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VPNs are now an indispensable business tool

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The way we work is changing, with the vast majority of business now conducted in a digital context, companies are rapidly shifting towards remote-centric business models that decentralize security. Change is needed and some major hardware companies are answering the challenge.

The world is on the move, and so are workers. As more and more employees (and crucially, employers) begin to see the benefits of remote workers, a greater percentage of people are working remotely. According to data from Owl Labs, in 2019 only 44 percent of global companies did not allow remote work, a significant increase from previous years.

Working from home, or a beach in Bali, does have some downsides though. Aside from the ever-present issues with Skype connections and unmatched time zones, the onus of security is firmly placed on the worker’s shoulders. Unlike heading into an office and working from a company computer, most remote staff work from their own personal laptops. It’s up to each staff member to ensure that company files, transfers, and important documents are kept safe from prying eyes.

As if in answer to the prayers of remote workers all over the globe, some hardware companies, HP included, are amping up their in-built cybersecurity measures. HP is now in partnership with both ExpressVPN and will include the company’s dedicated Windows VPN app on select desktop and laptop computers. HP has also incorporated LastPass, a popular password management application in forthcoming computer models.

Having a VPN on one’s computer helps with more than just keeping company data safe, there are different uses of VPN and in certain situations, it can help keep remote staff themselves protected. We spoke with a journalist working in Egypt, one of the most poorly rated countries in the world for net freedom, and a place where the detention and interrogation of journalists is becoming increasingly common. This writer may work for known papers including The Guardian and The New York Times, but this isn’t enough to protect her from the state if she chooses to be critical of the current regime. Instead, she relies on a Tor browser and a VPN at all times when she is online.

Even trying to open a VPN company’s website in Egypt proves difficult as the pages have been blocked. Of course, Egypt is not an isolated example, other nations opt for dictatorial control and threatening measures. Having in-built security in new personal devices means more people across the globe will have greater potential to access sites and information that certain governments would rather they couldn’t reach. And remote workers are offered a greater level of security when working in places where their personal safety may be compromised.

But there’s another reason to applaud HP’s decision to incorporate high-level security tools: privacy. Even if you’re working in a perfectly safe cafe around the corner from your house, online privacy matters. Unlike real-life situations, one can’t simply close the front door and draw the curtains on the digital realm, instead a certain amount of vigilance is needed to keep data from falling into the wrong hands.

Comprehensive data sets are worth a lot of money. They are so valuable that we now have dedicated data brokerage firms such as Acxiom and, perhaps more worryingly, political consultancy groups, including the now defamed Cambridge Analytica, wading into the already muddy waters to get their slice of the data pie.

On the face of it, their business is marketing. Their intent is to collect as much information about each individual consumer as possible; likes, dislikes, browsing habits, peak internet use hours, previous search patterns and much more. Once collated, this data can be sold to a surprisingly varied group of companies. Most of the time, we are only aware our patterns are being tracked because of targeted advertising — ever search for an item, then have it displayed to you as an advertisement on multiple other webpages?

Not only is this annoying, but it also infringes on our right to browse in peace and quiet without having a marketer tapping on our digital shoulder every five seconds. Imagine if you visited a real-life shop, viewed an item and then left the store. Now imagine you were followed into the next four stores by the owner of the first shop, still waving the object in your face. It would be harassment. We don’t put up with it on the streets so why do we have to contend with it online?

HP’s partnership with ExpressVPN represents a very real acknowledgment of the need for greater online security. The result is an encompassing solution that protects remote workers and those who would just like to read their favorite blog without producing marketable and sellable data patterns.

In a statement to Bloomberg News, the Vice President of  ExpressVPN, Harold Li, noted that the “relationship reflects the fact that VPNs are now considered an indispensable tool for digital protection.” Mike Nash, HP’s Cheif Technologist and Vice President of Customer Experience, said: “our customers connect to a variety of unsecured public Wi-Fi networks on a daily basis, often without realizing the security and privacy risks.” He continued by saying that HP is “excited to be adding ExpressVPN to the set of security offerings to help our consumer customers protect their personal information.” The desktop and laptop models HP is releasing come with ExpressVPN preinstalled. A free 30-day trial period is also included.

Rather than digital security tools being an optional addition, they are a necessity these days. Remote workers may enjoy flexible working hours and the occasional pool-side office day, but these luxuries come with an added concern, the need to keep company data safe and sound at all times. Plus, with dedicated security measures in place, the safety of your business is increased.

About Augustina Baker

agustinab@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Augustina Baker is a digital specialist at Techwarn, a digital safety advocate, warning tech users of the dangers in the digital world and empowering users to take control of their digital lives.

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