Are you doing enough to protect your personal identity? According to a study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, roughly 15.4 million consumers had their identity stolen in 2016, costing them an estimated $16 billion. Thankfully, there are ways to protect against identity theft, including the use of a virtual private network (VPN).

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is a private network through which data is encrypted. It creates a secure connection when connecting to the internet and browsing websites. Using cryptography protocols like Secure Socks Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS), a VPN encrypts network traffic to create a stronger level of data security.

There are both free and paid VPNs, the latter of which offer faster speeds, better performance and stronger security. Most paid VPN services charge either by the month or year.

Benefits of Using a VPN

As explained by ZDNet, connecting to the internet through a VPN prevents others from seeing what you are doing. All network traffic is encrypted, so even if someone intercepted it, they wouldn’t be able to read it.

Normally, any data you send or receive over the internet is vulnerable to prying eyes. If you’re logging in to your email account using the Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop, for instance, someone could intercept your data to obtain your login credentials; thus, increasing the risk of identity theft. A VPN prevents this from happening by encrypting your data, including your login credentials. The only person that can read this data is the user or server on the opposite end.

Additionally, a VPN conceals your real internet protocol (IP) address. Rather than seeing your actual IP address, an identity thief will see your VPN’s IP address. Some identity thieves use IP addresses to steal users’ identities, so a VPN can further protect your identity.

A VPN only protects against identity theft attributed to data interception. If you fall victim to a phishing attempt and provide a hacker with your personal information, it won’t protect your identity. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent safeguard to keep your data safe when using the internet.