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Does a VPN Protect You From Hackers?

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Layering your internet connection over a reliable VPN provider protects you from hackers looking to steal your data or hijack your device/internet sessions.

However, VPNs can’t protect against all kinds of hacks.

They can be limited in keeping you safe from the hacks they’re built against.

For a complete overview of how a VPN can protect you against hacks, when it can’t, and how to ensure you’re constantly protected, continue reading.

When Can a VPN Protect You Against Hacks?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can protect you on public and home Wi-Fi networks against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, remote IP hacking, session hijacking, and certain adware and malware-focused hacks.

Below, I discuss multiple scenarios and kinds of hacks where a VPN service would be essential to make sure you don’t fall victim.

On Public Wi-Fi

Your internet service provider (ISP) can see the services you access on the web, track your internet traffic, and even intercept your communications

When you connect to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, the network admin becomes your ISP, so they can see all of that information, too.

The use of VPN on Public WiFi
NordVPN's statement on how it protects against public Wi-Fi hacks

Thus, a rogue network admin can record all the information you send over the web during your connection session. This information could include

  • Credit card data
  • Account logins and passwords
  • Banking account details
  • Messages and files sent/received

Likewise, hackers know that public Wi-Fi networks are often unencrypted and may target users for the same information. So, that’s double the threat.

Privacy Violation of Public WiFi

However, a VPN sends your internet traffic through secure tunnels, preventing anyone else from seeing your data. Thus, you can enjoy public Wi-Fi in hotels, airports, government offices, and elsewhere without worrying about data leaks.

On Home Networks

Your home networks aren’t safer than public Wi-Fi networks if you don’t secure them properly. Thus, you need a VPN to patch up the extra gaps in your security armor.

VPN on Home Networks
Amazon Ring doorbells, or other IoT units, could leak your online data to hackers

For example, home networks can be breached if you use a poor password or retain your default router password/admin login details

This means a hacker could breach your home networks and steal data from connected devices.

Internet of Things Security Risks
ExpressVPN, on why you need protection across smart devices on your home network

Furthermore, smart home units are known as weak links in online home network systems. Most use outdated software or don’t have robust security built-in, so they form the entry point for hackers.

Fortunately, installing VPN router software on your home network will solve some of these issues.

You’ll still have to choose secure passwords. But you can rest assured that hackers can no longer see the data you send between your connected devices and the internet.

During DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks usually target a server or IP address, disrupting internet connectivity so users in that server/IP range can’t use certain services/the entire internet.

Furthermore, DDoS attacks can take control of your computer and use it as part of a botnet in a more extensive hack.

VPN on Preventing DDoS Attacks

Reliable VPNs are engineered against DDoS attacks in three ways, namely

  • Featuring multiple servers in diverse countries to escape the attack on your local IP address.
  • Masking your actual IP address so it’s never revealed to threat actors looking to DDoS you.
  • Encrypting your internet traffic through AES 256-bit protocols, making it impossible for hackers to access your data stream or computers.

All you have to do is layer your internet connection over the VPN, and you’re better protected against DDoS attacks.

Adware

Ads are a normal (and annoying) part of the internet, but they can also be engineered to hack your devices. For example, certain ads are designed to deanonymize Tor users, revealing their identities through ultrasound tracking.

In other instances, malicious ads give you a close button which shifts the moment you’re about to click it. Thus, you click the main ad, which might inject malicious software into your device or redirect you to another malicious site.

Furthermore, ads can store cookies in your browser, collect information about your browsing history, fingerprint your browser, and deanonymize you.

For better understanding, I found a short explainer video on adware from Kaspersky.

Thankfully, top VPN providers with ad-block have answers to this. Notable picks include NordVPN’s CyberSec technology, ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager, and CleanWeb from Surfshark.

These security additions ensure ad-free browsing, focusing on malicious ads sent to steal your data or hack your device.

Malware

VPNs can’t protect you against all forms of malware.

However, some VPN providers check for malware in your downloads and keep you from running such infected files on your computer.

I’ve even seen some (like Ivacy VPN) that can remove the malware from your download, allowing the rest of the clean file onto your device. 

That only works in exceptional cases, though.

