Disclosure (full version- https://nikolaroza.com/affiliate-disclosure/): Some of the links you’ll encounter are affiliate links. If you click and buy something, I may get a commission. Thank you!
The latest numbers show that 5.3 billion people — 65% of the global population — have access to and use the internet. Most enjoy its benefits daily, using it for work or research or just sitting back and watching their favorite shows. Aside from personal use, businesses and whole industries have incorporated the Internet into their daily crucial processes, taking advantage of the increased connectivity, improved efficiency, and cost- and time-saving measures.
Unfortunately, this has had the negative effect of putting a target on their backs. Specific industries handle very sensitive information over the course of their regular operations. Hackers and malware developers have been known to try to get into secure networks to profit from their illegal access, whether to use that information directly or sell it to other organizations. Any vulnerability in any business infrastructure can result in massive data leaks, potentially costing them millions in untold damage and lost business. In this article, we’ll talk about five industries and sectors that can significantly benefit from using VPNs.
Healthcare is considered one of the critical infrastructures of any nation, regardless of levels of development. Healthcare facilities usually operate interconnected networks to improve patient care and data management, and this may involve hundreds, if not thousands, of devices that could potentially serve as access points for hackers and malware infection. Another unfortunate fact that the healthcare sector needs to contend with is that they appear to be favored targets of such individuals and organizations.
Patient information and HIPAA
Patient information leak is one of, if not the biggest, healthcare information security concerns. Hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, and the like keep detailed patient information records in their systems, including full names, dates of birth, medical conditions, and even credit card and banking details. Once hacked, this information can be used for illegal monetary gains or sold to organizations in bulk.
Data leak isn’t the only concern, though. Imagine a hacker having free reign over a hospital scheduling system and changing surgery dates for multiple patients. Not only will this cause chaos in the hospital itself, but the schedule change may result in priority cases being bumped down or completely removed. The hackers can also tamper with patient case files, edit the dosages, or completely change prescribed medicines. This can cause avoidable deaths and lead to increased mortality rates. Aside from that, hacking obstructs the hospital’s capability to operate as usual — and delays in the healthcare sector can put lives at risk.
Even if the system is cleaned and all operations are restored after an infection, the hospital will now have to contend with the consequences of the hack. Patients and investors may lose confidence in the provider. Hacks and ransomware attacks are estimated to cost an average of $1.85 million dollars to fix. Some high-profile and extensive cases even cost upwards of $100 million.
Healthcare data breaches can also increase the risk of healthcare fraud and other healthcare-related suits, requiring professional legal counsel and can tie up the institution in litigation for years.
Proper investment in cybersecurity and following comprehensive data protection guidelines (such as the ones laid out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA) for handling information and connected devices can go a long way in mitigating these risks.
Like with hospitals, the legal industry is another favorite target of hackers. A ton of exceptional information passes through legal channels, which are all ripe for the picking if hackers access these networks. Aside from personal and financial information, case details, evidence inventory, prosecution or defense strategies, and personal and business contract information can be taken from compromised servers and used for illicit activities.
Things have gotten so bad that between 2020 and 2022, personally identifiable information (PII) compromised through legal firm breaches reached 779,000. This is an almost 4000% increase from the reported 20,000 PII breaches between 2014 to 2019. Experts have been calling for a unified security response to set strict cybersecurity guidelines to avoid these breaches to minimize such data leaks.
CJIS in legal and law enforcement security
Thankfully, some legal industry sectors are under the purview of CJIS, or the Criminal Justice Information System. Specifically, it handles anything tangentially related to law enforcement in the country. CJIS handles the storage and transfer of all data to and from different agencies. It also provides compliance guidelines for government agencies and legal third-party service providers for auxiliary services like transcription, cloud storage, and physical and digital file transfers. VPNs can help agencies and providers achieve compliance with CJIS by providing an added layer of security in all data transfers.
