Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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Don’t Become A Victim Of Your Own SEO Success

As we all know, the whole point of successful SEO is to get our clients’ websites, or indeed our own, onto P1 of search engines for organic results. It also doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you have a very niche offering or service, then the easier it is to get onto the top of the search engine rankings.

For example, if you run a holiday cottage business in somewhere like the UK’s Cotswolds region, SEO competition would be fierce. But if you run a garage specialising only in, say, repairing vintage Bentley cars, there might only be one or two such enterprises in your entire country.

So it is that many small businesses and eCommerce websites find themselves the victims of cyber fraud, because the better their SEO, the more visible they are online. And the smaller the business, the less likely they are to be cyber-security savvy.

So hand in hand with a strong SEO policy for their online presence, business proprietors should also protect their internet connected devices with a VPN extension. A virtual private network (VPN) is facilitated by a small downloadable file that instals a browser extension onto the user’s device, whether that be an iPhone, iMac, PC laptop or Android tablet.

The VPN extension software simply ensures that the device connects to the internet via the VPN’s middleman server, which is encrypted, so that it doesn’t reveal the user’s identity, nor their genuine location. There are several advantages to this online anonymity. Let’s look at some of them here:

Easing off the throttle

It’s a common practice for internet service providers (ISPs) to ‘throttle’ (i.e. slow down to a crawl) the data connections of their customers if ever they transgress the ISP’s ‘fair usage’ policy. In a household where the parents might be professionals working from home (WFH), and the two kids might be a WordPress designer and a video editing student respectively. The likelihood is that the family is going to be gobbling through gigabytes of data daily!  Their ISP might decide that their data usage is excessive and slows down the connection to the entire household until the refresh date of the next monthly billing cycle.

But if the family each have VPN extensions on their devices, the ISP can’t identify their connection, nor locate it, so they can’t throttle the speed. VPN 1 – ISP Zero!

Avoiding cyber security loopholes

As mentioned above, if a small business is highly visible online, so increases the likelihood of cyber criminals targeting them. This often takes the form of installing ransomware or spyware onto a business’s device or web server, allowing hackers to steal credit card details, passwords and the like. Worse still, ransomware can remove all copies of a business’s files and bring their computers to a standstill unless the victim pays a cryptocurrency ransom in the hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth.

But by using a VPN, the encrypted server will carry state of the art virus protection, and if it detects any malicious activity, it will instantly disconnect the vulnerable device from the internet connection.

When the Wi-Fi hotspot is TOO hot!

Following on from the cyber security issue above, unsecured Wi-Fi public hotspots are notorious for catching out unwary people and infecting their devices with spyware and the like. Hackers will simply go for a coffee at a mall, taking their laptop with them. They’ll see the Wi-Fi and the password, so they set up their own personal hotspot with identical details. When an unwary shopper comes in for coffee and to maybe check their email or maybe Discord feed, they see a hotspot entitled ‘Acme Mall free wi-fi’. They enter the password on the chalkboard above the café counter and, naturally, the connection works. But what they didn’t notice was that there were TWO identical hotspots available. There’s a 50% chance now that they’ve logged on to the hacker’s network.

Next, the victim sees a pop up on their machine exhorting them to download a voucher for a free coffee on their next visit. They click the link. Now they are in the midst of having spyware installed onto their device. Game over.

But if the person was using a VPN extension, the VPN server would detect that malicious activity and disconnect before any harm could be done.

Accessing streaming platforms on vacation

Imagine a UK citizen has relatives in Pakistan and goes to visit for a few weeks. The holidaymaker might well wish to catch up on news back in Bradford, England from their uncle’s house in Lahore. But the flagship UK BBC iPlayer detects an Asian IP address and blocks the connection. If the person had a VPN extension downloaded onto their device, they could simply choose a UK based encrypted server top access the internet from. Within moments, they would be connected to the latest BBC TV news.

These aren’t all the advantages of using a VPN, there are others, not least the avoidance of overpaying for flights and hotels, by using the VPN location cloaking facility. But whatever the various advantages of VPN extensions, one thing is certain. Every small business that can be found on the internet should be using a VPN as a matter of course to keep themselves safe online. After all, you can’t be too careful.

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