Are VPN Apps Safe and Secure to Use?

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, we’ve all heard that we should be using these apps and all the benefits they can reap. Essentially, a VPN is a private network that uses a public network to connect sites and users. It creates an encrypted connection between two points. They’re great if you like to keep your web use private, or if you require access to sites that otherwise wouldn’t available in your country. A lot of providers offer this service, both paid for and free, but there seems to be this lingering worry that a VPN is not safe, how are you to know that your VPN app is not 100% secure from eavesdropping?

VPN Android apps

The Google Play app store offers approximately 250 Android apps that will give you access to VPN services, so it can be hard to resist, and hard to know which ones are safe to use.

The problem seems to lie in the free VPN apps on offer, you could download an app on your mobile phone, only to find the VPN isn’t working on android, or the VPN isn’t working on your iPhone. The key is to do your research. Do a little digging, generally any apps coming from Russia or China are best avoided.

Joe Carson, a Chief Security Scientist, says “VPNs are safer than doing nothing. If you are trying out a new service or app, do your homework”.

So, on the one hand, it could be said that as long as you take some time to research who your VPN provider is, you can avoid VPN connection fails and feeling unsecure.

Ryan O’Leary, of the Threat Research Centre, has a much more straightforward view on VPN apps; “I don’t think VPN apps are secure, especially free ones”. What he means here is that you’re usually better off just paying some money for a VPN app, as the free ones generally attract trouble. Usually, look at paying $7-$10 a month, for your own peace of mind that your connection will be secure.

There is a slight risk with VPN’s of exposure simply because of bugs and hackers. Back in 2015, “PortFail” was discovered, which meant that another VPN user could spy on your connection. A way to potentially prevent issues like this are to look for VPN apps that have a “kill switch”. This switch will automatically block all internet access at the point when the encrypted connection drops.

All in all, even with the risk factor, our verdict is that a VPN app remains a good option. The best advice would be to choose a well-established provider, check their privacy policies and T&C’s, and stay away from the free ones. If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is.

Where are VPN Certificates stored?

So, you’ve got your VPN installed, up and running and ready to go. You’ve got a certificate and need to export it, but you can’t find it?

Using certificates for authentication, rather than keys in VPN is considered more secure by many. VPN certificates allow the user to create a private channel between the local area network and public network, to ensure that a secure transmission of data is made. IBM give a great explanation on VPN certificates. Here’s a breakdown:

VPN certificates can be used to establish a system connection. To do this, the endpoints of a VPN must authenticate each other.
– Authentication is done by the Internet Key Exchange (IKE).
– After authentication, the IKE servers negotiate their ways of encryption and secure your VPN connection.

One way to conduct this authentication is with a pre-shared key. This isn’t as secure though, because you have to manually communicate this key, so anyone could be exposed to it.
Using digital certificates authenticate the endpoints without using a pre-shared key.

Digital Certificate Manager (DCM) can manage the certificates that your IKE server uses for establishing a VPN connection.

You can find lots of different Digital Certificate Managers for this process. Each server may store this in a different location, but you can request it.