Ivacy VPN

Surfshark also ships with antivirus software (a paid add-on) that constantly monitors your downloads and checks the sites you visit for possible malware.

However, note that there is a lot of malware that a VPN alone won’t protect you against, so it’s best to get an antivirus too. Continue to the following sections to see other ways to prevent hacks.

Session Hijacking

Also known as cookie theft, hackers steal sensitive cookies that store information on your browsing habits. These cookies tie back to your person and can be analyzed for sensitive data.

Here’s an easy-to-follow video on session hijacking:

Session hijacking is rampant on unsecured Wi-Fi networks (such as most public Wi-Fi connections), leaning towards the earlier mentioned point.

Layering your connection (either public or private) over a reliable VPN makes it impossible for the hacker to obtain and read your session information

After all, the cookie data passes through the VPN data rather than your ISP.

Remote Hacking (Via IP Address)

Remote hacking is one of the oldest tricks in the book, allowing a hacker to access your device with its unique IP address. Likewise, if hackers conduct a ping sweep on a known network, they could find all the IP addresses assigned to a device and use them to hack those units.

Remote Hacking via IP Address

Fortunately, a good VPN assigns you another IP from thousands of secure server locations, so the hacker is sent on a wild goose chase.

You could even use obfuscation protocols to confuse the hacker, so they don’t know you’re using a VPN.

Though, you need to get a VPN that takes IP/DNS/WebRTC leak prevention seriously for this to work. Otherwise, the VPN is just an extra tool that doesn’t do anything.

What Kind of Hacks Can a VPN Not Prevent?

While you can feel safer against hacks with a VPN, it doesn’t do all the work.

Below, I discuss some hacks where a VPN is powerless. I also add a quick tip box that helps you secure the aspect your VPN doesn’t cover.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks rely on the hacker tricking you into believing they’re someone they’re not, so you reveal sensitive information.

For example, a hacker could send you an email posing as your bank and asking you to log in to the banking platform via a provided link. You don’t know that the link takes you to a lookalike platform that isn’t your bank.

Thus, any login information/other information you enter goes to the hacker, who can then use the details to hack your real account.

Phishing Attacks
NordVPN reacting to some scammers posing as the brand to scam customers.

Rainbow Table Attacks

I discussed rainbow table attacks in-depth in my guide to password hacking.

Basically, they reverse-engineer computer hash generated to protect your passwords. Even though your passwords aren’t stored in plain text, accessing the right rainbow table could give hackers access to your login details.

The success of the rainbow table hack is dependent on the security of the platforms you sign up for. After all, highly secure platforms use a hash salting technique to make rainbow table attacks impossible, even when hackers have access to your password hash.

Malware in Downloads

Earlier, I mentioned that while VPNs can protect you from malware in downloads, they’re limited in this capacity.

Malware in Downloads

The truth is that most malware downloads will pass under the radar of reliable VPNs. That’s not because these VPNs don’t care about your security, but they’re not designed for that purpose.

So, while your VPN may be helping out in this area, they’re not the foolproof solution.

Human Errors

Human errors account for the majority of account hacks and breaches

In fact, you could still get deanonymized over a VPN due to human errors at no fault of the VPN provider.

In most cases, the culprit is a lack of knowledge about how these hacks could happen.

How to Choose a Secure VPN That Protects Against Hacks?

Now that you know what kinds of hacking attempts a VPN can and can’t protect you from, you have a more realistic view of what you get from this software.

Still, some are better designed for security than others.

So, when choosing a VPN to secure your internet activity against hacks, consider these factors.

Kill Switch

An internet kill switch stops your device from transmitting to the internet whenever the VPN connection drops. These drops could be from

  • Reconnecting to the remote server
  • Changing the preferred tunneling protocol
  • Establishing a secure connection to another remote server
Kill Switch

The kill switch prevents your IP, DNS, and WebRTC details from leaking to your ISP, the government, or hackers until the VPN tunnel is re-established. 

That way, you stay secure against Remote IP hacking, DDoS attacks, and session hijacking.

Encryption

Any VPN you choose should feature AES 256-bit military-grade encryption, at least.

The technology to crack this VPN encryption isn’t here yet, and it’ll take some time for that to be created. Thus, using a VPN that encrypts your data over this model makes sense.

