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[Source: This article was Published in ibvpn.com By IBVPN TEAM - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Alex Gray] 

Since when are you an Internet user? For quite a while, right?

How many times have you asked yourself which are the dangers that might hide at the other side of your connection and how a VPN software can help you? You’re about to read this article which means you’ve asked yourself this question at least once.

This article will give you all the information you need to know about the advantages of VPN plus a list of tips and tricks that will make your life easier.

Are you ready?

By the way, if you are aware of the benefits a VPN brings, it’s time to start using it!

Get ibVPN!

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology came as an answer to individuals’ request to protect their online activities and to maintain their online confidentiality.

Besides this functionality, the technology helps internet users access restricted content from anywhere in the world, with just a click of a mouse.

Therefore, we can say that a VPN is a secure solution that allows its users to send and receive data via the internet while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of their data, based on its encryption level. The cherry on top is that a VPN will unblock the internet, by providing you the most-wanted Internet freedom that you deserve.

It’s obvious that because of people’s security need and especially because of the need for sending encrypted data over a network, the VPN technology has been developed. But besides the role of creating a “private scope of computer communications,” VPN technology has many other advantages:

  1. Enhanced security. When you connect to the network through a VPN, the data is kept secured and encrypted. In this way, the information is away from the hackers’ eyes.

  2. Remote control. In the case of a company, the great advantage of having a VPN is that the information can be accessed remotely even from home or from any other place. That’s why a VPN can increase productivity within a company.

  3. Share files. A VPN service can be used if you have a group that needs to share data for an extended period.

  4. Online anonymity. Through a VPN you can browse the web in complete anonymity. Compared to hide IP software or web proxies, the advantage of a VPN service is that it allows you to access both web applications and websites in complete anonymity.

  5. Unblock websites & bypass filters. VPNs are great for accessing blocked websites or for bypassing Internet filters. This is why there is an increased number of VPN services used in countries where Internet censorship is applied.

  6. Change IP address. If you need an IP address from another country, then a VPN can provide you this.

  7. Better performance. Bandwidth and efficiency of the network can generally be increased once a VPN solution is implemented.

  8. Reduce costs. Once a VPN network is created, the maintenance cost is very low. More than that, if you opt for a service provider, the network setup and surveillance is no more a concern.

Here is how your connection looks while using a VPN!

Advantages of VPN_your connection

Other things you need to know:

The advantages and benefits of a VPN are clear, let’s find out how to choose your VPN service and your new VPN service provider.

As a future VPN user, keep something in mind: the process of choosing and buying a VPN service should work the same as the process of doing a regular purchase.

Public networks are a real threat. The private networks are not very safe either because your internet service provider can throw an eye on anything you do. You can never be sure if you’re about to connect to a secured network unless you keep your internet activity safe.

So, no matter if you are looking for a VPN to encrypt your traffic while browsing the internet, to bypass geo-restrictions or you’re just the kind of person who likes to save some bucks while buying plane tickets, here’s what you future VPN should provide:

  • Free VPN Trial. Yes, maybe you’ve done some research on your own and saw those Five Best VPN articles all around the web. These articles are useful because are providing you information about VPN services at affordable prices, their performance, and features. When you can test these services by yourself, the experience is even better. That’s why is important to choose a VPN that provides you with a Free VPN Trial.

  • Speed. Do you have the patience to wait tons of seconds for your page to load while using a VPN? No, who has? Always look for the VPN that improves your internet connectivity, not slows it down!

  • Connectivity and reliability. Before buying a VPN service, you have to make sure that it assures you a safe/without drops connection.

  • The number of servers. The number of servers is an important thing for you to look into a VPN service. Before subscribing to a VPN provider, make sure it provides you a large number of servers around the globe.

  • Apps is compatible with various operating systems. I’m sure about one thing – you have more than one device you use to surf the web. There’s a significant probability for your devices do have different operating systems. An important thing that you should keep in mind is that your VPN provider should be able to meet your need by providing you with apps compatible with as many operating systems as possible.

  • The number of simultaneous connections. We are (almost) always online from more than one device, that’s why the number of concurrent connection is important.

  • Customer support. Not all of us are tech-savvy and, from time to time, even the experienced ones need help and guidance. Choosing a VPN provider with outstanding customer support is mandatory. Look for a VPN that allows you to contact the support via e-mail, support ticket systems and live chat. You will thank us later for this tip! ?

