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Small business security: are no-logs VPNs the way to go?

2020 has brought on more challenges than small businesses were prepared to deal with. One of them is the rise in cyber attacks taking advantage of the panic caused by the pandemic. To give businesses some breathing room, we’ll be exploring what no-logs VPNs are and how they can stem the tide of hacking activity and mass surveillance.

Small business security: are no-logs VPNs the way to go?

For those of you new to the VPN business and which providers are worth their salt, you can find the best list right here.

What does “no-logs” mean with regards to VPNs?

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, were designed to encrypt (i.e. garble) your network data so it can’t be recorded by outside third parties, such as:

  • Hackers
  • Government surveillance
  • Even your Internet provider

Also, VPNs hide your real IP address, which can reveal details about your real-life location, including your city and postcode. Great for privacy, but IP spoofing may be more useful to your business than you think. More details later on, but let’s return to the “no-logs” part first.

Now, your network data can’t be accessed by outsiders, but it still needs to pass through the VPN servers. VPNs with a no-logs policy simply ensure that your data isn’t stored anywhere for any extended period of time. A far cry from the 12 months Internet providers are required to store your web browsing history under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

Why small businesses need proper no-logs VPNs

According to a GOK.UK survey from March 2020, nearly half of UK businesses and charities had already fallen victim to a cyber-attack during the year. One-third of those claimed their business experienced a breach at least once a week, a staggering 22% increase since 2017.

How much does it cost small businesses to deal with a breach? Well, the average for 2019 was £11,000, which accounts for:

  • Ransom payments
  • Replacing hardware
  • The cost of interrupting business

Of course, this survey was conducted near the start of the pandemic and doesn’t factor in the new sets of problems SMBs need to deal with, which you can read about below.

1. Remote workers handling sensitive company data on home Wi-Fi networks

Even the latest Wi-Fi encryption protocols are vulnerable to security exploits that could allow hackers to steal their passwords. Once they obtain the password, hackers may simply record all network traffic and extract valuable company information. Of course, the employee’s own payment and login data are also at risk.

If your office used an intranet system for file-sharing, your company secrets are now subject to ISP data logging as well. Unlikely to be used, sure – but is it worth the risk? Malicious insiders helping hackers are not unheard of, after all.

Aside from file-sharing through the usual channels, a VPN also lets your employees remotely (and securely) access company resources directly from home. 

2. Working on unsecured or public networks

If you or your employees are in the unfortunate situation of still having to travel for work, “free” Wi-Fi might not be worth the price. Hotel Wi-Fi is a hotbed for hacking activity since cyber attackers can easily connect to the same network and extract information.

Then there’s always the threat of “Evil Twin” hotspots. Basically, hackers create fake networks that perfectly imitate those found in shops, airports, hotels, and so on. Once connected, you’re basically handing the hacker all your data on a silver platter.

In all of the above scenarios, a VPN will encrypt the data transmitted over the Internet before it even leaves the device. As a result, your data stays secure even if you fall victim to an Evil Twin attack or your Wi-Fi password is stolen.

Of course, online security is not the only benefit of no-logs VPNs. Here’s where that IP spoofing we’ve talked about comes into play.

3. Bypassing geo-blocks and optimizing online services

Hundreds of news sites in the US and elsewhere are unavailable in the UK thanks to the lingering effects of the EU GDPR. Fortunately, connecting to a local VPN server will let you unblock many useful resources, especially if you aim to reach an international audience.

Speaking of which, you may also use a VPN for testing purposes. See how your business websites are rendered and how your web applications perform when accessed from different regions. You never know where potential clients might pop up from!

Watch out for “free” no-logs VPNs

It may be tempting to cut costs and go for free no-logs VPNs for your business. But no service that costs money to operate is ever truly free, and that certainly applies here as well. Just recently (July 2020), 20 million people saw their data get leaked by seven free VPNs that claimed to not log user data.

Your business is important – always vet any tools you work with, including your VPN. Alternatively, you may use the curated list linked at the beginning for some top-notch VPN picks that have proven their worth over the years.

More on cyber security and best cyber security practice.

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