DDoS Protection

Choose a VPN provider with DDoS protection.

Some VPN providers offer this service as a paid add-on, and I’m wary of how that syncs with the system when you enable and disable it.

Likewise, I’m concerned that the feature can simply be disabled and you’ll be left exposed to such attacks.

Thus, choosing a VPN provider that bundles this protection (like NordVPN) with its base package means you’re always protected as soon as you connect.

Obfuscation

Obfuscation is necessary mainly for bypassing strict censorship, but it can also help protect you from hacks.

For example, a hacker looking to hack you via your IP address will discover your computer isn’t in the IP range they expected.

However, knowing you’re using a VPN could change their line of approach such that they now target your VPN-assigned IP.

Obfuscation

With obfuscated servers, your VPN traffic is masked while your internet traffic is still encrypted. Thus, the hacker doesn’t know you’re using a VPN and is none the wiser about what your IP address should be.

Router Support

I mentioned earlier that smart home devices are usually the weakest online security link. Their operating systems are not as robust against hacks, and they can be used to penetrate the network.

Unfortunately, most smart devices can’t use a native VPN app, leaving them unprotected. This is where VPN router software comes in.

Router Support

Setting up your VPN on a preferred router allows you to protect ALL devices connected to that router, including your smart home devices.

Online Security Tools

Besides the general features of a VPN, make sure your VPN provider brings extra security tools against online threats.

Some of the best VPNs (which I discuss below) offer ad blocking, malware removal, and tracker blocking. Likewise, others monitor your emails and passwords to let you know if they show up in a breach.

History

I like to check a VPN’s history to ensure they’ve never been involved in any scandal, such as

  • Handing over user data
  • Breached for user records and data
  • Allowing hacks to happen even after supposedly tunneling the user data

You’d be surprised how many reliable VPN providers were previously breached or faced issues.

For those providers, I check to see if they fixed the issue. Bonus points if they commissioned a third-party security audit that validated the claims.

So, in this category, look for

  • VPN providers that never had any data security-related issues in the past
  • VPN providers that fixed any issues they’ve had in the past

My Top 3 VPNs to Use Against Hackers

Instead of going through a checklist for VPN providers, I did the heavy lifting.

With my essential criteria for choosing a VPN against hackers, the trio of NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark came out on top.

Let’s discuss why.

NordVPN – Overall Best Value VPN Against Hackers

NordVPN Secure Servers

NordVPN allows you to bypass DDoS attacks by connecting to 5400+ secure servers in 60+ countries. I also checked with NordVPN, and it has DDoS protection enabled by default on all its servers.

Better yet, you get to throw hackers off your VPN traffic trail with NordVPN’s obfuscated server technology. You could also use NordVPN’s Double VPN technology for the same purpose.

NordVPN Double VPN Technology

No matter which you use, you can rest assured that no one is finding your VPN IP address anytime soon.

Furthermore, NordVPN doesn’t disappoint with a kill switch.

In fact, it’s the only VPN in my top 3 to provide two kill switches for improved security against IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

NordVPN Kill Switch

On top of that, NordVPN provides native app support to PCs, mobile units, and some smart TVs. You can also set up the router app for other devices.

However, it’s important to note that NordVPN was breached in the past

Though, this breach affected ONLY ONE NordVPN server, not the entire network. Likewise, NordVPN maintains that the hacker didn’t have access to any data since it doesn’t collect logs anyway.

NordVPN breached issue

Since then, the VPN provider tightened security around its servers, as proven in its security audits.

Finally, NordVPN ships with security tools to protect you more against hacks. 

The table below gives you an insight into these tools.

Security Tool Status Function
Threat Protection (CyberSec) Free (included in subscription) Prevents ads, malware, and trackers
NordPass Paid add-on (+ Limited free version) Stores and syncs passwords across your devices. Generates strong passwords too
NordLocker Paid add-on (+ Limited free version) Protects your files in a cloud storage account. 3GB free
Dark Web Monitor Free (included in subscription) Notifies you when your credentials get exposed online

NordVPN is also one of the most affordable VPN providers you can use on six devices simultaneously for all these features.