  • Privacy policy. One of the primary purposes of a VPN is to keep your online activities away from the curious eyes of any third party. If you don’t allow your ISP to spy on you, why would you let your VPN service provider do it? Choose a VPN service that has a transparent way of saying and doing things and make sure it won’t keep any connection logs. So, always check their Privacy Policy first, before subscribing!

  • Check their reviews page. We were mentioning above some things about the VPN reviews websites. Those websites are doing their reviews based on some tests. Wouldn’t be awesome to be able to find out what the actual customers of a VPN provider have to say about the service and its performance? Here’s a tip: if your future VPN service provider has its own reviews page, throw an eye on it.

Are you ready for some action?

Now that you know which are the advantages of a VPN, their value, and how you should choose one, it’s time for some action.

If you’re curious to test on your own the benefits of a VPN, you can do it for free, right now.
ibVPN is the perfect choice for those who care about their online privacy and freedom.

What do you have to do? It’s easy:

  1. Create a trial account – no credit card required

  2. Download a suitable app for your device(s)

  3. Enjoy a secure and open internet by connecting to one of the 180+ servers we are providing.

If you’re happy with the performance of our service, you can always subscribe to one of our premium plans.

Go Premium!

Keep in mind that a VPN has its limitations too!

Just like any other thing in this world, a VPN service has its advantages and disadvantages.

So, if you’re not an experienced technician or if you’re trying a security solution aka a VPN for the very first time, make sure you won’t dig that deep into the VPN’s settings. Before doing advanced settings into your app, please make sure you know what you’re doing otherwise, you might risk having leaks or your activity exposed.

Another thing that you should know if that, from time to time, a VPN can have connection drops. These drops are perfectly normal, that’s why you should make sure you’re connecting to a server that’s not overloaded.

Tips and tricks.

We want to make sure you make the most out of your VPN service, that’s why we have a list of tips and tricks which will help you a lot.

We have over 15 years of experience in providing our customers with security solutions so, listen to the old ones this time. ?

  1. KillSwitch. To assure the safety of your network connection, a VPN offers (or it should provide) features that enhance your level of security. One of these features is the KillSwitch. If you have never heard about it before, this feature assures your safety in case of connection drops. There are two kinds of KillSwitches: The Internet KillSwitch which will block your internet traffic in case of VPN drops and the Application Killswitch which ensures you that a list of selected apps will be closed, in case your VPN connection drops. So, for a secure connection, always use the KillSwitch!

  2. Use P2P servers. Some of you might use a VPN service to download torrents safely. To avoid any problems with your ISP, use only the P2P server for such activities!

  3. Use Double VPN. If you’re lucky enough to have Double VPN servers in your list, make sure you use them. Double VPN technology allows you to browse anonymously by connecting to a chain of VPN servers. In simple words: VPN on top of VPN (or VPN tunnel inside another VPN tunnel). Double VPN is all about VPN tunnels and levels of security and encryption. Isn’t it awesome?

  4. Use Stealth VPN or SSTP protocols. If you’re living in a country with a high censorship level and your connection gets blocked even if you use a VPN, make sure you change the protocol and try to use Stealth VPN or SSTP. These two VPN protocols are high-speed and secure and, for example, Stealth VPNwill mask your VPN traffic and will make it look like regular web traffic. In this way, you can bypass any restriction or firewall.

  5. Use VPN + Tor. Since Tor is used to mask very sensitive information, the frequent use of this browser might light the bulb of your ISP and mark you for surveillance. That’s why the safe way is to connect to a VPN server while using the Tor browser.

  6. Leak protection. Check your VPN app’s settings and, if it allows you, make sure you check all the options that keep you away from any leak (DNS leaks, IPv6 leak protection, etc.).

  7. Use the VPN on your mobile devices too. It’s not enough to keep it safe only when you use a laptop. Public wifis are real threats that’s why you should always be connected to a VPN.

  8. Test the server network before connecting. Why are we saying this? Well, this practice assures you that you will connect to the fastest server for you. And who doesn’t love a fast server?

