If you're hurriedly putting together a home office, here's why you should use a VPN - and security software - for the entire time you're stuck working from home.
As millions of workers shift from offices to their homes, security and privacy are not the priorities they probably should be. In many cases, companies are frantically buying laptops and simply trying to make it possible for everyone to continue doing their job remotely.
While some organisations will already have VPNs in place, if you don't ordinarily use one and haven't been asked to install one, it's a very good idea to do so.
Why do I need a VPN?
A VPN provides a secure, encrypted connection between your laptop (or whichever device you're using) and a server on the internet. This prevents anyone from spying on what you're doing, and also stops them from hacking in and seeing any messages or data that you access over the connection.
If your work involves anything of a sensitive nature, it's essential to turn on your VPN while you work.
There are other benefits of using a VPN, including being able to access websites and video that's not available in your region. While not work-related, this can open up more content to read and watch while you're stuck at home.
Which VPN should I use?
Tech companies are practically falling over themselves to offer free access to their products and services at the moment, and VPNs are no exception. A brand new provider - RingVPN - is offering three months' use for free as a minimum, and may extend this offer if the situation is unresolved after that time.
As it's new, it's untested. It also requires you to hand over your card details to access the service, which isn't ideal, and you'll have to cancel your subscription if you don't want to be charged after the free period ends.
Given that we're talking about security and privacy, we can't yet recommend this option for anything except unblocking Netflix once you've finished work. There are other free VPN services, of course.
All of these services have great big discounts off the usual monthly price at the moment.
How do I use a VPN at home?
Speaking purely about non-enterprise VPN services here, it's as simple as downloading the provider's app to your phone, laptop or other device.
Once you've logged in, it's as easy as pressing the 'Connect' button or similar which will typically pick the closest or fastest available server. And that's it. You can then work as normal and you won't notice any difference.
It is worth looking for a kill switch in the settings, as these are usually turned off by default. But with the kill switch enabled, no data can be accidentally sent across an unencrypted connection should the VPN stop for any reason.
It's a rare occurrence, but it does happen from time to time and a kill switch ensures your data is always kept secure.
For more detail, see our tutorial on how to use a VPN.