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Security Matters

The past few years have proven to be a sensational and enlightening as far as breaches of data on a massive scale involving huge companies are concerned. For that reason, we're going to say right from the outset that in today's smartphone-centric world it's always wise to be especially conscious of your online security.

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Throughout the history of computer-based data collection, there have been numerous data leaks. However, the most recent data security breaches are especially alarming given the scale of the infiltration (the number of users affected) and the sensitive nature of the data involved. For instance, the widely used cloud storage service Dropbox, the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn, and tech giant Yahoo have all had their security protocols comprised by skilled hackers who were able to then gain access to the accounts of literally millions of users. 

The reliance on technology in general and on the internet specifically has now become an obvious and essential component of daily life for the vast majority of citizens. You need to log on for everything from these days: from booking a flight, to dating, to looking for a job, doing your banking, and keeping up with friends and current events on the social networks. All of this leaves behind a digital footprint, with credit card numbers, social security numbers, banking information, passwords, and other vital and valuable information potentially up for grabs. Hackers are motivated by greed and this data is a hot commodity on the black market. This shows why there is an increasing need for password security and data protection methods.

Even the Biggest Corporations are Victims of Hackers

This is the potentially very dangerous reality that we are living in 2020. It is a reality that is rife with security failures and the constant threat of data loss, theft, and even identity theft. It's not just individual users who are at risk either; to properly show the scope of the problem, here is a breakdown of just four of the most infamous data breaches which have occurred in the past few years.

Facebook

One of the most recent and most alarming data security failures occurred in September of 2018 when hackers were able to cleverly exploit the see how others see your profile aspect of Facebook. To make a long (and very complicated) story short, the team of sophisticated cybercriminals was able to steal a large number of access tokens. 

With these virtual tokens they were able to then able to access the corresponding FaceBook accounts without having to ever go back and login with the password—much the same way you are used to simply logging straight into your FaceBook account doing nothing more than typing the letter "F" into your web browser. 

More than 50 million Facebook users were affected by this ingenious Facebook hack and although the problem has been rectified and the world's largest social network is no longer vulnerable in this respect, it behoves us to once again remind everyone to always log off after each Facebook session and even considering methods such as VPN services to prevent data loss and identity theft via Facebook. There are some great reviews on VPNs so you can find the one that will offer you the most protection.

British Airways

One of the world's most successful and reliable airlines fell victim to an internet hack that exposed slightly more than 380,000 client credit card numbers—these credit card numbers were left completely out in the open so to speak. As the spokesperson of British Airways himself has already readily admitted, this highly sensitive data ("YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER!") was pilfered directly from the company's website and mobile app.

In this case, the hackers deployed a sort of malware in order to capture and then redirect the information they were after to a clandestine server farm in Romania. 

JobandTalent

The famous job search engine preferred by service industry workers, tradesmen, and college students was also cyberattacked two years ago, with the personal data of roughly 10,000,000 users being breached....and that's just in Spain! 

The data harvested in this hack includes names, emails, and the password used to access this popular job website. 

Ticketmaster

Everyone's favorite place to purchase tickets to sporting events and concerts was also infected by malware. More than 40,000 Ticketmaster users were victimized by this hack. In this case, the Achilles' heel was a third party software product designed by the company Inbenta technologies. 

Protecting Your Online Footprint With A VPN

A VPN is essential for anyone wishing to secure their data from hacking and/or have access to sites that are blocked or censored. They are also essential for anyone who wants a solid guarantee of privacy or faster streaming. With a reliable service, you will have the security and speed of a private network while using the Web.

ExpressVPN

Express's network covers 94 countries, with 2000 servers and excellent speeds. It offers a wide range of apps and browser extensions. Its privacy policy is attractive to those wishing for anonymous browsing. It has a strict no-logging policy. Once you're connected to the server, your data is encrypted and hidden from hackers or anyone else who might wish to see or use it. It does record some minimal information, e.g. date (not time) you're connected to its server, amount of data used, etc. but nothing that would risk compromising security or privacy. There is a 30-day trial period with a full refund for unsatisfied customers. For customer queries and problems, there's a live chat support service. There are cheaper VPNs out there, but Express does have a service that matches its pricing.

AirVPN

With 220 servers, this Italian provider is committed to privacy and transparency. It boasts being the brainchild of "hacktivists and activists", with guarding users' privacy a priority. It guarantees its users a minimum allocated bandwidth of 4Mb/s for downloads and uploads. It has a good range of payment plans, including a cheap three-day trial period. On the minus side, it has fewer server locations than many of its competitors, and long-distance connections may sometimes be difficult.

TunnelBear

This is a simple service that would be ideal for those unfamiliar with navigating the complexities of VPNs. All you need is an email address to start using it. Privacy-wise, it doesn't record any of the user's online activity - it has a strict no-logging policy, with no storing of data on IP addresses, DNS queries, or any apps, websites or services used by its clients. A user-friendly provider suitable for beginners, it offers a free service, but this has a 500Mb limit and is, therefore, suitable only as a means of testing the quality. The downside of this service is the limited range of settings and often unreliable quality of long-distance connections. It does not allow torrenting.

NordVPN

This Panama-based provider with over 5000 servers is a favorite of privacy-conscious users, as its location means it's beyond the reach of data storage and reporting laws. Users' activities are not monitored, recorded or logged. Customers using conventional payment methods have their billing information recorded, but NordVPN gives the option of paying anonymously by Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. It offers a wide range of streaming features, as well as a kill switch to avoid inadvertent IP leaks, plus DNS leak protection. It offers 24/7 live chat support (albeit sometimes with copy-paste replies to queries) as well as an email service for customer inquiries.

Private Internet Access

This provider is economically priced with an impeccable record of protecting user privacy, with 3500 servers in 31 countries. It offers P2P support with no torrenting limits. It has a firm policy of not logging user activity, a fact it made clear to law enforcement when asked for data about a suspected hoaxer in 2016. It features a kill switch to prevent IP leakage, and payment can be made anonymously with Bitcoin or Zcash. The fact that it's based in the US has made some potential users wary of its long-term reliability for guarding privacy, but it has an unblemished record so far in this area. Drawbacks noted by customers are limited speeds and sometimes unsatisfactory customer support.

All of the providers listed above have something in common - there is a charge for the service, although in some cases a very limited version may be used without payment. There's a saying, "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product", and this certainly applies to VPN providers. Such a service can't be run for free, and there are only minimal opportunities to cover the cost by advertising, etc. Designing the system is costly, and there are the servers and the technical support to be paid for. Any offer of an unlimited free VPN should be viewed with extreme caution. There's a good chance it will steal your bandwidth and sell it at a profit. Let the buyer beware.

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