It shouldn’t be surprising that hackers and malware developers like to target the financial industry since bank institutions regularly handle trillions of U.S. dollars. Aside from that, the financial industry is experiencing a great shift with increasing cryptocurrency and blockchain technology implementation. Banks are incorporating them into their operations and overhauling their systems and security to better protect themselves in an increasingly hostile network environment.
Legacy banking systems
However, the unfortunate truth is some bank institutions still operate using legacy banking systems — decades-old platforms that handle everything from opening an account to maintaining transaction ledgers. These old systems, both in the hardware and software sense, present a significant threat to banking systems. Just last month, I had to open an account with a national commercial bank and was shown a system that looked like an MS-DOS program. Banks have a few reasons to keep such systems, the chief of which is the cost and difficulty of migrating the system and database into a newer environment.
Thankfully, most banks have transferred their core functions to cloud-based services. However, those still present new and exciting problems, such as cybersecurity threats like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, improper access controls, and other tech vulnerabilities. VPN software can supplement the built-in security features of a cloud-based banking system and further protect devices and access points. And this isn’t just great for institutions; end-users can also utilize virtual private networks to prevent data breaches from their side of the transaction.
With it being at the forefront of the digital revolution, it should be immediately apparent how the tech industry can benefit from more secure networks and devices. First and foremost is the subject of intellectual property. The tech industry is known for producing new technologies and systems at an increasing rate. A company working on a prototype needs to secure access to any and all information related to this new product. Otherwise, they risk getting it stolen by competitors. This scenario also includes code and other software projects.
With the increasing application of remote or hybrid work arrangements, more and more devices are accessing private company systems, presenting a wider attack surface for hackers and malware infection. And since the access happens outside the corporate network, VPNs can help create a more secure connection between the remote device and the company servers.
VPNs can also assist in managing network traffic while providing an extra layer of security. Routing and optimizing networks can be critical to any tech company’s operations, improving data access, submission efficiency, and real-time communication.
New devices, new problems
Increasing interconnectivity means that computers, phones, and laptops aren’t the only ones that need to be secured. Smart home appliances, self-driving cars, TVs, security systems, heck, even baby monitors and garage doors can be hacked.
Another example is wireless dashcams, which can provide easy access to footage and enhanced storage capabilities via an internet connection, which is perfect for businesses running fleets or multiple vehicles like ride-sharing outfits. But if hacked, the dashcams may be used to track individuals, mark their private and business addresses, create a list of destinations, expose physical security risks, etc. While not all new systems and appliances are compatible with VPN software, business networks can be protected with VPN, providing blanket coverage for all connected devices.
While it doesn’t keep the same amount of information as banking and healthcare organizations, educational institutions like schools and colleges keep a lot of PII that can be used in identity theft, social engineering, and other malicious activities. Things like full names, birthdays, social security numbers, and even proprietary information like test answers and teacher and professor information can be compromised if even one of the computers in the network is infected. Security should be the utmost priority regarding personal information, and VPNs can help protect school networks from hackers, block suspicious websites, and monitor each computer used within the network.
Aside from security, educational institutions can benefit from using VPNs in other ways. Bypassing geographic locks, for instance, is an excellent feature. Online resources that are geo-blocked, like academic papers, educational videos, and other content, can be accessed using a VPN routing protocol, which bypasses the block by connecting through servers in different countries or locations.
The benefit of using a VPN is universal
This article only includes the five most likely industries that can significantly benefit from VPN use. But the truth is, every industry connected to and using the internet for any data transmission — which is to say, every industry operating today — can use VPNs to improve their security, manage their network traffic, improve accessibility for international content, and minimize data breaches and leaks.
Nikola Roza is an affiliate marketer and blogger behind Nikola Roza- SEO for the Poor and Determined. He writes for bloggers who don't have huge marketing budgets and who still want to carve out a niche online and a better life for themselves. He's also passionate about precious metals IRAs and how to invest in gold and silver for a safer financial future. Learn about Nikola here, or read his blog posts and guides here.