There are many positive aspects to VPNs: They offer some device security, online privacy, and encryption. However, they are not perfect. In fact, there are security risks associated with using a virtual private network. It’s essential to understand the risks, especially as digital footprints increase. Continue reading to learn more.

VPN fundamentals

VPNs claim to offer digital anonymity and online privacy while online. VPNs can also help to maneuver Internet fast lanes. Here are some of the features many VPNs tout:

  1. Logging policies: VPNs make sales based on their logging policies such as a “zero-logging policy” or “no logging policy on traffic.” All this means is the VPN does not record end-user activity while using the VPN. Each time an end-user logs onto a VPN server, traffic is sent through the device. However, VPNs can’t decrypt information packets as part of their service. While a VPN can store logs on what sites you have visited or what files you have downloaded by account. Nonetheless, a true zero-logging policy means this information is not stored long-term.
  2. Encryption and virtual IP addresses: Two of the most important safety features for browsing online include encryption and virtual IP addresses. How does encryption work? It locks data within a layer of unbreakable code. As a result, your data is unreadable to third parties such as ISPs, government agencies, or even cyber criminals. They can’t see what you're downloading or which sites you visit. Some VPNs offer a virtual, and non-local IP address. Therefore, in some cases, you can appear invisible online. Further, no one can tell your location or who you are. So, if a VPN works as advertised, then you will achieve online security regardless of where you are, what you do online, or how you choose to connect to the Internet.

What are some VPN limitations?

Naturally, as with anything, VPNs cannot do everything. They are powerful tools, but they are not always comprehensive in terms of security. Any breaches that happen to your devices aren’t impacted by a VPN. As such, it’s also essential to take other security measures and partner with a Citrix managed services partner who can ensure your network is safe.

There isn’t any question that malware, DDoS attacks, and ransomware are still a prominent threat. Moreover, VPNs don’t protect devices from any of these threats. End-users should still be careful about the types of files they download and where they are downloaded.

In addition, VPNs do not automatically protect all devices. If a VPN does offer protection, then it is only good for the device using it. To keep your network safe requires a more comprehensive cyber security solution.

There’s also the factor that VPNs can slow connection speeds up to 25% due to the encryption protocols. While you may want to remain anonymous, it makes for a slower online and browsing experience. It’s similar to using the Internet in the early 2000s, not optimal for streaming or even communicating on video calls.

Which is better: Free or Paid VPNs?

Some consumers love anything for free. But, is anything ever truly free? With a free VPN, you won’t get as many features as a paid version. Moreover, not all VPNs are created equal. Some VPN brands lure customers with a free service that actually decreases the security of your device. Also, if a VPN does not charge its customers, it has to make up for lost revenue from somewhere or something else.

The easiest way to make revenue is with ads. Yet, is it worth it to use a VPN when you have to deal with ads every hour? And, how do you know it’s safe to click on these ads? Thus, if you had no other choice but to choose between a free or paid VPN, the paid version is always the better option. Nonetheless, a paid VPN does not offer cyber security. So, you’ll have to pay again for a cyber security solution.

VPN dangers

You now understand how VPNs operate. Did you also know VPNs can be abused? If you do have a paid VPN service, it’s typically safer than a free version. But, many end-users still opt for free because, why not? Still, it’s not a good idea to use a free and unreliable VPN because many dangers lurk. There is no concrete method for telling if a VPN can keep your data safe.

Most VPN services don’t even provide external security audits. Why should they? They’re not selling security, they’re selling anonymity--there’s a stark difference.

Even if a VPN claims to offer security and zero-logging, you will never know for certain if this is true. You still send your data through a third-party, and who is the third-party? No one knows. You’ll just have to take their word for it. Here are other potential dangers associated with VPNs:

  1. Traffic Restrictions: Many VPN services have been caught red-handed throttling or blocking end-user traffic. It’s almost as dangerous as IP logging. Unfortunately, the most common firewalls prevent torrent downloads and P2P network access. But, based on a VPNs connection protocols, this will slow down the service. At times, a VPN may even stop a connection of an end-user streams or downloads too much. So, it’s certainly not reliable for a remote working environment.
  2. Jurisdiction: The level of potential security a VPN offers depends on where the brand is located. A VPN provider may sell a strict zero-logging policy, but then they’re located in a country where the government mandates data retention. So, the VPN may store end-user data secretly. So, does the policy even matter? Your data is vulnerable.
  3. IP Logging: The logging policy is one of the most important selling points for a VPN. It’s a great promise to make, but is there anything to stop a VPN from storing your data anyway? If the VPN is unreliable and disreputable, it doesn’t matter what logging policy they promote.

Is it possible to get a good VPN?

It is possible to find a trustworthy VPN brand, but it’s still not recommended for accessing a company network. There are a few criteria to consider. First, it should be easy to install and mobile friendly. It should not require complicated configuration, and here are a few other necessary features:

  1. Fast speeds: VPNs often slow down your connection, so it helps to find a VPN that offers reliable servers.
  2. Privacy and security: Look for a VPN with strong encryption and privacy policies.
  3. Server network: It’s important to choose a VPN located in a country where it can honor its logging policies.
  4. Zero-logging policy: A strict zero-logging policy is the best option.

Is Citrix more secure than a VPN?

Now that you understand the fundamentals of VPNs, it’s time to look at Citrix, a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Citrix offers more than a remote connection, it provides access to a VD hosted on your organization’s server. As a result, you can view your VD right from your chosen device. Once connected, a VPN will open apps on your computer and use local resources to access remote data. On the other hand, Citrix users only access resources from their virtual workstations.

Distributed workforces need a secure remote access strategy

There are many business apps that remote employees must access such as accounting systems, HR, legal, healthcare, and more. As remote work becomes permanent, the need for a secure and cost-effective remote access strategy is vital. There isn’t anything more frustrating than a remote employee who is unable to get their work done or who inadvertently poses network security threats due to their home connection.

Further, the remote access experience is also crucial. It should be reliable and user-friendly. A VDI, is the right solution for the remote working environment. Citrix security is wholly dedicated to each machine, as each machine works independently with specified resources. In contrast, VPNs create bottlenecks especially when using high-bandwidth client-server applications. If a VPN fails, it executes a “kill switch” to terminate the Internet connection. Therefore, remote employees can’t work until the VPN reconnects.

However, Citrix is more secure than a VPN because it optimizes app delivery and auto-scales via secure and seamless delivery over any network. Additionally, Citrix offers detailed user insights into every domain visited, every file opened or downloaded, and more. In fact, Citrix security utilizes machine learning to deploy continuous risk assessments.

Traditional VPN solutions aim to balance access between corporate network resources with private, non-corporate personal network activity. Most commonly, this is accomplished using what is known as "split tunneling," allowing only specifically defined network traffic to cross the VPN while all other personal traffic remains unchanged. You can use policies to specify strictly which resources are allowed to be accessed to ensure that user traffic does not enter the corporate network.

For the most part, VPNs use split tunneling to balance access to non-corporate and corporate network access. Personal traffic is insecure, but so is corporate network traffic. Yet, Citrix can offer complete access to corporate networks whether they are SaaS applications or on-premise. Citrix also offers anti-keylogging features to keep end-user passwords safe.

Final thought

As cyber threats continue to rise, it would help to find an experienced Citrix managed services partner to guide your organization through the entire process and assist you with finding the right solution.

Our experts at SSI can do just that along with executing implementation, deployment, user training, and continuous maintenance. Contact us here for any questions.