VPNs Make Online Shopping Safer
Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers work by creating a secure tunnel between your computer and an intermediary server — often one located in another country. Using the internet without a VPN, the packets of data that you upload and download from the internet can be inspected by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — as well as anybody else that might be sniffing the internet traffic on the local network. This is a serious concern if you’re using a shared WiFi point, such as a public hotspot at an internet café, an airport lounge, or a library.
Besides intercepting packets by operating hardware that electronically “listens” to what all devices connected to the network are doing online (a strategy called packet sniffing), criminals also connected to the hotspot could try to orchestrate a Man in the Middle (MITM) attack by pretending to be a legitimate website — such as an ecommerce store.
This form of social engineering exploit is actually easier to pull off than it sounds and hackers can quickly and easily create very credible copycat versions of popular websites with the sole purpose of stealing users’ credentials.
Finally, anyone shopping for Black Friday deals online without using a VPN should know that their Internet Service Provider (ISP) is technically capable of seeing all the websites that they browse. Although, in practice, most ISPs enforce strict rules that prevent their employees from arbitrarily seeing customers’ browsing activity, unless you use a VPN, this remains a theoretical risk.
A VPN Could Save You From Black Friday Ecommerce Fraud
Browsing the internet without a VPN is always a concern but this is especially so if you’re using a shared WiFi hotspot in order to snatch up some Black Friday deals.
Every time you buy something online, your credit card information or Paypal account details are sent to merchant in order to authorize the charge. Other particulars, such as your home address for shipping, are often also transmitted during the transaction.
It’s important to note that even if you are connected to a “secure” website that has a valid SSL certificate installed (look for the padlock icon to the left of the URL in Google Chrome), this does not protect you from the above scenario. If the network is not one that you own and manage, it’s impossible to be sure that there aren’t malevolent actors fooling you into believing that a duplicate copy of a legitimate website is the real deal. Hand over your credit card details to one of these carbon copies and a fraudster has everything they need to go on their own Black Friday shopping spree — on your tab.
Using a VPN, however, will protect you against all the scenarios outlined above.
When you use a VPN service, all your internet traffic is encrypted before it leaves your computer. That means that a cybercrook sniffing packets on the network will not be able to read any data that they capture from your computer as its content will be encrypted. Similarly, although your ISP and hotspot operator might be able to see that you are using their network, they shouldn’t be open to decrypt and inspect the packets — and find juicy treasure troves, such as your home address and credit card number!
With a VPN, You Can Get Access to All The Deals!
Another feature of VPNs that you’ll want to know about for your online Black Friday shopping is the fact that they’re commonly used to make it seem as if you’re in a different country or continent.
Pretty cool, right? Let’s explain how it works.
When you connect through a VPN server, the website you’re shopping on picks up that server’s IP address as your own. Which, in plain language, gives it reason to believe you are based in that country.
Ecommerce store owners commonly restrict deal availability to customers based in a certain country — particularly the United States, where the Black Friday tradition originated. This practice is called georestricting. Thankfully, as a VPN owner, the world can be your oyster.
Although occasionally ecommerce websites flag traffic that is routed through a VPN and prevent it from accessing the georestricted content, the vast majority of the time this is not the case.
Secure Your Online Phone Calls
If you need to get in touch with a customer support team regarding a Black Friday order placed from an internationally based store, then there’s a good chance that Skype is going to be your tool of choice. Alternatively, you may be using an SIP service to call from a virtual number that it appears as if it is based in an overseas territory.
The technology that makes Skype and similar services work is called Voice over IP (VoIP). Just as your online transactions should be secured using a VPN, it’s also best practice to conduct all your VoIP calls while connected to such a service. Simply ensure that you have a workable VPN connection just as you would before browsing the internet before placing your phone call. The slowdown is generally minimal and you can rest assured that nobody is digitally eavesdropping on your conversation.
Get Your VPN in Time for Black Friday
There’s one piece of technology that you need before you even think about going on a Black Friday shopping spree – a VPN. Using a VPN protects you from phishers and online crooks and will also give you access to georestricted deals for the vast majority of online retail operations.