VP-What?! The Three Letters to Protect You and Your Family

By Mark Gorrie, Senior Director and Security Expert – ANZ, NortonLifeLock

Australians’ lack of understanding around both the dangers that lurk online and the protections a VPN can provide are leaving them vulnerable to many threats that could easily be defended against.

Everybody loves free internet access, which is why Australians are such big fans of the humble public Wi-Fi network. Before you can ask us, “Why or what is VP-”, we’re going to cut you off before you finish. Whether you’re connecting at a hotel, airport, restaurant, bar, or any other public space, the lack of security around these networks can place the privacy and anonymity of you and your family at risk. That’s why a virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a must for anyone worried about security, privacy, and protecting their family online.

Unfortunately, many Australians suffer from a severe lack of awareness around VPN technology or an it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude, resulting in a lacklustre approach to securing themselves and their loved ones from cyber threats.

According to Norton Australia’s Project 360 Data Report, there is a significant misconception among Aussies as to what a VPN is. For example, over one-third (36 per cent) don’t use a VPN and don’t know what it is. This is even more common in regional areas (43 per cent) and for Boomers (46 per cent). A further 36 per cent of Aussies have heard of VPNs before, but still don’t use one, while 31 per cent believe their online behaviour is not risky enough to warrant using a VPN, a figure that again rises to 45 per cent amongst Boomers.

Currently, only one-quarter of Australians (28 per cent) use a VPN, with the highest usage seen among younger Australians – Gen Z (38 per cent) and Millennials (26 per cent).

Part of the reason for this is down to Australians’ general lack of understanding around what a VPN does. Less than half (45 per cent) correctly believe that a VPN shields online activity from third parties, or that a VPN makes the user anonymous online by encrypting their internet connection and masking their IP address so their activity cannot be intercepted by others.

Comparatively, almost nine in ten (88 per cent) Aussies incorrectly believe that using a VPN will help prevent online advertisers from being able to track them, while two-thirds (67 per cent) incorrectly believe that people who use VPNs are more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals.

These figures demonstrate a desperate need for education to help Aussies understand precisely what a VPN does and does not do, and why they need one. As it stands, less than one per cent of Australians have a very detailed knowledge of VPNs, which means 99 per cent are playing with fire and it’s only a matter of time before they are burned.

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