A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts all the data sent and received by a device connected to the internet. It does this by routing that data through the VPN’s private server. The core value of using a VPN is to prevent cybercriminals or internet service providers (ISPs) from snooping on or exploiting your unsecured internet activity.
A VPN protects you from this in three key ways, by allowing you to:
- Encrypt unencrypted communications sent to and from your device
- Disguise your browsing history
- Connect anytime, anywhere, from any device
Dashlane’s VPN is available to all paying customers as part of our suite of digital identity protection and control features.
1. Encrypt unencrypted communications sent to and from your device
Public WiFi is very convenient for people who like to connect on the go. If you’ve ever connected to WiFi at an airport, hotel, or coffee shop, you’ve used public WiFi. But make no mistake—there is a security/convenience trade-off every time you connect to a public WiFi network.
Public WiFi networks are unsecured, which means that any unencrypted site or service you use on public WiFi could be compromised by man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. An MitM attack happens when a cybercriminal sits on an unsecured network and intercepts and/or modifies your unencrypted internet activity. This includes the ability to see unencrypted HTTP websites you visit and the information you submit on those websites, like your passwords. It also means a cybercriminal can modify a page or URL to trick you into submitting credentials for a normally secured site, like Gmail—otherwise known as phishing.
HTTP websites aren’t the only thing you may use online visible to a cybercriminal in a MitM attack. A number of voice over IP (VoIP) services are unsecured and unencrypted as well. VoIP is the technology that allows you to make audio calls over the internet instead of through your cellular provider’s network.
Any unencrypted internet activity can easily be intercepted and/or modified by cybercriminals via MitM attacks. A VPN encrypts all your unencrypted internet activity, from web surfing to VoIP calls and everything in between, blocking potential phishing opportunities available in a MitM scenario.
But aren’t most sites protected with HTTPS protocol?
While most popular sites use encrypted HTTPS protocol (instead of the unencrypted HTTP protocol), many of those popular websites don’t automatically redirect unsecure requests to the secure HTTPS protocol. That puts you at risk. This is also true with your email account settings. There are unsafe protocols used to receive, access, and send email, like POP3, IMAP, and SMTP. Using a VPN ensures that your browsing is always routed with encryption, and your email account settings use secure encryption protocols, like POP3S, IMAPS, and SMTPS. (The ‘S’ in all these acronyms stands for “secure”!)
2. Disguise your browsing history
What you do on the internet is private, right? Well, not really.
As it currently stands, internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon or AT&T can have complete visibility into all of your browsing history.
They can do that because they attach your internet activity to your device’s IP address, which is a unique identifier for each device connected to the internet. This information includes your exact geographical location. They can collect personal data and may even use it to serve you ads.
A VPN disguises your device’s IP address, because all your traffic is routed through the IP address of the VPN’s server. So, your ISP can no longer see what websites you’re visiting or searches you’re making, since the traffic routed through the VPN is now encrypted.
3. Connect anytime, anywhere, from any device
A VPN is an incredibly useful tool for securing your online activity and protecting your privacy. But it would be useless if it only worked on certain devices or in specific geographic locations.
Dashlane’s VPN works instantly across all your devices, in any location around the globe, so you can stay connected and protected, no matter the situation.