AP NEWS

Connecting to work from the road? You need a VPN

November 23, 2018

When you’re working from the road and connecting to your company’s servers, what you’re doing may be visible to prying eyes. But there’s one surefire way to stay safe from evildoers online, and that’s by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.This is a secure connection between you and the network you connect to. Many companies provide VPN software on the laptops they issue to employees. But if not, or if you run your own business and connect to it removely, you should consider setting up a VPN yourself.Last week in Innovations, I wrote about the benefits of paying more for business-class internet, and one of those perks was support for VPN (see houstonchronicle.com/bizclass).To be clear, you don’t need a business internet account to use a VPN. While that level of internet service can provide additional support for a VPN, you can set up and use one on consumer-grade accounts as well. For the most part, you’ll be on your own in terms of setup and installation. But you don’t need a computer science degree to use a VPN. Once one is up and running, you can pretty much forget it’s there.Here’s a look at some of the concepts behind a VPN, followed by some recommendations for both desktop and mobile devices.Why you want a VPN: A Virtual Private Network creates a secure connection between your device and the system on the other end. They are often required by corporate IT departments for employees to connect to their work systems.When you connect to a server with a VPN, it creates what’s known as a tunnel through which your data flows. Your information is secure inside it, and it’s like having a direct connection to the computer on the other end. Evildoers can’t see what you’re sending and receiving.This is particularly helpful when you are outside the office, and particularly when you are traveling. Many public Wi-Fi hotspots — such as in hotels and coffee shops — making your connection vulnerable. A VPN shields you from these vulnerable networks.(One caveat: Most mainstream websites have their own encrypted connections, so the data you exchange them is safe. But if you’re sitting in your favorite java joint, there are still plenty of pitfalls that a VPN can guard against.)How to get a VPN: If your employer doesn’t provide you with a VPN login and the necessary software, you’ll have to sign up for a VPN service, which may or may not involve installing an app on your device.Both Macs and PCs, as well as iPhones, iPads and Android devices, all have built-in VPN capabilities. In some instances you may simply be able to get the login information for your VPN account and plug it into the settings. But in many cases you’ll need to install an app.While there are free VPN services, they typically come with no technical support and their apps may have embedded ads. In addition, VPN services that don’t charge anything have to make money somehow, and that may be by selling information about sites their customers go to. You have a secure connection with a free VPN, but your privacy could be at risk.Recommendations: The New York Times’ recommendation site The Wirecutter has an excellent story at thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-vpn-service/ that recommends two different services. IVPN at ivpn.net costs $15 a month, or $70 annually, at this writing (it typically has annual pricing of $100). It’s available for all the major platforms — Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux — and comes with technical support.As a less-expensive pick the Wirecutter suggests TorGuard at torguard.net, which costs $10 a month, or $60 a year, and works on all the major platforms. But TorGuard is not as user-friendly as IVPN, the Wirecutter says, though it does come with technical support if you need help.PCMag has different recommendations at pcmag.com/reviews/vpn. That publication tags NordVPN at nordvpn.com as its Editor’s Choice. It currently has pricing at $12 a month, or about $84 a year. It, too, works on all major platforms.How to use a VPN: If you are using a VPN connection supplied by your employer, you’ll be given the settings necessary to talk to your corporate network. While it’s active, you’ll also be able to go anywhere on the internet. But do keep in mind that, because you’re using your employer’s system, there could be a record of what you do online.If you use your a VPN service you choose, the process is similar. Install the software provided by the service, which likely will be preconfigured. Once it’s turned on and you are connected to the internet, you use your computer or mobile device as you always have. But your connection will be a lot more secure.dwight.silverman@chron.comtwitter.com/dsilvermanhoustonchronicle.com/techburger

AP RADIO
Update hourly