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The history of hacking is a history of ambiguities.
Some chapters are rich and entertaining; others filled with code lines and functions that can bore to death.
There's a hooded cyber criminal somewhere in Holywood spreading chaos in the digital sphere. Then there's Elliot from Mr. Robot fighting the good fight. In this sense, hacking is as vivid as life itself, or, to quote Stephen Hawking
"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image."
There's one key take away from this analogy - cybersecurity is a complex organism, and we at NordVPN had to find our fit in digital life. And we found it in the sphere of digital privacy. VPNs were primarily developed for business security, but our goal was to adjust it for personal use. Alongside Antiviruses and Firewalls, we defined precise boundaries in which we function and concrete cyber threats that our service neutralizes.
In this article, we'd like to illuminate where exactly a VPN fits in the context of cybersecurity. And what online dangers will no longer be your problem while using it.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it's an online privacy protection oriented cybersecurity software. NordVPN establishes a secure and encrypted tunnel between users' devices and one of its servers and reroutes all data-traffic through the chosen server. Encryption and no-logs policy ensure user' privacy and safe data transit. Moreover, IP address obfuscation further contributes to online safety and freedom of information on the Internet.
Because of this VPN is a crucial part of a broader cybersecurity package. Firewalls guard outgoing and incoming traffic at a port level against viruses and malware; meanwhile, Antiviruses scan the data on the device for the same dangers. VPN is somewhere in between these two, protecting users' connection to the Internet and granting it privacy.
At the very core of a high-quality VPN is strong encryption with talented cryptography experts to adapt it for online safety. NordVPN uses Advanced Encryption Standard with 256-bit key size. However, our cryptographers and programmers worked tirelessly to implement NordLynx, a WireGuard based protocol with symmetric ChaCha20 encryption, which is predicted to become one of the most advanced encryption algorithms in the near future.
Even though IP obfuscation and no-logs policies are essential to NordVPN integrity, it's the encryption that forges a strong defence against some popular hacking techniques. Data is the new currency, and scandals such as Cambridge Analytica proved that some people would go great lengths to obtain it. On the other hand, in the United States, Internet Service Providers can collect and sell user-data legally, making the use of a VPN even more important.
Man In The Middle attack is among the most popular hacking techniques, with an astonishing variety of attack scenarios. Some are easily executable, such as Evil Twin attack, others, such as SSL hijacking, are a bit harder, but the rewards for the cybercriminal can be great. A successful MITM attack can snatch someone's banking credentials, or even lead to some corporate secrets exposed.
But, first of all, what is a MITM attack? Man In The Middle attack is a cyber-attack where the attacker secretly tries to intercept the communication between two parties that believe they are communicating only with each other. Usually extracting the information is a primary goal, but not always. Sometimes the communication can be altered and modified to spread misinformation, and sometimes the purpose of MITM attack is to stop the communication altogether.
One of the most popular and most accessible MITM methods is Evil Twin or Fake Wireless Access Point (Fake WAP) attack. It requires little hacking in the traditional sense of the word. The attacker sets up a wireless access point, usually in a public place, like Starbucks, airport, or local library. The name of this hotspot resembles an authentic wireless access point, and some unsuspecting victims connect to it. Then the attacker can start monitoring their traffic in hopes to catch something juicy. The attacker may as well force the user to download malware for future exploits.
NordVPN can protect against Evil Twin attacks. Applied encryption ensures that whatever you're doing online is your business only. The attacker will see meaningless gibberish because your traffic is encrypted using the latest encryption standards, and decrypting it is nearly impossible with the technology at hand. However, don't lose your guard and always be on a lookout for suspicious networks, and do online shopping only on trusted ones.
Another MITM attack that a VPN protects from is DNS hijacking. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it translates web page names (such as Hackernoon.com) into IP addresses to direct your traffic to. This can be hijacked and modified, and instead of sending your traffic to a target destination, cybercriminal redirects it for his or her own gains. Instead of an online shop, you might be redirected to a fake mirror page, where you will make purchases and lose money.
Because NordVPN takes control of your access to the Internet, we use our own DNS resolver to resolve DNS queries securely. Combine this with an encrypted tunnel, no-logs policies, and CyberSec feature for phishing protection and you get a robust cybersecurity tool, perfectly capable of protecting your online-data from espionage.
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