Privacy-conscious Internet users know that VPNs are a very useful tool to have when interacting with the online world. They are very efficient and effective in keeping your sensitive information safe and private from the outside world. But, even the most secure VPN services can be compromised. With that in mind, can a VPN get hacked and if so, how can it happen? Let's get right into it.
How VPNs Work
To understand how a VPN can be hacked, we need to appreciate the way these services operate. To most users, VPNs seem inherently unhackable. They encrypt the data and replace the user's real IP address with the IP of a remote server. Depending on which encryption protocol you choose, you will experience either a security-oriented protocol, a performance-oriented one, or a balanced VPN encryption protocol. These protocols serve to scramble readable data into completely nonsensical lines of text, making it useless to anyone who manages to get a hold of it.
How can a VPN be hacked?
There are two basic ways of how someone can hack into a VPN. They can obtain the encryption key through deceitful ways or break into the encryption by exploiting some ingrained vulnerability that exists within the service. With that said, the latter option requires far more skill and effort, which is why most VPN security breaches happen because the hackers manage to steal encryption keys. This was exactly what happened in the case of the NordVPN server breach. Although in that case, it was an expired key, the fact that the hackers still managed to get their hands on such a sensitive piece of information is concerning.
Can a VPN be directly hacked?
One thing that comes to mind after reading this is – can a hacker get directly into your computer? For example, can he directly disable your VPN service and infect your device with malware? In reality, this is a highly unlikely scenario, as he would have to surmount a massive obstacle in the form of your VPNs encryption protocol. VPN encryption standards have evolved exponentially in the past few years, and most services nowadays use an AES-256 encryption standard or better. Breaking that level of encryption would take years of effort with plenty of resources. Due to this, many hackers will simply avoid putting in the effort if the reward is not worth it.
Some Hacking Attempts That Surpass VPNs Defense Abilities
One of the most popular myths out there is that VPNs are immune to every hacking attempt if everything is set up correctly. However, some hacking techniques are simply just out of VPNs capabilities. Here are a couple of top-level hacking attempts that your VPN won't be able to protect you from:
- Cross-Site Scripting – Many global sites don't depend on a single server, but operate on several servers located all around the world. This is how the geo-target specific locations and offer individualized offers to each market. Though this is a very user-friendly way of running a site, it also exposes the platform to potential communication interceptions. The only way to deal with this possible threat is to regularly check servers and keep user information behind a tight lock, both of which are things you can't have any influence over.
- SQL Injection – Although this hacking technique requires a lot of skill from the hacker, those who know how to use the SQL language can insert malicious code into data-driven applications. Once a hacker infects a website with malicious code, he can gain access to any piece of data you share with the site, regardless if you're using a VPN or not. Similarly to the server breach that happened to NordVPN, the VPN is completely useless in this scenario, because the breach happens remotely.
Should You Still Use a VPN?
After all of this is said, you might be thinking whether using a VPN service even makes sense. The truth is that VPNs offer a wide spectrum of features that make them well worth the price. Some people use them to keep their information safe from prying eyes. Others use it to access geo-restricted sites and enjoy content from all corners of the world. Some even use VPNs for torrenting in privacy and share files online without having to worry about their ISP snooping on them. No matter which category you fall into, you can get a lot of value form a VPN for just a couple of bucks a month.
If you decide to subscribe to a VPN service, use it carefully and understand all of its strengths and weaknesses. That way, you will know what you can and cannot do. To sum up this article, we'll finish it just as we started - VPN services are very useful tools to have by your side when getting on the Internet. Use them correctly and you can rest assured that your data will be kept secure and private.
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