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There’s a problem with SSL. It’s possible for malicious websites to get SSL certificates. Anyone can generate their own SSL certificate. Legitimate sites purchase SSL certificates from a certificate authority. These corporations vet the company and make sure they are legitimate and authentic. Having gone through this process, I know that they really do ascertain the legitimacy of the certificate holder. You can verify the validity of an SSL certificate by tapping on the lock icon in the address bar. Check to see if the site is legitimate based on the information displayed.
For the most part, browsers keep tabs on legitimate certificate authorities. If the certificate looks valid, it probably is. An SSL protected site with a valid certificate can prevent malicious users from browsing your data. Unfortunately, some sites have lapses in SSL security. For example, a poorly developed shopping cart application could pass sensitive information in clear text (unencrypted). Always make sure to bank and shop with reputable companies.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the gold standard for Internet security. Most corporations force remote workers to use VPN. It enables remote workers to securely access the corporate network, just as if they were in the office. This technology isn’t just for corporations. Concerns over Internet privacy have caused the VPN industry to blossom. Anyone can now get excellent VPN service for a few dollars a month. You should always use VPN when connecting to open public WiFi hotspots.
VPN works by creating a virtual tunnel between your computer and the VPNs host servers. No one on the WiFi network can intercept this data. In fact, no one on the Internet can either. It’s about as secure as you can get. That’s why corporations use it.
IPVanish offers a fast and affordable VPN service. I have no affiliation with IPVanish, other than being a customer. I have used the service for about a month and it’s excellent. The speeds are very fast — only slightly slower than a non-VPN Internet connection. VPN will slow down your Internet connection, as the communication is encrypted. Also, the VPN service is another bottleneck, as your Internet traffic moves within their servers. I haven’t experienced slow speed at all. If my non-VPN connection is 15 Mbps, I get about 11-13 Mbps with VPN. This is fast enough to stream HD video and leave extra bandwidth for other applications. Whatever VPN service you use, make sure they are a reputable company. There are free VPN services that are malicious and will steal your data. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
There are other advantages to using VPN, even if you’re not on a public WiFi hotspot. Many ISPs engage in a practice known as “deep packet inspection”. They examine the data of their customers and throttle speeds for specific uses. For example, they may selectively slow down speeds for streaming video. If Netflix is in SD, but Speedtest shows fast download speeds, your ISP may be using deep packet inspection against you. If you stream Netflix over VPN, they can’t inspect your Internet traffic, and therefore can’t throttle you in that way. They can lower your overall speed, but you would see that on Speedtest. VPN is a great way to improve the performance of streaming video and fight back against this unfair practice. (continue…)