“No locale, industry or organization is bulletproof when it comes to the compromise of data.”
That’s a scary statement — and it comes from a recent data breach study by Verizon, in which the group analyzed more than 100,000 incidents, including 3,141 confirmed data breaches.
It’s no secret that cyber crime has become an increasingly dangerous threat to businesses, organizations and individual consumers. To give you some context, there’s a new victim of internet and identity fraud every two seconds — with more than $15.4 million Americans hit by identity theft in 2016, up 16% from the year before, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.
And while consumers can’t predict or prevent a data breach that affects a company they do business with, there are steps you can take to reduce your risks online and better protect yourself and your personal information.
In fact, doing so is essential these days.
The best way to protect your privacy online
Whether you’re browsing the internet, logging into banking or other accounts, or just using social media — your information is pretty much always at risk. And while there is no guaranteed way to protect your info, there are certainly ways to reduce the risks.
According to security experts, one of the best ways to keep your information safe from criminals online is by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a paid service that keeps your internet activity secure and private — which is especially important when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi or accessing non-secured websites.
Here’s how it works: your device connects to a private VPN server, which can be located anywhere in the world. While connected, all of your online activity passes through that server — which is basically a private environment within the internet.
More importantly, a VPN makes it very difficult for a hacker or anyone else to spy on your online activity or redirect you to phony websites. Setting up fake websites that look like the real thing is a common method used by scammers to steal consumers’ personal information — like bank account login credentials.
When you’re connected to a VPN, all of your online activity is secure and private — which means it cannot be intercepted by anyone looking to steal your info.
Read more: 5 ways to save safe when doing online banking
How to choose the best VPN provider
There are a lot of free options available, but security experts say it’s definitely worth paying for a VPN service that offers better protection.
Different VPN providers offer different pros and cons, so choosing the right one depends on your specific needs.
While a VPN can allow you to get around certain website restrictions, like the ability to access another country’s Netflix service, the most important element is security — and there are a few things to look for in order to ensure you’re getting the most protection.
For example, what type of data does the VPN provider store and how long is it kept on file? You want to choose a service that collects as little data as possible and keeps any activity logs for the least amount of time possible.
That will minimize your risk of being affected by a potential data breach or other type of hack — especially if the provider keeps account login and other sensitive information on file.
Here are some resources to help you choose the best VPN service: