Whether remote work is a regular part of your routine or it’s a new experience for you now, you might be wondering if and when you should use a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, provides security by encrypting the data you send and receive when you’re working online, and it prevents bad actors from easily accessing your company data or communications. Although you should also seek guidance from your individual company, we’ve compiled four best practices as a good place to start.
1. Use a Remote VPN for Untrusted Networks
We recommend using a remote VPN when you’re working on an untrusted network, like the internet connection at a local coffee shop or a public network in a hotel room. If you know who controls the network — such as with your password-protected home WiFi — the remote VPN is not as necessary. If you don’t control the network and/or don’t know who controls it, use the VPN.
Wired puts it this way: “A public Wi-Fi network is inherently less secure than your personal, private one, because you don’t know who set it up, or who else is connecting to it.
2. Be Mindful about VPN Bandwidth
If your company offers a remote VPN, that VPN only has so much bandwidth to go around. If you’re watching Netflix or joining a Zoom meeting, both would be good times to disconnect from the VPN and preserve that bandwidth for someone who needs increased security as they send work emails from the cafe around the corner.
3. Download Your VPN Profile on Work Devices Only
Again, keep in mind that your company’s remote VPN is a limited resource, so you don’t want to hoard licenses with your iPhone and your old desktop in your home office. It’s also worth remembering that a VPN doesn’t protect your data from your employer’s eyes, so you should keep your personal internet usage confined to non-work devices.
4. Don’t Trust all VPN Providers
If your company doesn’t offer remote VPN access to begin with, be discerning before running out and finding your own VPN provider. In fact, a free VPN provider might be harvesting your data, which is exactly what you’re trying to guard against with a VPN in the first place.
Beyond the guidance we’ve provided about using a VPN here, we also recommend the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) on both your professional and personal accounts. Downloading an app like Google Authenticator to generate a one-time code to use at login with your username and password increases the security of your accounts. As an IT security company, we’re happy to share what we’ve learned. If you or your company is interested in learning more about best practices, we’ve compiled this guide with everything you need to know about security training for organizations.