Can VPNs protect you from data breaches? – Forbes Advisor Australia

Concern about our individual cyber security is growing among Australians in the wake of numerous data breaches, including two significant attacks on Australian companies.

The Optus data breach impacted nearly 10 million customers, many of whom were required to replace vital documents, including their driver’s license. Not long after, Medibank Private revealed that all of its nearly four million customers have had their data hacked—some of which included detail medical information.

These two high-profile debacles have understandably prompted many Australians to contemplate how they can keep their data safe. Many have been wondering whether a VPN can help secure their data in an era of increased susceptibility to cyber hacks. Here’s the lowdown. 

Related: Guide to using VPNs in Australia

What Is A VPN?

VPN stands for ‘virtual private network—a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. It does this by creating an encrypted digital tunnel between your computer and the internet, protecting your online identity and hiding your IP address (which is a series of numbers that identifies a device or network). 

Another way to understand a VPN is to picture it as an outer packet that ensures your data stays secure inside the packet. This keeps the data safe during transfer.

A VPN also allows you to use public Wifi hotspots safely.

How VPNs May Help

A VPN can quite literally block your IP address from everyone. Governments, hackers, or anyone else spying on you as you navigate the web, explains Australian cyber security expert, Stephen Kho. 

“For example, connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in coffee shops, airports, and other public areas, is incredibly risky,” says Kho, of digital security company, Avast

“All it takes is one hacker connected on the same network and they can easily spy on all your activity. A VPN acts like an invisibility cloak, hiding everything you do on your phone or computer.

A VPN can protect you from prying eyes such as Google and other websites that track your browsing habits, Kho adds.

“If you’ve ever used the private browsing feature in your…