The way we do business has been transformed by the World Wide Web. The Internet has become an increasingly important tool in day-to-day business operations, customer selling, managing relationships with suppliers and distributors, etc. It has even enabled many firms to exist without a physical location by using the internet as their sole platform for operations. However, due to this development, business organizations and even individuals are now more vulnerable to a wide range of possible data-security threats. Hackers are easily able to exploit unprotected public networks and compromise the data that flows through them. With high profile breaches like that of Equifax and Facebook, public interest in data-security is at an all-time high.
A research study done by Tarek S. Sobh and Yasser Aly detailed the three major lines of defense that our current computer systems have against data-security threats: access control, intrusion detection, and prevention and data encryption. Firstly, access control restricts entry to a system or network with the use of authentication modules like usernames and passwords. Intrusion detection identifies breaches and informs users of them. Using that information, companies and individuals can take appropriate action to re-secure their data. Lastly, data encryption converts information into unintelligible code that can only be deciphered by authorized users. The first two lines of defense, access control and intrusion detection, can’t prevent the corruption of important data if one’s password is weak or is already compromised. Basic data-encryption is still at risk of being deciphered by more advanced methods of decryption available to hackers. To fully secure their communication channels, some firms create their own private networks by renting network capacity from telecommunications companies. This solution, although effective, can be very expensive.
One other way to secure network connections is with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). A VPN runs on the same infrastructure as public networks, but it creates an encrypted channel between you and a remote server. It secures your data by masking your identity and making it appear that your IP address is the same as the VPN server’s. To put it simply, your personal computer will look like it is operating from a completely different country making nearly impossible for data to be traced and intercepted or for information to be compromised.
This method of securing networks and information has become very popular. Aside from businesses using VPNs to secure connections between different office locations, many individuals also subscribe to VPN Services to protect their own data. The VPN Market has seen exponential levels of growth in the past ten years with the entire industry having generated a total of fifteen billion dollars in revenue in 2017, as reported by Forbes. The industry has seen pushback from countries like China and Russia mainly because VPNs also allow users to bypass internet censorship policies. Despite all this, the future seems bright for virtual private networks. According to Slate, “many (VPN service providers) report that demand for their services is growing – even in China – and that efforts aimed at curbing their usage have generated interest in VPNs rather than deterring users.”
At the end of the day, data-security threats are here to stay, businesses and individuals must ensure that their information isn’t at risk of being compromised.