The Federal government on Friday announced the indefinite suspension of Twitter operations in the country. This left many Nigerians with no other choice but to engage the services VPN providers as an alternative option to access Twitter and other social media networks.
A virtual private network — better known as a VPN — is a key path for digital anonymity.
Checks shows that using a VPN understandably makes one feel invincible, but there are still a few important risks involved that should one keep in mind.
VPNs provide two of the most important services which are encryption and virtual IP addresses.
Encryption locks data in a layer of unbreakable code while virtual IP addresses help one to gain access to virtual, non-local IP addresses.
But a user on Twitter @Ohmsmaestro after the suspension said, “I have been warning some people to avoid doing any bank transactions via VPN. VPN is just like a router.
“It reroutes your request via another means, bypassing your network providers. Those at the other end can monitor what you are sending over the network.”
With VPNs, you can still access the free internet through a tunnel. But can you trust the provider? Here are five dangers associated with using untrusted VPNs;
Choosing the wrong VPN – One of the central dangers of using a VPN is choosing the wrong one.
Free services that advertise on browser extension stores and mobile marketplaces are notorious for claiming fast downloads and anonymized activities when in reality they can be more dangerous than not using a VPN at all.
All devices aren’t automatically protected – If you use VPN software to protect your PC or smartphone, that’s the only device that gets protected.
In order to keep data safe, you must install an app on every device that connects to the internet (or else use a VPN router).
Viruses and malware are still a threat – Most VPNs do not protect your computer from viruses or malware.
You’ll still need to be mindful of downloading suspicious files, especially through torrent and P2P networks.
Speed issues – VPN will often slow your connection speed by 10-25% depending on the service, all thanks to encryption overhead.
This can be frustrating if you frequently stream HD movies or do a lot of online gaming.
Fake VPN scams – In an ironic twist, many online hackers rely on scamming those who are working the hardest to avoid scams.
This means that consumers should be wary of free anti-virus installers, fake ‘alert’ pop-ups, and, yes, VPN software.
In the worst case, however, they also sell or supply data to government authorities. Even if the provider promises not to sell the data, it is already a risk that the data is stored at all.
Not a day goes by without a new data leak being reported, whether due to poor security or criminal hacker attacks.
Users Data Privacy – If a VPN service doesn’t charge its customers, the company has to bring in revenue from somewhere else. All your data makes a detour via the VPN provider. But do you really know the company and what it’s about? Essentially, you will have to trust your provider to maintain data privacy.
The most common source is selling user information the VPN promised to protect. If you aren’t paying for the service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. This holds true for nearly every free VPN service.
So dear readers, the main concern is simple – you need to trust the VPN provider itself to look after your data. You also need to be certain that the app you are using is a genuine VPN, and not itself a scam.