  9. Use browser extensions. A browser extension is a super useful tool. There are cases when you need to change your IP fast and easy and to open your app, entering your details and choosing the desired server is somehow complicated, and it takes time. If your VPN provider provides you not only VPN clients compatible with different operating systems but browser extensions too, make sure you use them…

  10. Smart DNS. This neat and useful technology allows you to access blocked streaming channels, regardless of your region. If your VPN provider has such an option, make sure you use it to watch your favorite media content while you’re far away from home.

  11. Save money by using a VPN. Who doesn’t like traveling? Here’s a piece of advice: search online for a flight, compare the prices and then go back to the page you have initially accessed. There are 80% chances that the rates have been increased. If you’re wondering how this is even possible, let us explain. Some online ticket agencies have preferential prices for different countries. Save some extra bucks using a VPN!

Are you still here?

As you can see, the discussion about VPN technology and its advantages is so complicated. We could talk about it for days.

What you should keep in mind after reading this article is that no matter if you’re looking for the best option to browse anonymously, to unblock your favorite online content, to download torrents or to watch for the cheapest plane tickets, a VPN can always help you.

Besides its disadvantages, a VPN has tons of advantages, and it allows you to keep your personal information safe in the first place.

There are lots of fishes in the sea, make sure you choose the one that meets your needs.

Always browse safely!

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[Source: This article was Published in lifehack.org By Victor Emmanuel - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Anthony Frank]

What is a VPN? A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is simply a way used to connect different networks located separated from the Internet, using security protocols that allow both the authenticity and the confidentiality of the information that travels through the VPN connection or network system.

In our present world being security cautious is of paramount importance and in high demand in companies, and the need to send encrypted data over a network, VPN technology has developed more strongly means and is becoming more widespread in the private and business environment.

This article will relieve some significant benefits of VPN:

1. Improved Security

VPN has a lot of advantages to increase our online safety and privacy when surfing the internet not just from hackers, government and telephony operator per DNS Leakage. However, if you surf the web from any location, we could always do without a VPN. But if you connect to a public WiFi network, doing so via a Virtual Private Network will be better. Your real IP address will be safe while masking your actual location and your data will be encrypted against potential intruders.

An ISP is used to view all the information stocks online by consumer containing data, password and personal information. But when a VPN is in place, ISP’s will not be able to access a user’s log. Instead, they see encrypted statistics by the VPN server.

2. Remote Access

Using VPN shows that your information can be accessed remotely from any location which allows you to access your content if there is any restriction on the site. Using VPN can increase the company productivity as the workers will not have to be in a particular location to get to be productive.

3. Cost

Every VPN service provider will always tend to showcase different packages, and Search Engine Optimization specialist can choose a perfect subscription package that will suit his or her immediate need saving cost. There are many affordable yet reliable VPN service providers out there with friendly subscriptions; this is one advantage SEO specialist can utilize.

4. Buying Cheap Tickets

One ultimate secret that most people fail to understand is to use a VPN to buy cheap flight tickets exclusive to a particular location. Every reservation centers and airline operator have different prices for different countries. To get an affordable flight ticket, look for a state that has a low cost of living then compare it with the one you reside in, connect through a VPN and get your ticket cheap. This trick also works for other rental services.

5. Anonymity/Bypass Restriction

Using a VPN, one can easily browse the internet entirely without being traced, compared to other software, one of the benefits of using a VPN connection service is to allow you access to any websites and web applications anonymously.

For example, NetFlix will only allow streaming from specific locations. However, when connecting to such services using Virtual Private Network, this will indicate on NetFlix that your IP address is from a location they permit. This will enable your VPN service to skip all kinds of geographical restrictions to give you maximum internet coverage.

Accessing blocked websites is achieved using VPN and for going through established Internet filters. For this reasons, there are a greater number of VPN services available in a country where Internet censorship are used.

Conclusion

People are looking for the best possible ways to avoid being tracked during surfing. VPN will be one of the best solutions for this. To help protect and prevent Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the website’s owner to track our activities during surfing. The troubles faced by the free version of VPN over the web, is the location options are few with severe limitations. Therefore, it is best to pay for a genuine VPN to ensure good connectivity, speed, and premium data security.

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Source: This article was Published productwatch.co By Kevin Meyer - Contributed by Member: David J. Redcliff

I don’t think I’m blowing your mind when I say most sites are trying to collect your data. If you don’t have to pay for the product, you are the product — it’s the reason Movie Pass doesn’t mind taking a loss if you see more than one movie a month, though who knows how long that experiment will last.

