When you subscribe to a VPN, you trust it with the security and privacy of your data. For some people, this trust can be key to their access to the internet, their right to free speech, and potentially even their continued freedom. It’s really important then, that a VPN is secure and can’t be hacked, and that you know what factors make for a strong, secure, and safe VPN.
There are two really important things you should do to ensure that your VPN client is as safe as possible; The first is to only ever download the VPN client from the official website of the VPN provider. The second thing is to ensure that you regularly apply updates to fix any weaknesses that are discovered and fixed.
Downloading software directly from the developer’s website is always the best way to download software. Downloading software from a third-party website adds a middleman that could insert a virus into the file you download. You should only trust official download sources for any software, not just for your VPN.
Like any software, it’s possible for the VPN client to have bugs in it that could allow it to be hacked. Ensuring that it is kept up to date along with the rest of the software on your device, is a really important part of staying secure. If a vulnerability is found in a VPN client, the provider will try to issue a patch with a fix as soon as possible. If you wait a long time to install that patch, a hacker could exploit it and hack your VPN or device.
There’s very little you can do about a VPN provider being hacked. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens occasionally. The best you can do is use a VPN from a provider that has good security awareness.
If a company has been hacked before, it can be off-putting. This reaction is totally fair, but you can tell how security-aware a company is sometimes by its reaction to an incident like this. For example, let’s say a VPN provider had a hacker gain access to a VPN server in the past. If the company only discovered the hack years later, and released a weak statement basically saying they “take your security seriously”, then they’re clearly not too bothered.
If the company instead responds quickly, fixes the issue, analyses the rest of its security, and completes an audit, they’re clearly more invested in their security, even if they made the same mistake. Looking up news articles and reviews of a VPN can be a good way to look into this. Owning mistakes when they happen (and they will happen) is a great indicator of how seriously a company takes its security measures.
The connection from your device to the VPN server and back is encrypted. This encryption ensures that all data transferred between your device and the VPN server is secure and can’t be read by anyone else. Encryption is a process of scrambling data using an encryption algorithm and an encryption key. The best encryption algorithms available is 256-bit AES. 256-bit refers to the size of the encryption key used. A 256-bit key has 2^256, or 2 multiplied by itself 256 times possible values.
The number of possible 256-bit encryption keys is believed to be higher than the number of atoms in the universe. It is unbelievably difficult to correctly guess the encryption key used and hack an encrypted connection. Given the choice between the 128-bit variant of AES and the 256-bit version, 256-bit is stronger. Both encryption strengths, however, are more than strong enough to be secure from any attack.