulent bank or credit card transactions. If data was successfully sold on the Dark Web, you can expect an increase in social engineering attacks targeted to individuals and businesses. These attacks will be in the form of SPAM emails, telephone calls, etc. Everyone needs to understand how crafty these criminals are in creating messages that look legitimate.

WARNING: Criminals always take advantage of a crisis. If you receive an email from Capital One advising that you were affected by the breach, it could be a SPAM email. Always verify the link in any email before you click (“Think Before you Click-It”). Even better, don’t click on any links in emails. It is a better practice to go directly to the company’s web site by typing in the URL in a new browser.

Remember: It typically takes more than one thing to go wrong for a company to suffer an IT security incident. For more information on protecting or managing your network, contact Quanexus at www.quanexus.com or call 937-885-7272.

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Posted by Jack Gerbs in Cybersecurity, Information Security

Ever Wonder What Happened to Equifax and their Big Breach?

Equifax will be required to pay at least $575 million for a security breach that took place in 2017. The breach was the largest hack in US history, exposing sensitive information of 150 million people. The information compromised included names, Social Security numbers, drivers’ license numbers, and addresses.

The settlement includes $300 million for effected consumers who purchased credit monitoring services after the announcement of the breach. That number could grow to $425 million if claims exceed the initial $300 million. Equifax also agreed to pay $175 million to states and $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in penalties.

Those consumers affected by the data breach will be eligible for free credit monitoring, and those who have already paid for credit monitoring will be eligible for a $125 cash payment.

Equifax will also be required to provide all US consumers with six free credit reports per year for seven years. This is an increase from the usual two reports per year that all credit agencies are currently required to provide free of charge.

Equifax was aware of the security flaw in their website a full two months before hackers used it to find customers’ personal information. Additionally, after the breach occurred, Equifax waited three months to notify consumers. These two major mishandlings of the security of their data prompted the resignation of CEO Richard Smith.

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Posted by Charles Wright in Recent Posts