COVID19 Work From Home Tips Recommendation 1: VPN Service

by | Mar 27, 2020 | Security, Tech Support | 0 comments

photo: Rubén Bagüés

If you’re reading this, you probably need to read this.

Hello from Frank at Clay Mountain Solutions! I hope you and your loved ones are feeling well, healthy, safe and sane (relatively sane, anyway).

This is the first of my tech-related recommendations for working safely from home. I suggest everyone consider using these services or tools, whether you’re stuck at home during a global pandemic or not.

You should expand the idea of “work from home” to include school work, too. I’m a parent with two kids in elementary school now stuck at home with Chromebooks. I hope to also give some useful advice for parents like me looking to help protect their kids online. And some of these tips are just helpful for “whatever” you’re doing online, work or play.

I want to make sure everyone has these suggestions available whether you try to set them up yourself, have me do it, or get help from someone else. But since I am a small business owner trying to survive the pandemic, I have to mention that I’d be delighted to help any of you with these services and tools; my standard rates for tech support are $75 per hour for remote support, and $100 for on-site support but… let’s hold off on the on-site support for now. If you just have some quick questions though, shoot me an email and I’ll try to give a useful response, absolutely 100% free of charge!

Sometimes I will recommend a specific company because I feel confident enough in their service that I’ve chosen to represent them as an affiliate or reseller, but often it’s just because there are plenty of options out there and sometimes you gotta just pick something and move on. There definitely are other options out there as well, just as good or better I suppose. It’s a big world with too many things to test!

RECOMMENDATION #1: GET VPN SERVICE

Why? To protect everything you do while on WiFi.

VPN means “virtual private network”. It’s basically a private “tunnel” between your device and wherever you happen to be on the Internet. If you ever connect a device to the Internet over wifi (laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc.) you should consider using a VPN service. But if you’re conducting business over a wifi network you’re not 100% certain is 100% secure, you *absolutely* should start using a VPN!

A VPN will disguise all of your Internet traffic by scrambling it or “encrypting” it. If you are on a wireless network that is insecure, someone with bad intentions could get on the same network and use software to collect every single username, password, credit card number, social security number, bank account detail… basically every keystroke that you send and receive from your wirelessly-connected device. And while you might think it would be difficult for someone to “do anything” with whatever info they slurp up from your online activity, you’d be wrong. A criminal will use software designed to make the process of harvesting your sensitive details fast and easy, barely lifting a finger. If that’s ok with you, and you don’t mind a little identity theft now and then, forget I said anything. But if you don’t like that idea: get a VPN service.

Here are some common issues with wifi networks that are reasons for using a VPN:
the wifi network you are on is public i.e. at a coffee shop, hotel, library etc. (anyone can see and join it with a publicly posted password)

  • the wifi network has NO password (yikes!! never use those!!)
  • the wifi network has a short, easy password (hackers use software that can make thousands of password guesses per second, so you want long, complex passwords)
  • the wifi router/modem has not had its firmware updated (meaning: whatever security “holes” have been discovered have not been “patched” and “bad guys” can find their way in)
  • the wifi router/modem has the “default” administrator login (if it’s anything like “admin” and “password” and has never been changed–change it!)

If the wifi network in question is yours, you should fix as many of those issues above as possible, as soon as possible. But often, we don’t have the ability or access to make sure the wifi network we are on is safe and secure. That is why using a VPN can be such a helpful tool.

The VPN service I recommend is NordVPN. They offer a lengthy subscription term (3 years) for a very reasonable price ($3.49 per month) which is very affordable considering the financial consequences from potential identity theft. NordVPN also allows you to use your subscription on up to 6 devices. Their server are fast. They have no data “quota” limiting how much you can send/receive through the VPN. They do not keep any logs of your data (perhaps more important if you’re Edward Snowden than my typical client but, it’s definitely a privacy perk). Disclosure: I *am* an affiliate and do get some small compensation if you sign up. Click below for their latest deal:

If you can find an inexpensive alternative VPN service that better suits your needs, go for it. My one warning is that there are some VPN apps for smartphones and tablets that charge ridiculous prices for very short terms–$5 a week, or something. Don’t do that. It’s not always clear that deleting the app doesn’t cancel your subscription, and you could be paying for weeks (or months or years) of service at an exorbitant rate for something you don’t even use, with no refund options.

There are other benefits to using a VPN, but most of them won’t apply to those of you reading this, so there’s not much point into going into it. But NordVPN’s website will give you some insight into other ways a VPN can be of benefit, and I’ll do my best to give any follow-up explanation you need so: feel free to send me your questions.

Speaking of questions: if you’ve got any tech-support questions that you’d like me to discuss in a future post, please send them to: info@claymtn.com

Thanks for reading my overly-lengthy blog post! I hope it’s helpful–if you think anyone else would benefit from it, please share it with a friend. If I can get even just one of you more protected than you were before, then I think it was worth boring the rest of you.

Be safe everyone–wash those hands!

-Frank