So, if you want to protect your privacy, you will have to put in some effort. Thankfully, there are services you can use to make your job easier. And we’ll show you both which ones are efficient, and how to use them.

uBlock Origin

The very first extension you should get when you get a new device is a good ad-blocker. Not many are better than uBlock Origin. Essentially, this service will filter the content you see in your browser. Also, unlike other ad-blockers, uBlock doesn’t slow your browser down.

Furthermore, using it is a breeze. All you need to do is install the extension and let it run. The default settings are such that the standard filters for ads, privacy, and malware are active. You just need to let the extension run.

In the meantime, if you want to change the settings, you can easily do so by clicking the shield icon next to your URL bar.

BitDefender

BitDefender is one of the biggest companies that offer device protection services. In fact, if you choose to use their products, you will be one of over 500 million users they have. They offer multiple tools that can protect your computer from harm. And, more importantly for this article, they also offer online privacy tools. For example, their BitDefender VPN tool is possibly the best VPN tool you can get.

The interface is rather simple, and once you start using the tool, you will see how easy it can be to protect yourself.

Unshorten.It

Short URLs were very popular when they first came out. After all, they are a lot tidier than the usual bunch of symbols you might get. However, not long after, they became one of the serious threats to your computer’s safety. Namely, even though the link says it is going to take you to a funny site, it might just take you to a site that will mug you instead.

Naturally, you might want to get a tool that will let you analyze the said short URLs. That is where unshorten. It comes into play. This service lets you see exactly what page you will visit if you follow the link. It will give you the description, the safety ratings, and even screenshots of web pages you might unwittingly visit.

HTTPS Everywhere

Do you want to have Internet privacy, but you are not ready to go as far as using Tor? Well, in that case, it seems like HTTPS is the right extension for you. This Chrome, Firefox, and Opera extension will let you encrypt your communications on almost all major websites. Thankfully, a lot of websites already support encryption over HTTPS. But, they tend to make it difficult to use properly. On the other hand, using HTTPS Everywhere is easy and intuitive. Overall, it is a great way to make your surfing a lot safer.

No Coin

Another danger of using unknown websites lies in the fact that many of them will use your resources to mine cryptocurrencies. In essence, these websites will hack your device and use its processing power for themselves.

Now, you might think it’s not that bad. You are only on the website for a couple of minutes at a time. But, the issue doesn’t stop there. Namely, once they do hack your device, they can keep using it for a long time after you visit their website. Thankfully, you can use No Coin to stop the websites from doing this to you. With this service, you should see noticeable improvements in your computer’s performance.

Punycode Alert

Punycode Alert is an extension that will give you a notification if you venture onto a phishing website that uses Unicode to trick you. For those who don’t know what phishing is, in layman’s terms, it is a practice of stealing someone’s information by setting up an imitation of a successful website.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for phishing websites to trick people out of thousands of dollars. The reason these traps are incredibly effective is that their URLs look exactly like you would expect them to. So, you might very well follow a URL that reads as “apple.com” and ends up on a completely different website. We definitely recommend using Punycode Alert to protect yourself from such websites.

LastPass

Coming up with good passwords is not easy. You might think that your birthday is as good a password as any, but that couldn’t be further away from the truth. Fact is, a lot of people use passwords that are too weak to protect their data. And the reason for that is simple – they don’t want to bother with remembering complex passwords.

That is where LastPass comes in. This tool will let you store all of your passwords and use them without having to type them out. In essence, this password manager will let you use unbeatable passwords without having to worry about forgetting them.

ProtonVPN

Using VPN services is of utmost importance if you want your data to remain safe. And ProtonVPN is one of the best providers you can find. The company behind this service created ProtonVPN to give protection to activists and journalists around the world. And, not only that, but it will also let you avoid Internet censorship and visit websites that are trying to lock you and other people from your country out.

1.1.1.1

If you don’t feel like you want to go to extremes to protect your data, but you still don’t want your DNS resolver to sell your data to advertisers, you might want to consider using 1.1.1.1. This service, in essence, is a public DNS resolver that respects your privacy and offers you a fast way to browse the web.

