Monday, 2 November 2009

The Virtual Private Network

A colleague of mine has recently been the victim of credit-card fraud. Whilst the total sum involved is not huge we are nonetheless talking about several hundred pounds – money stolen by an electronic thief. This is an unnerving experience, but what makes it more unnerving still is the fact that as a reasonably IT-savvy professional person my colleague takes (or thought he took) every precaution when carrying out transactions online. He has a mainstream commercial virus, spyware etc package installed on his laptop and regularly updated. He is ultra careful about PINs and passwords. So how was this fraud carried out?

There are several possibilities, and investigations are still ongoing. The fraud may not be IT-related at all. But cybercrime is now very big business. My attention was recently drawn to the ease with which IT crooks can (effectively) hack into a laptop by exploiting loopholes in wireless “hotspots.” A recent British TV programme graphically demonstrated this, and pointed out that the most effective antidote was to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

In layman’s terms a VPN is an extra layer of internet network that prevents hackers from accessing details of one’s own Internet Provider (such details are incredibly easy to access, and can be exploited to permit access to private data, even passwords). Using a VPN means that one’s own genuine IP address is replaced by a dummy address, within which one’s own data is ‘hidden.’

I am currently trying out a VPN provided by , who have kindly provided me with a free trial. I’ll write in due course about how I get on with this service.

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