With the increasing prevalence of online data breaches, many of us are looking for ways to protect our information and keep it out of the hands of cybercriminals. A VPN is a fantastic tool for internet security, but can it protect you from a data breach?
What is a data breach?
A data breach is an incident in which personal information is accessed without authorisation, lost or is stolen. Data breaches tend to occur in the digital sphere, with cybercriminals targeting large organisations in the hope that their security measures are not strong enough to withhold a hacking attempt.
Data breaches can be quite distressing to both individuals and businesses. A cybercriminal will likely sell any information in their possession on the dark web, which can result in identity theft and a range of other serious personal repercussions.
From a business’ perspective, a data breach can result in a severe lack of consumer trust and costly financial consequences.
Will a VPN protect me from a data breach?
First up, what is a VPN? A VPN — or virtual private network — is an essential security tool that can be used to encrypt your personal information whilst you are browsing, streaming and chatting online. Many security experts recommend the use of a VPN in all situations. Not only will it protect your data from snooping eyes, but it also re-routes your IP address so that your location remains completely secure and invisible.
A VPN will stop cybercriminals, government organisations and other monitoring bodies from interrupting your connection, and eavesdropping on your information and location. It will not, however, prevent online criminals from hacking into secure servers and stealing your personal details. If you have provided your information to an online business or organisation, using a VPN does not reduce the likelihood that their systems will be breached.
Whats more, some VPN providers may actually increase the chances of your information being stolen. Free VPNs in particular are notorious for failing to adequately protect the privacy of their customers or even worse, selling information onto third parties in order to make a profit.
What to do if you are a victim of a data breach
A data breach can happen to anyone. The more online websites you provide your information to, the more likely that your personal details will be compromised.
Many countries have laws which state that organisations must inform consumers should their information be breached. Receiving this type of news can be very distressing, which is why it’s a good idea to have an action plan which can be immediately implemented to mitigate any damage.
Such actions can include:
- Finding out what type of data was stolen.
- Accept any offer by the breached company to help. This can include credit monitoring, identity theft protection and dark web monitoring.
- Change all of your online passwords, particularly if you have used the same password for multiple accounts.
- Contact any additional third parties who can help. This will vary depending on the type of information that has been stolen. Contact your bank should you believe your financial details have been breached, the tax office if your tax file number is at risk and the federal government if your Medicare, driver’s license or passport details have been stolen.
In short, for all the benefits that a VPN offers, the technology will not always protect you from a data breach — particularly if you sign up with a free VPN provider. The fact of the matter is, we are not always in control of our data. The best that you can do is remain up to date with the latest cyber threats and be aware of the steps you need to take should your data be exposed.
Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.