DuckDuckGo

The first thought that might pop into your mind when you want to search for something online is probably: “I’ll just Google it.” However, you should be aware by now that Google is not only guilty of storing your data, but it also doesn’t offer the same results to everyone. In fact, it is almost impossible to find unbiased results by using Google. However, DuckDuckGo will help you protect your privacy and give you objective search results. And, you don’t have to do a lot to make this change. Simply switch to DuckDuckGo as your primary search engine, and you are good to go.

 

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Source: This article was published insights.speakwithageek.com - Contributed by Member: Deborah Tannen

What Is Micro-VPN?

Micro-VPNs are the smaller quantum of VPNs, at the level of an application or collection of applications. These are known as trusted applications; each of these trusted applications has a token that is authenticated before the tunnel is opened for the user utilizing a Micro VPN.

VPN And Security Concerns

In today's IT world, many workers often use their personal devices to get their work completed. This turns out to be a time-saving process for employees and company. Even though these devices help them, there are critical security concerns that arise with using your own device.

An old-style VPN approach is the most commonly used remote connectivity among organizations, to check emails and documents by an employee. The VPN tunnel that is established is device-wide, and once they are connected, any application on the personal device can navigate this tunnel, and get access to corporate resources. This means that if the employee’s device is infected with malware or malignant applications, these can potentially gain access to the tunnel. The above said security downside can be avoided, through the use of micro-VPNs, which are specific to an application instead of a device.

Security Advantages

The following are the certain advantages of using micro-VPN:

  • Takes virtual private network client from the device to the application and authenticates the user.
  • Provides access to specific corporate content without having to do a full-scale VPN on the device.
  • Acts as a security wrapper for the mobile device around an enterprise application by providing a token for successful VPN tunnel.
  • Administers mobile control policies on the application that connects to the corporate network.
  • The micro-VPN application and the corporate network can see one another; however, remaining of the device is not opened to/accessible by the client network. In addition, the user cannot access company resources from the non-enterprise application.

Citrix Solutions

Citrix XenMobile’ product, NetScaler Gateway, is based on the idea of micro-VPNs through logical VPN tunnels. NetScaler Gateway helps in creating different TCP sessions for different applications automatically.

Currently, micro-VPNs are one of the trustworthy solutions that can be deployed by the IT departments on employee’s devices to avoid exposure to unknown elements.

Find out today why you may need a VPN with help choosing the right VPN Provider.

Categorized in Internet Privacy

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most effective and cheapest ways of protecting communications, as well as identity, on the internet. A VPN will effectively hide all the details of communications from being visible to anyone.

After connecting to the VPN, the only information visible to others is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing else. All other information, such as your IP address and sites you visited, is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocols. Not only this but VPNs also protect your data and communications.

VPNs are becoming increasingly popular. From the simplest to the most user-friendly and most functional, VPNs can save you from a world of troubles and help internet users to browse the internet without being tracked. It can also unlock many doors to give you access to geo-restricted content.

And that is exactly why I thought it’s high time to write about the best VPNs for complete internet security and privacy. So, without any further ado, here is a list of top 10 VPNs:

1. Ivacy

ivacy vpn

Ivacy gives you everything you want in a VPN and more - advanced data encryption for that added layer of online security and privacy, optimized servers for quicker download and buffer-free streaming!

With more than 200 optimized servers in 50+ countries, it gives you unrestricted access to geo-locked content anywhere in the world. It also boasts compatibility with a wide range of devices and operating systems and often gets cited as the best VPN, especially for Kodi by users across the globe.

It also has a whole arsenal of user-friendly features like internet kill switch, multi-login, split-tunneling and much more. At roughly half the price of any other industry-leading VPN for its recent 1+1 year plan, Ivacy isn’t just a good deal, it’s literally a steal!

2. Private Internet Access

IPVanish Logo

When concerned about your online security and privacy, IPVanish is often the first name that a lot of internet users around the world recall. Besides giving you foolproof security, this VPN also gives you unrestricted access to geo-restricted, region-locked or censored content anywhere in the world. It’s fast too, making streaming a positively buffer-free experience.

What ranks IPVanish as one of the leading VPNs in the world is its immaculate service and outstanding features which give you little (if at all) to complain about. Add the typical functional benefits with a ton of user-friendly features and you have your knight in shining armor prepared to protect you from all evil.

