Technology has been immensely useful to mankind. Take the computer and the Internet, for instance. With the invention of these powerful technological tools, the world not only became a more connected place but also a lot of opportunities were created and new advancements made. If we look back, we will realize that most of the advancements of the world would be impossible without digital technology.
But, as useful as the Internet is, there are also various challenges and risks people who browse the web face. When the Internet first came about it may not have been capable of much but there were far fewer risks.
No one had heard of criminals stealing money from an e-bank account or hacking credit cards online. However, these days, such incidents are commonplace.
From stolen credit card details to stolen call logs to stolen personal information, nothing is safe online anymore.
A New World
Robbers used to break in houses, but they now hack networks and rob things digitally, without leaving a trace. Therefore, to keep things safe, the everyday Internet user needs an additional layer of security.
The virtual private network is one such technology that offers a higher level of online security. However, these security solutions aren’t totally safe either. VPNs or VPN proxy extensions have their own vulnerabilities and can be as unsafe as not using a security solution at all.
But before we talk about the vulnerabilities, let’s find out what VPNs are and what they do.
What is a Virtual Private Network?
VPN had its beginning in 1996. What we know as a VPN today did not originate in one day. Several separate inventions led to the creation of the VPN.
In 1996, Gurdeep Singh-Pall invented the Point to Point Tunneling Protocol, a major milestone that paved the way for the virtual private network. PPTP was one of the earliest security protocols for virtual private networks.
Although newer and more secure protocols have replaced it now, PPTP was the first security protocol that allowed Internet users to have a secure and more private connection from home.
So what does a VPN do exactly? In the simplest terms, a VPN is an application that protects online activities by keeping the Internet user anonymous on the web.
Once you establish a VPN connection, it hides your original IP address replaces it with that of the VPN server. This process basically enables you to surf the Internet anonymously. Websites can no longer figure out your IP address. Neither will apps you use on your smartphone be able to detect it.
Basically, the security protocols that a VPN is based on route the Internet traffic through a secure and encrypted tunnel. This tunneling process does not allow even the Internet service provider to know the activities of the user.
Because a VPN helps achieve a lot of purposes – from hiding the location of the user to unblocking content to making online transactions safely – it has gained massive popularity all over the world. So much so that nations like China and Russia have started to ban VPNs because they give users access to an uncensored Internet.
In the last one year or so the use of VPN around the world has increased by over 30 percent, with countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey leading the way.
How Safe is a VPN?
Virtual private networks come in various forms. Some are full-fledged applications that come at a premium price. For those that do not want to take the hassle of spending money on a security solution have the option to use VPN browser extensions.
Some premium VPN providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN even offer users VPN extensions as part of their subscriptions.
These types of a VPN come as part of the browser and are usually free to use. Because they mimic all the features of a standard VPN they have become very popular with a large number of people.
When it comes to wholesome internet security solutions most people have come to depend on a VPN. Almost everyone agrees that it does not get any more secure than a virtual private network.
However, recent researchers found that VPN extensions should not be called VPNs at all because they do not offer the same level of protection as the desktop app.
Even though people continue to use them because of their convenience, Internet security experts want that VPN browser extensions should be called proxy extensions instead of virtual private networks because all they do is secure your web browser and not any other activity.
When Not to use VPN Browser Extensions
It isn’t just for one reason the people use a VPN. For most people that use virtual private networks hiding their identity and being anonymous on the Internet are the most important purposes.
That’s what a proxy server does. It merely hides your original IP address to keep you anonymous on the Internet. However, they do not offer any other security features that are offered by a VPN.
Besides VPN browser extensions are often weak and vulnerable because of misconfigurations. Browsers also lead users to believe that a VPN extension is as secure as a VPN app. But that is far from the case. VPN browser extensions are vulnerable to IP and DNS leaks.
These threats make using browser extensions more dangerous than not using anything at all. There is another big threat when using these browser extensions. Virtual private networks are supposed to not keep logs of user activities.
At least that is what most reputed VPN services promise. However, when the VPN is attached to a browser, there is no doubt that the information is being tracked and logged by the browser company, even if there is a no logging policy on paper. There is usually no way to find out how the information is used.
Therefore, if you must use a virtual private network, it’s always the best option to purchase a reputed service that is logless and secure. Unless you are looking only to hide your original IP address and nothing else, it is best to steer clear of VPN browser extensions.