As increasing numbers of people have begun working remotely and generally staying home, many are looking into security tools to help keep them safe while lockdown measures are imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This guide aims to make this transition easier, compiling everything you need to keep yourself secure. And if you share these tips and tricks from ProPrivacy's socials, you will be in with a chance to win a year's worth of NordVPN!
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During this crisis, ProPrivacy has teamed up with NordVPN to help spread the word on how to work safely from home.
In the spirit of giving, we're offering all our customers the chance to win an annual subscription to both the NordVPN and NordPass services. Not only does this allow you to protect yourself and unblock streaming services for an entire year, the subscription extends to NordPass, the provider's shiny new password manager. We're giving away one of these annual packages A WEEK plus a load of monthly subscriptions as runners-up packages, too.
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Switch Your VPN On
It is no surprise that people are taking more of an interest in virtual private networks (VPNs) at this time and looking to take advantage of all the benefits they offer. Whether it’s keeping personal information and company data secure and properly safeguarded while working from home, bypassing government censorship efforts in order to remain properly informed about the virus, or unblocking geographically restricted online entertainment content to stave off boredom, a good VPN can do it all.
Why should I use a VPN?
- Secure your privacy against prying eyes from the government, your internet service provider, and snooping third parties simply by clicking connect.
- Get around government censorship when connecting to an obfuscated server.
- Access geo-blocked content, such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, hulu, etc.
- Save money on purchases by buying from cheaper countries.
- Protect yourself when P2P torrenting.
Of course, not just any VPN service will do. It's important to be wary of free providers because if you are not paying with money, it usually comes at the expense of your privacy instead. Even good VPNs that offer a free service often limit their functionality so you invest in their premium tier. We prefer to stick to NordVPN , a provider that regularly bridges the gap between affordable and top-tier services by doing all the above.
VPN usage is continuously increasing
If you're interested in a VPN now more than ever, you're not alone. Since March 16th, 2020, we have seen an overall increase of 37.9% in organic visitor traffic to our VPN-related pages over the previous week.
By country, the biggest increase during that same time period was traffic from Brazil, which registered a 171% increase in traffic. This could be attributed to the rapid surge of coronavirus cases in Brazil and the resulting increase of residents staying at home. Other significant traffic increases we have noticed from similarly hard-hit nations include a 69.7% increase from France, a 69.02% increase from Belgium, a 53% increase from Germany, and a 45% increase in Taiwan. From the US, we registered a 36.6% increase in traffic, 18.3% from the UK, and 51.6% from Canada.
Interestingly, the significant increase in traffic from Italy, the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe and perhaps the world’s hardest-hit nation, occurred the week before with a 70% increase, as opposed to just a 1% increase last week. This could be because Italy has been dealing with the crisis for a bit longer than others have.
The figures suggest that, in general, nations that are more directly affected by the crisis are showing greater interest in VPN usage. That said, some slower increases in traffic from the US and the UK could be attributed to the fact that more stringent prevention measures and lockdown orders are just beginning to take hold there, and we may expect to see a greater increase in traffic from the US and UK in the weeks ahead.
Staying at home also seems to get people off their mobile devices, at least when looking into VPNs. We saw a much greater increase in traffic from desktop devices (41.6%) than we did from mobile devices (29.6%), suggesting that people prefer browsing the web on their desktops now they are at home. People may also have their entertainment systems hooked up to their desktop devices instead of their mobile devices.
With so many people isolated at home during the pandemic, many are turning to VPNs to keep them entertained online while in quarantine. We’ve seen evidence of this trend through the increases in traffic to many of our streaming and gaming-related pages. For instance, we registered a significant increase in traffic of 209% to our Best VPN for Popcorn Time page, a 135% traffic increase to our Best VPN for Poker page and increases of 58% and 111% to our Best VPN for Gaming and VPN Ping pages, respectively.
But by far the most significant increase in traffic we saw to any of our pages during this time period was the 1,736% increase to our Best VPN for Italy page. As it turns out, Pornhub announced earlier this month that it would grant those in Italy entirely free premium subscriptions to its services through the month of March.
This sent hordes of people scrambling for VPN services that would allow them to appear to be connecting from inside Italy in order to take advantage of the generous offer.
Whatever the use case may be, for the foreseeable future as the pandemic continues to spread and more people stay at home, we will certainly continue to see increased interest in VPN usage during this time.
It is clear that the public is realizing how VPNs can help people effectively navigate this current crisis in many ways. It is important for people to maintain their online security and protect their personal information and business data while staying at home and working remotely. It is important for people to be able to bypass government censorship efforts. And it is important for people to circumvent geo-restrictions and stay safe while keeping themselves entertained.
Utilize Cloud Storage
Working remotely can be jarring, switching from your usual PC to your home system. If you haven't been making use of an external hard drive to back up your files and your company hasn't provided you with a solution, it could be worth investing in cloud storage.
Cloud storage allows you to upload and store files online, making them accessible from any device logged into the service. Should you fall victim to ransomware, causing your system to be held hostage, having everything backed up to the cloud means you can format your PC without worrying about file loss.
Providers such as Microsoft and Google offer extremely convenient and affordable cloud storage services, but these often come at the expense of security with the companies unapologetically scanning your files. We recommend consulting our best cloud storage solutions list for zero-knowledge options that don't pose an unnecessary risk to your data, or opting for NordLocker if you fancy an all-Nord set up.
Update Your Antivirus
Antiviruses are a front-line defense against malware, protecting your system against malicious exploits. Good providers are often swift with updates to tackle the latest attacks the moment they are deployed, so it's important to keep the software updated as new patches are released.
Antiviruses will protect against
Antiviruses come in many different forms, each with their own pros and cons. For example, while browser extensions are the most accessible, they will only protect from threats in your browser. We recommend sticking with desktop and mobile applications with active threat detection, as they ensure system-wide protection in real time.
Pair it with an adblocker
Adblockers are often underestimated in their ability to safeguard. Criminals are increasingly using ad space to distribute malware and catch unsuspecting victims by surprise. By doing exactly as it says on the tin, adblockers make sure these ads never reach your system for you to accidentally click on. And, as a bonus, they also help to speed up loading times and keep your device from being bogged down.
Pair it with an auto-filling password manager
Password managers are known for helping to create and store unique passwords that are difficult to remember, but their auto-fill feature also keeps you out of harm's way.
Criminals are increasingly crafty in their approach to steal your data, which includes making fake webpages with keyloggers seem like the real deal. When you type in your login credentials and click enter, those details go straight into the pocket of your attacker, unless you are using a password manager with auto-fill. This handy feature fills out all forms for you so you need not lift a finger, and they can detect a fake webpage from a mile away, refusing to input your details.
Password Protect Your Router
It cannot be overstated just how important your router is. Not only is it responsible for providing the (hopefully) stable internet connection your remote work relies on, but all your data passes through it, making it a target for hackers. If you still haven't changed from the default password or WiFi name, you are putting yourself and your family unnecessarily at risk.
Steps to strengthen your router
Change the default WiFi name, otherwise known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID), and make sure it doesn't contain any personal information.
Change the default password to something stronger. Our recommendation is to make it at least 20 characters long, filled with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. To make sure it is truly unique, you can use a password manager like NordPass to generate and store unique passwords for you.
Make sure your router's firmware is up to date, as outdated versions leave your device exposed to known vulnerabilities.
Check that your WiFi network is encrypted with WPA2 if you have bought your own router.