3. PureVPN

purevpn

This brand has established a strong and loyal clientele of customers by delivering outstanding service quality over the years. It gives advanced online protection and has a strict zero log policy on customer data.

It has nearly 800 servers that are spread across 141 countries and give you instant access to your favorite content from anywhere in the world with unlimited server-switching. It does not have a free trial but does offer a three-day VPN trial.

It is one of the few VPNs to actually have a browser plug-in for Chrome and Firefox. Although the service is impressive, it isn’t the first choice for people who want the best value for less money.

4. ExpressVPN

express VPN logo

ExpressVPN has a wide server spread with optimized servers located in more than 145 cities in 94 countries. This gives its users instant access to content from anywhere in the world.

Like many other industry-leading VPNs, Express is also known to provide unbreakable security with its advanced encryption protocols that make online threats like hacking and surveillance virtually impossible. Express is often cited as one of the leading VPNs for Netflix streaming. However, given that all leading VPN brands offer the same array of features for all subscription plans, Express may seem a bit on the higher side.

5. Private Internet Access

PIA VPN logo

A lot of internet users prefer Private Internet Access (PIA) because of its multi-gigabit VPN tunnel gateways. PIA is fast and reliable, offering impressive online security and privacy with equally impressive connection speed. So you get quick access to any content anywhere in the world at the click of a button.

It also happens to be one of the few VPNs that is modestly priced at below $40 ($39.95) for the yearly subscription plan.

6. NordVPN

NordVPN logo

Nord is a trusted name in cybersecurity and has been around for quite some time. With servers spread across the globe, Nord gives you instant access to your favorite content from all around the world. So accessing region-locked content is not something you should worry about if you have Nord VPN.

Often praised for its zero-logs policy, Nord is relatively cheap compared to other industry-leading VPNs like Express but its features and service are competitive, giving it an edge among many other brands.

7. VyprVPN

Vypr VPN

Besides boasting impressive speed as well as security, VyprVPN boasts an array of extra features that are packed into a highly intuitive and user-friendly app.

No matter which subscription plan you opt for, Vypr will give you the whole package with features like multi-login, unlimited server switching, and split tunneling. With more than 700 servers strategically spread across the globe, you don’t have to worry about accessing your favorite region-locked content ever again. However, Vypr does restrict certain security features on the basis of the subscription plan you opt for, which might or might not be a deal breaker, depending upon the mindset and the subscription plan in question.

8. TorGuard VPN

TorGuard VPN

Just like Tor Browser, TorGuard is a hack that gives you instant access to region-locked content anywhere in the world. However, since TorGuard is a VPN, it uses advanced encryption to protect your online privacy and identity.

With more than 3,000 servers spread across 55 countries, TorGuard really does make sure that you get instant access to content from around the world no matter where you do it from.

9. TunnelBear VPN

TunnelBear VPN

There’s little to worry about when you have an eight-foot-tall 500lb grizzly bear watching over you. TunnelBear has all the makings of a good VPN but perhaps it’s the cut-throat competition around it that has hindered its climb to the top.

It gives you foolproof online security and privacy with impressive connection and data transfer speeds. The subscriptions plans are moderately priced, keeping in mind the sensibilities of price-sensitive customers. All in all, TunnelBear is a good buy at the current price!

10. VPN Unlimited

vpn unlimited 

VPNUnlimited acts just like a DNS firewall, giving you total online security and privacy with lightning-fast unlimited access to region-locked content.

Although VPN Unlimited offers the same array of features and services as other brands operating in the industry such as multi-login and ISP-throttling, the price is a bit steep with the monthly subscription plan costing $8.99! So VPN Unlimited isn’t the “go to” brand of choice for many. However, for those who can afford the brand, VPN Unlimited is a safe bet.

Which VPN Is Right for You?

Your choice of VPN is going to come down to the features you need within your budget. That being said, you should now find it easier to determine which VPN best suits your purpose. Rest assured, each VPN listed above will meet and exceed your expectations and that is a fact.

If you are still wondering which VPN to get, visit this article which reviews VPN services based on the latest data, information, and customer reviews.

 Source: This article was published globalsign.com By Anas Baig

Categorized in Internet Privacy

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines security as measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape. Those descriptive words also apply to the protections you must take when you're online to safeguard your security and privacy. We all realize by now that the Internet is full of hackers looking to steal anything of value, but worse yet, the government that has pledged to be ‘by the people, for the people’ often intrudes on our privacy in the name of national security.