So, don’t forget to grab these NordVPN discounts to enjoy secure protection against hackers.

Surfshark – Keep Hackers Away on Unlimited Devices

Surfshark Servers

Surfshark offers DDoS protection on all its 3200+ servers in 65+ countries, no matter what protocol you connect to. In fact, the VPN provider is so bold that it tells you to connect to its servers and let hackers try to DDoS you. 

I love that confidence!

Surfshark Camouflage Mode

Plus, thanks to Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode, you can take masking your VPN traffic to another level. It’s available across the mobile and PC native apps, so you’re not without core protection anywhere.

In fact, you could opt for its new Rotating IP feature, allowing you to maintain the exact VPN location but under different, rotating IP addresses. Good luck to a hacker laying hands on your real IP address or even the VPN IP you’re using.

Furthermore, I’m impressed with Surfshark’s kill switch option for IP and DNS leak protection whenever the VPN connection drops. Otherwise, that window is enough for a hacker to know your actual IP address and launch a remote hack on your computer.

Surfshark kill switch

Moving on, I’m impressed by the provision of a router app for Surfshark

You can set up the provider on a supported router and protect all your smart devices that wouldn’t get the native VPN app.

That’s not even the best part. Surfshark supports unlimited devices on a single account, so you never have to worry about leaving a unit unprotected against hackers.

Surfshark unlimited devices on a single account

However, while I’ve never heard of any Surfshark hacks, the VPN provider is based in one of the Fourteen Eyes countries. Fortunately, it’s been audited for its no-logs claims by Cure53, so even if the police ask for user data, the provider won’t have any to provide.

Plus, when it comes to security tools to prevent hacks, Surfshark is impressive with the following additions.

Security Tool Status Function
Antivirus Paid add-on Scans downloads, files, attachments, and devices for malware
CleanWeb Free (included in subscription) Blocks ads, trackers, and malware from sites while using the VPN
Alert Free (included in subscription) Monitors your emails and scans your credit cards and IDs to notify you of online leaks
Rotating IP Free (included in subscription) Changes your IP address around while your VPN location stays the same

If you already can’t get around how cheap Surfshark’s plans are for unlimited devices and without bandwidth throttling, I’ve got even better news.

You can save more on Surfshark with these HUGE discounts to start protecting yourself.

ExpressVPN – Premium VPN Solution Against Hackers

ExpressVPN Premium VPN Solution Against Hackers

I like ExpressVPN’s approach to thwarting hacking attempts by offering obfuscation on all servers and protocols. It’s also fast, even with this obfuscation enabled, so you might not notice the speed drop when connected.

On top of that, gamers will be happy with the inbuilt DDoS protection on every server.

Likewise, ExpressVPN makes sure you won’t suffer IP or DNS leaks with its in-house Network Lock. This acts the same as a kill switch to prevent your device from transmitting to the internet once the VPN connection drops.

ExpressVPN Network Lock

Furthermore, you get one of the most robust router apps with ExpressVPN. 

You even get port forwarding on the router app to access other devices remotely without letting hackers know.

ExpressVPN Port Forwarding
Routers supported by ExpressVPN

However, you need to know what you’re doing here since setting up port forwarding wrongly can expose you to successful hacking attempts.

Luckily, when it comes to extra security features, ExpressVPN excels with the following tools.

Security Tools Status Function
Threat Manager Free (included in subscription) Blocks trackers and malicious sites
Password Generator Free (included in subscription) Helps create strong and secure passwords for your online accounts
IP Address checker Free (included in subscription) Check if you're browsing the web through VPN-assigned IP rather than the actual IP address.
DNS/WebRTC leak test Free (included in subscription) Checks you’re not leaking DNS/WebRTC data which can be used to hack you

The only gripe I have with ExpressVPN is it’s relatively expensive compared to the rest on this list.

So, make sure to grab these ExpressVPN discounts when buying the VPN.

Can a Free VPN Keep You Safe From Hackers?

Free VPN providers often lack the level of encryption necessary to tunnel your data securely such that it doesn’t fall into the hands of hackers.

The majority of these free VPNs also don’t offer obfuscation, don’t ship with a kill switch, and have a poor history of data breaches and hacks.

