Recently here at ITRC, we’ve received several queries about the effectiveness and use of mobile VPNs. What are they? How do they work? Do I need one for my phone if I send and receive a lot of data? Well, we aim to please…

VPN stands for “virtual private network.” A mobile VPN provides mobile devices with access to network resources and software applications on their home network when they connect via other wireless or wired networks. A VPN maintains an authenticated, encrypted tunnel for securely passing data traffic over public networks. This is important because public wireless internet connections (public wi-fi) are one of the easiest and most common ways for identity thieves and hackers to harvest personal information from their victims.

The increased use of mobile devices and a related rise in employee desire to use their own personal devices for work purposes means it is more important than ever that organizations take appropriate steps to protect corporate information and provide access in a safe and effective way. A mobile VPN makes it possible for users to access the internet via public wireless access in a McDonalds or Starbucks, while still staying safe behind a firewall to keep prying eyes from accessing privileged information. When considering whether or not a mobile VPN is a worthwhile tool to have, there are several issues to consider.

1. The need for privacy

It’s always a good idea in personal practice to exercise sound judgment when accessing the internet in public areas. For work purposes, the need for privacy becomes even more paramount. Not only could you compromise your personal information, you could expose company secrets as well. If your job is the type that requires continuous access to shared information, a mobile VPN should be viewed as a near necessity.

2. Connectivity and Convenience

A mobile VPN functions essentially like a portal to your home or office server. The cost of this convenience and safety should be considered necessary only if one is regularly accessing secure or sensitive information (either for personal or professional use) while on the go. If you don’t have access to your office server and/or don’t use your personal phone to send or receive sensitive information, a mobile VPN may be an unnecessary expenditure. A VPN is likely to come attached to a monthly subscription fee, and will also very likely make the speed of data exchange on your phone somewhat slower than it would be otherwise.

3. Frequenting Foreign Websites?

The secure nature of a mobile VPN allows you to usually access foreign hosted sites faster than otherwise possible.

4. Flexibility

VPN’s function on virtually any type of internet connection (wi-fi, 4g/LTE, broadband, etc.)

5. Voice vs. Data Security

It’s important to note that smartphones have both data and voice channels. Mobile VPN ONLY encrypts the data channel i.e., your phone access to a browser, email, and internet resources are encrypted. However, your voice calls are not encrypted through use of a mobile VPN. If you use internet based phone service (Skype for example) that uses the data channel to make phone calls, your voice calls may be encrypted when using your mobile VPN.


Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.