This guide, however, is not for those engaged in covert activities that need would shielding from the prying eyes of the NSA. It is intended to be a basic guide for people who use the Internet on a daily basis for:

  • Work
  • Social Media Activity
  • E-commerce

Whether your online activity is largely confined to a desktop, or you're a mobile warrior on the go, implementing the proper security and privacy protocols can protect you from hackers and also prevent your ISP provider from knowing every single website you’ve ever accessed.

What follows is a basic guide that anyone can use to beef up online security and ensure as much privacy as possible, while being mindful that total anonymity on the Web is nearly impossible.

ONLINE SECURITY FOR DESKTOPS, LAPTOPS, AND MOBILE DEVICES

Install Software Updates

At the minimum, you need to make sure that you install the most recent software updates on all your desktop and mobile devices. We know that updates can be a pain, but they can ensure that your software is as secure as possible.

In fact, you will often notice that many update messages are related to some type of security glitch that could make it easier for someone to gain access to your information through the most common browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

If you take your sweet time installing an update, it gives hackers that much more time to gain access to your system through the security flaw that the update was designed to fix.

Most of the major brands such as Apple and Samsung will send users messages on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices the moment they release a security update.

For example, Apple recently released new security updates for its iPhones, iPads and Macs for a computer chip flaw known as Spectre. This flaw affected billions of devices across all the major systems, including iOS.

Apple immediately sent a message to all its mobile users to install an update, which included security patches to block hackers from exploiting the flaw in the chip. The company also sent emails to desktop users to install Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.2, which included fixes to Safari for laptops and desktops.

The point is that you don’t need to worry that you won’t get these update prompts, because it’s in the best interests of the major brands to keep a massive hack from occurring. But if you want to ensure that you never miss an important update, there are several tools that can help you achieve this goal...

Update Tools for Mac Users

MacUpdate/MacUpdate Desktop – These two companion apps scan your desktop or mobile devices to locate software that needs updating. The desktop version has a menu bar that informs you when a software update is complete. The basic updating function is free to all users, but there are premium tiers that are ad-free, and include a credit system that rewards you for every new software you buy.

Software Update – This is a built-in app that you access through the Apple menu that opens the Mac App Store app and lets you click on the Updates tab. Software Update analyzes all the apps you’ve downloaded from the Mac App store to see if they’re updated. It does the same thing for your operating system software, which is a nice bonus.

Update Tools for PC Users

Patch My PC – If you choose the auto-update feature on this free tool, it automatically installs software patches on any application that has a security update. If you run the manual version, the program quickly scrolls through updated and non-updated applications and lets you check the ones you want to update and patch. One other useful aspect of this program is that you can run it using a flash drive.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ENCRYPTION

Encryption is a fancy word for a code that protects information from being accessed. There are various levels of encryption, and at the highest levels, encryption offers you the strongest protection when you are online. Encryption scrambles your online activity into what looks like a garbled, unidentifiable mess to anyone who doesn’t have the code to translate that mess back to its real content.

The reason this is important is that protecting your devices with only a password won’t do much to protect your data if a thief steals the device, accesses the drive and copies the data onto an external drive. If that device is encrypted, the data that the thief accesses and ports to another drive will still remain encrypted, and depend on the level of encryption, it will either take that thief a long time to break the code, or the thief will not be able to crack it.

Before we dive into some of the basics of encrypting desktops and mobile devices, remember that encryption has some drawbacks.

  • The main one is that if you lose the encryption key, it can be very difficult to access your data again. 
  • Second, encryption will affect the speed of your device because it saps the capacity of your processor.

This is a small price to pay, however, for all the benefits encryption offers in terms of security from intrusion and privacy from prying eyes that want to know exactly what you’re up to on the Internet.

Basic Encryption for Apple Devices

If you own an Apple mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad, these devices are sold with encryption as a standard feature, so all you need is a good passcode.

If you own a Mac desktop or laptop device, you can encrypt your device by using the FileVault disk encryption program that you access through the System Preferences menu under the ‘Security’ pull-down. Just follow the easy-to-understand directions to obtain your encryption key.