In fact, some free VPN providers will collect your data and sell it to the highest third-party bidder.

Thus, I recommend choosing an affordable VPN provider like Surfshark, allowing unlimited simultaneous connections when the cost is a deciding factor.

What Are Other Ways to Protect Against Hackers?

I mentioned earlier that VPN services couldn’t protect you against all hacks

Thus, you need to know other safety precautions to prevent becoming a hacking victim.

Here are some pointers to get started:

  • Choose secure passwords: Secure passwords can take hackers billions of years to crack, so they don’t bother you. Fortunately, you can generate secure passwords in ExpressVPN (free) or NordPass (NordVPN paid add-on).
  • Update your software: Always update your device and app software as soon as you get a notification. That way, you’re never leaving vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit.
  • Get an antivirus: An antivirus scans your files, attachments, and downloads for malware. It also prevents you from downloading such malware while removing those already on your device.
  • Beware phishing attacks: Educate yourself on phishing attacks and refrain from clicking links in messages. Also, don’t download unsolicited attachments and opt to scan links/attachments before opening them, even if they’re from trusted sources.
  • Don’t sideload apps: Sideloading apps from unofficial sources could introduce malware to your devices. Choose to download apps and programs via your dedicated OS app store since those apps are constantly scanned and checked for malicious codes.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things to do to prevent hacks. However, these pointers are a good place to start.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hackers can only get through VPN providers without proper encryption protocols and tunneling protocols enabled. This results in IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks, leaving the user exposed and at the mercy of hackers.

A hacked VPN compromises your online security by giving the cybercriminal access to your online traffic and personal information.

It also opens up the door to malware attacks to take over your data, device or both.

Thus, it’s essential to choose a VPN provider that invests in military-grade 256-bit encryption across all its servers and tunneling protocols.

Hackers can attempt to breach a VPN provider via remote IP hijacking.

Still, they’re often unsuccessful if the VPN is from a reliable provider.

Likewise, hackers can’t decrypt the traffic data on hacked servers even if they get through due to the robust 256-bit encryption protocol.

NordVPN protects users against hackers by offering DDoS protection on all its servers, making it impossible for hackers to deploy these kinds of attacks. Additionally, thanks to NordVPN’s military-grade 256-bit encryption, hackers can’t see what data you transmit over the VPN-layered internet.

Finally, NordVPN provides extra security features like a kill switch and CyberSec to protect against malware trackers.

Cyberpunk 2077 gamers can avoid DDoS attacks from other hackers when connected to reliable VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

These VPN providers are also optimized against IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks so that hackers never know your actual IP address.

That way, you’re safe against session hijacking and remote access/IP hacking.

Reliable VPN providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN can obfuscate your internet traffic. Thus, hackers don’t see your Coinbase activity or intercept your logins.

You can also protect your identity when trading safely on the crypto exchange platform by connecting to a VPN server that masks your IP address and DNS details.

Likewise, you can use Rotating IPs on Surfshark to maintain the exact VPN location while changing IP address, preventing hackers from identifying you on any IP address.

Discord servers are susceptible to DDoS attacks, which is where reliable VPNs come in to change your IP and remove you from the league of affected devices. VPNs will also prevent hacks that could lead to doxxing attacks or other forms of deanonymizing you on the platform if you wish to stay private.

VPNs can’t protect your passwords from hackers, as they’re not designed for that function. Some VPNs (like NordVPN) come with paid add-ons for password management, but that’s not the primary feature of the VPN itself.

It’s best to get a secure password manager to generate and store your secure logins so you can stay better protected against password-based hacks.

You’ll need antivirus software, good password habits, and education on phishing attacks to secure your email from hackers, not a VPN app.

However, some VPN apps have email trackers that notify you if your email is breached, so you can fortify your email account.

Conclusion

VPNs are great against some hacks, but they won’t protect you against all possible hacks. Still, they are an essential part of your online security arsenal and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Specifically, NordVPN’s DDoS protection, on top of encrypted server protocols, makes it a fine choice against specific online hacks. It even brings other online security features like NordPass for password management and CyberSec to prevent trackers and malware.

Luckily, you can get all these today with NordVPN’s massive discounts to save more on your subscription.

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