For over two decades now, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) stands for online security, privacy, and anonymity. Despite its humble beginnings, after many updates and improvements, the software turned out to be one of the most used things for protecting yourself from the dangers lurking all over the Internet.

Now, this network has found a use worldwide, in people’s homes and workplaces, on home networks or public ones. It’s used by individuals and companies that are trying to avoid restrictions on the Internet, but at the same time protect their fragile information from all kinds of surveillance and possible cyber-attacks. Needless to say, VPNs are safe, or at least they should be. But does using this type of protection guarantee a flawless experience no matter what, or can they, after all, be tracked down and hacked?

To give an answer to this question, it’s important to start from the beginning, as it’s not so simple. First, you need to know how a VPN works.

What is a VPN and how does its encryption work?

Using a Virtual Private Network in order to protect yourself, works in a way that it creates a safe “tunnel” through the Internet. This tunnel is encrypted and when accessing the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and it hides all of your online activity and traffic going from your computer to the wanted destination. This means that your ISP can’t see or track anything that you visit or do on the Internet. Also, the websites or content you are trying to reach won’t have any information about you either, because your VPN provider will equip you with a different IP address, making yours invisible. This stops anyone from tracking you down, and also allows you to reach Geo-blocked content around the world.

Establishing a connection through a VPN is relatively easy. All you have to do is subscribe to one, connect to the Internet through your ISP, and then initiate a VPN connection through the installed client on your device. But now comes the more complicated part. Every VPN provider has a set of security protocols and encryptions. These are the main keys to staying safe. The better the protocols and encryptions, the more protected you are.

A VPN security protocol is a set of rules for data transmission and encryption and some of the most widely used protocols are Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) and OpenVPN (SSL/TLS). These protocols are encrypted to make your data unreadable to anyone trying to intercept your information, such as hackers. The VPN protocols utilize these algorithms creating this so-called “tunnel” that was mentioned before. It’s the perfect way to stay safe and anonymous, especially when you take into consideration that your IP address won’t be visible either.

However, not every single one of these protocols (or encryptions) will provide you with the same level of security. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Many VPN providers offer more choices, allowing you to select one according to your needs. And depending on which one you use, you will get the answer to your question – can a VPN be hacked?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Pretty much everything can be hacked. However, it’s not that simple and it happens only if you are a “high-value” target for the hackers. Chances are you are not, as most of us fall under the category of basic VPN users that simply want privacy.

The math behind a strong encryption is incredibly complex and trying to decrypt even a more outdated version would take months, even years.

If you want to feel fully protected, I recommend a VPN that offers only the highest quality encryptions and protocols. Don’t settle for something lower, if you value your privacy more than everything else a VPN has to offer.

Avoid using PPTP or L2TP/IPSec protocols. Instead, make sure you are using only the latest versions of the OpenVPN protocol, because it’s considered to be extremely secure. In terms of encryption, make sure your VPN provider offers 2048-bit or 256-bit encryption as they are harder to crack. Rest assured, if anyone ever tries to hack you, these protocols and encryptions will be a real nightmare.

Bottom line, in 99.99% of cases if you are using a strong and reliable provider, you have nothing to worry about. Hacking a VPN requires only the best skills and hackers,  are able to break the encryption by using its vulnerabilities, or by somehow stealing the encryption key. Other than such a complicated thing, you will need the money and the resources. Breaking a strong encryption is demanding and time-consuming and may take many years to complete. Stealing the key is also not an easy task. So, I would say there is nothing to worry about. Just make sure you choose a secure and trustworthy provider, and you are good to go. You are exposed to much more online dangers without one, so what harm would owning a VPN really do?