The primary purpose of any VPN is to safeguard your privacy and anonymize your Web traffic, making your online whereabouts invisible to anyone else. That means that VPNs are also highly effective tools against hacking attempts, as they encrypt your Web data. Still, today’s digital landscape changes quite often, creating opportunities for malicious actors. With that said, we’ll show you how to hack a VPN by providing you with a case study.
Of course, we won't get into details about how to steal someone's private information. Instead, we'll show you how someone can hack your VPN connection and intercept your data, showing you how to protect yourself adequately. So, let's jump right in!
Step #1: Exploring Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities to Search for a Hacking Opportunity
As you can already guess, hackers use all kinds of vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data, and that applies to a wide range of possible scenarios. So, let’s say that you connect to the Web in your home using a Wi-Fi router. This is perhaps the most basic vulnerability, based on whether your home Wi-Fi network is protected or not.
If you have set up a password, good for you! Easier-to-guess passwords are simple to bypass, and the situation is even simpler with open Wi-Fi networks. However, remember that you really need to know how to craft rock-solid passwords, making it harder for hackers to crack them.
Of course, since you’re reading this article, you probably already use a VPN. Let’s say that all your Web-connected devices are using VPN clients, which means that they always connect to the Web via VPN tunnels. As such, you basically block any hacker from reaching your device, as your incoming and outgoing data is protected using your VPN.
Step #2: Intercepting Your Data by Blocking Your VPN App
As previously mentioned, it would be close to impossible for hackers to access your VPN-protected device directly. That's why they will turn to your router, primarily. If you have an open Wi-Fi connection or if you use an easy-to-guess password, it would be relatively easy for someone to access your router's admin panel.
Now, let's say that you return home, power on your computer, and try to browse the Web using your VPN app. However, the app refuses to connect. You'll remember that you need to restart your router and your computer, but that won't lead to a solution to your problem. So, what's happening? Why can't you use your VPN?
Well, that is because hackers have accessed your Wi-Fi router, blocking a port that your VPN uses to connect to its server (remember that in this scenario, you use a VPN on your device to connect on-demand).
Then, you make the mistake of connecting to the Web without your VPN, most probably in an effort to contact your VPN's customer support. No matter if your VPN offers a live chat functionality or if you decide to compose an email, getting help will take some time.
Step #3: Redirecting Your Web Data Into the Wrong Hands
Even while you're trying to fix your VPN, your device will still use a security layer to protect your traffic. We’re talking about HTTPS here, which takes time to decipher. Of course, HTTPS can never replace AES-256 or any other type of VPN encryption, but it still provides some security.
So, instead of breaking directly into your device, a hacker will try to redirect your Web traffic (while still having access to your router) via DNS hijacking (also known as DNS substitution).
Know that there are multiple types of DNS hijacking, but their main goal is always the same. When your DNS is hijacked, your Web traffic gets resolved and redirected to malicious sites to steal data or credentials.
Step #4: Removing Any Traces of Malicious Activity
Finally, once hackers start to redirect your traffic, they will try to set up an operation that can run endlessly. In other words, they will unblock your VPN by re-accessing your router and undoing any port-related changes. On your end, your VPN will start to work once again, and you’ll probably think that you’ve encountered just a temporary issue.
Of course, the method explained above is best done in the short term. However, since new vulnerabilities are appearing almost daily, there's always an option for hackers to implement long-term mechanisms to steal your data, even while using a VPN.
So, What Did We Learn? How to Protect Yourself Against VPN Hacking?
Finally, let’s draw some valuable conclusions from the situation and events explained above, helping you protect yourself in the best way possible.
- Your router is the weakest point of entry for hackers. If you have a bit of money to invest in a capable router, make sure to do so. That’s because today’s routers come with built-in tools that block access to malicious actors. To check your best options, here’s our guide to the best routers right now. And also, it would be even better to use a VPN-enabled router, which lets you run your VPN directly from the source of your Web connection.
- Make sure to use a reliable and capable VPN. Our guide to the best VPNs will help you find options that will meet all your needs. Make sure to use a trustworthy VPN that has been around for a long time and has a reputation for protecting its customers. And also, make sure to read hands-on reviews written by experts who have tried the software.
- Don’t forget to protect all your Web-connected devices. You can do this by installing a VPN on your router or using a VPN made for multiple devices. Those VPNs support many parallel connections, making it possible to protect all your devices (including your computer, smartphone, tablet, and even your gaming console or smart TV) at the same time.
- If public Wi-Fi blocks your VPN, it’s best not to use that network. A good indication that a public Wi-Fi network has "special rules" for Web traffic is its ability to block your VPN. In that case, we strongly recommend avoiding that network altogether.
That would be all for our explainer on how to hack a VPN. If you have any questions or doubts on your mind, share them via the comments section below. And lastly, thanks for reading!