As a person who’s been a techie / a dork / a nerd / whatever you want to call me since the beginning of the internet age, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been just a little bit more caution than most when it comes to sharing information on the internet. Of course, by sharing information, I don’t mean posting a status on a social media site or talking about something on a forum. When I say “sharing information” I mean “leaving my internet connection visible and accessible to pretty much anyone.”
Back in the days of low-speed dial-up internet, most connections were safe. Most people had one computer that could only connect to the internet when a person wanted to tie up their phone line. Wireless networking didn’t exist, and most people couldn’t even tell you what a Cat5 cable was. People that stole information back then had to write programs and viruses that could attack a person’s computer and steal information, but it was so much harder to do and it usually involved tricking a user into downloading a program with an embedded virus.
Now, most computers are connected through high-speed internet, wireless networks, and even cellular connections. People can now use their computers in restaurants, coffee shops, schools, at home, or even at work using wired and wireless networks. Accessing the internet is easier than ever before, but doing shady stuff with people’s personal information is easier than ever before as well. Now, someone can simply be on the same network as another user and snoop around, stealing personal information and putting his or her nose where it doesn’t belong. A person can steal information such as credit card numbers, logins, passwords, and even keep track of what websites you’re going to and what you’re doing online by simply monitoring your internet connection. That’s a little creepy if you ask me, but there are ways to prevent that from happening.
Personally, I like preventative maintenance a lot more than trying to fix things after they’re already broken. That means that I like to fix problems before they even become problems. One of the things I’ve been doing for a long time is connecting to the internet through a VPN. What is a VPN? A VPN is a ‘Virtual Private Network.’ Instead of connecting directly to the internet, I connect to the internet through a VPN, which adds a middle man and makes it much harder for someone to steal my information. Connecting to that VPN requires a username and password, and all of the data sent to and from the internet via the VPN is encrypted so that no one can see what you’re doing online.