Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Their Role in Protecting Against Cyber Attacks

Virtual private network. Security encrypted connection.

Cyber attacks are on the rise.

This should come as no surprise because as the Internet population continues to grow at a breathtaking pace, so do those who prey on the users and the company’s vulnerable networks.

Cyber attacks take many different forms. From malware attacks using8 clever virus or ransomware strategies to phishing email scams that breach an innocent user’s false sense of security all the way to Denial of Service assaults where a company’s network is flooded with bogus traffic designed to prevent legitimate business requests from transacting.

This year will see a record number of Internet users surpassing 4.6 billion active surfers. On the dark side, it’s estimated there will be 445 million cyber-attacksr this year alone.

How your IT support staff or company prepares for these intrusive and often debilitating attacks is key to how quickly a business can respond and keep itself safely online.

4 Steps To Recovering From A Cyber Attack

For any Small-to-Medium- sized business owner, recovering from a Cyber attack or a security breach involves these procedures:

  1. Immediately securing the lines of defense at your organization.
  2. Understanding what to check for in your IT Infrastructure after your business has been impacted.
  3. Knowing whom to notify in the case that a Cyber attack has actually indeed happened.
  4. Having ready the kind of letter that should be written to the impacted parties (primarily those groups of customers, and any other third parties that you deal with, such as suppliers and distributors).
    There are many tools that can help fortify the lines of defense at your business. 

First off, you want your network structured to be hyper secure with rigid encryption software backed up by 2-factor authentication (2FA) protocols. A constant round of data backup will also be clutch in the case of any breach.

But another tool that can also better strengthen your attack defense position is often overlooked: the “Virtual Private Network” (VPN).

Essentially, with VPN technology, you are masking your network lines of communication.  For example, if your remote employee logs in to access resources which are located at your place of business, that particular connection will actually appear to be “invisible” to the outside world.

What Is A Virtual Private Network

A Virtual Private Network is essentially a dedicated network in and of itself.  It is highly specialized, with the main intention of securing the flow of communication between the sending and the receiving parties (with the example above, the former would be the corporate servers and the latter would be the remote employee attempting to login).

In its simplest form, the Virtual Private Network takes the data packet in which the plain text message (for example, the login credentials of the remote employee) resides in. This plain text message cannot just be sent by itself. It needs to have a vehicle in which to travel across the network medium, (which is the data packet), and then further encrypts it on as needed basis.

This encryption tool is actually just another data packet.  Meaning, the data packet which contains the plaintext message (the login credentials of your remote employee) is further wrapped inside by another data packet, in order to provide that extra layer of protection.

This process is technically known as “encapsulation”.

“Once this process has been accomplished, the Virtual Private Network then establishes a dedicated network connection, or even a dedicated network channel, in which the encapsulated data packet can be sent in,” explains Chad Lauterbach, CEO of Be structured, a leading Los Angeles-based Managed Service Provider.

Although this specific connection makes use of the public network infrastructure and related systems, this special type of network connection established and used by the Virtual Private Network cannot be seen by others, as this connection cannot be picked up by network sniffers.

Thus, when using a VPN, the user is routed through an encrypted forest to a server controlled by the VPN company. Now, your ISP and connection to your router is no longer visible. Your IP address is hidden since the traffic seems to emanate from the VPN’s server.

This makes it near impossible to detect your location. This adds an extra level of security onto your network where simply adding a secure server (“https”) may not be secure enough.

Limitations Of VPNs To Consider

As with any form of cyber attack, the criminals become more sophisticated by the day, hell, by the minute. So it’s nearly impossible to always be out in front of them on the defense side.

What a VPN won’t do is make your surfing patterns completely anonymous. One way to get closer to anonymity is to ask an IT service for its recommendations about anonymity software programs that then routes your data through several volunteer computers which then makes it near impossible to be tracked.

One of the most valued aspects of any good VPN is trust. A VPN should assure you that it will go to tremendous lengths to secure your data and online activities as possible. Sometimes, a VPN sales team will promise a ton of security that they cannot – or simply won’t – be able to deliver.

“We always tell our clients to let us do the legwork for you when it comes to recommending a quality, trusted VPN platform,” Be Structured’s Lauterbach contends. “If you spend the time to outsource your technical support, then let us be your eyes and ears to find what VPN and other security solutions will be the best suited for your company’s individual needs.”

Employing multiple security protocols above and beyond a VPN will always be key in creating the best offense by constructing an even better defense.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.