Basic Encryption for PCs and Android Devices

If you own a PC, you will need to manually encrypt your device. You can encrypt the newer PC models using BitLocker, a tool that’s built into Windows. BitLocker is only available if you buy the Professional or Enterprise versions of Windows 8 and 10, or the Ultimate version of Windows 7.

If you choose not to use BitLocker, Windows 8.1 Home and Pro versions include a device encryption feature that functions very much like BitLocker.

Newer Android phones including the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, have default encryption. But for phones that are not encryption enabled, the process is not difficult.

For phones and tablets that run on Android 5.0 or higher, you can access the Security menu under Settings and select ‘Encrypt phone’ or ‘Encrypt tablet.’ You will have to enter your lock screen password, which is the same password necessary to access your files after encryption.

For phones and tablets that run on Android 4.4 or lower, you must create a lock screen password prior to initiating the encryption process.

PROTECT YOUR TEXT MESSAGING

Even before Edward Snowden became a household name with his explosive revelations about the extent of NSA’s wiretapping of Americans, it was obvious that text messages were vulnerable to interception by outside parties.

What’s even more insidious is that the information generated from your text messages, which is known as metadata, is extremely valuable. Metadata includes information about whom you communicate with, where that communication takes place and at what time.

Hackers and government agencies can learn a great deal about you through metadata, which is why it’s so important for you to protect the privacy of your text messages.

Fortunately, there are applications you can install to encrypt your text messages after they are sent to another person, and many don’t collect metadata.

Tools to Encrypt Your Text Messages

The signal is a free app that provides end-to-end encryption for Android and iOS, which means that only the people who are communicating on the text message can read the messages.

Any other party would need the encryption key to decrypt the conversation, and that includes the company that owns the messaging service. One of the big advantages of using Signal is that it collects very little metadata.

Another popular encrypted messaging service is WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, which works mostly on mobile devices. Remember to turn off all backups on your WhatsApp account by accessing Chats, then Chat Backup and setting Auto Backup to Off. This turns off backups on the app and the cloud.

If you don’t disable the Auto Backup feature, government and law enforcement agencies can access the backup with a search warrant. Why is that so risky? Because end-to-end encryption only covers the transmission of your messages and doesn’t protect messages that are in storage. In other words, law enforcement or government agencies could read the text messages stored in a cloud backup.

One other thing to remember is that although WhatsApp is considered one of the more secure apps for encrypting text messages, it does collect metadata.

And if a government or law enforcement agency obtained a search warrant, it could force Facebook to turn over that metadata, which would reveal things you might want kept private such as IP addresses and location data.

PROTECT YOUR BROWSING HISTORY

Whenever you’re on the Internet, there are people trying to see what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and how often you’re doing it. Not all these prying eyes have ill intent, and in many cases, they are marketers who are trying to track your online movements so they can target you for ads and offers. But enterprising hackers are also monitoring your activities, looking for weaknesses they can target to obtain your personal information. And your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gathers a ton of information based on your browsing history.

In the face of all these threats to privacy, how do you protect yourself when you’re online?

You can use a virtual private network (VPN), which acts exactly the way a standard browser does, but lets you do it anonymously. When you use a VPN, you connect to the Internet using the VPN provider’s service. All transmissions that occur when you get online with your mobile phone, tablet, desktop or laptop are encrypted. This protects all your online activity from the government as well as from your ISP, lets you access sites that would normally be restricted by your geographical location, and shields you from intrusion when you are at a public hotspot.

If someone tries to track your activity, your IP address will appear as that of the VPN server, which makes it nearly impossible for anyone to know your exact location, or your actual IP address. However, VPNs don’t provide you with total anonymity, because the VPN provider knows your real IP address as well as the sites you’ve been accessing. Some VPN providers offer a ‘no-logs’ policy, which means that they don’t keep any logs of your online activities.

This can be hugely important if you are up to something that the government takes an interest in, such as leading a protest group, and you want to make sure none of your online activities can be tracked.

But VPN providers are vulnerable to government search warrants and demands for information and must measure the possibility of going to jail by keeping your activity private, versus giving up your information and staying in business.

That’s why if you choose to go with a VPN, it’s important to do the research on a provider’s history and reputation. For example, there are 14 countries in the world that have shared agreements about spying on their citizens and sharing the information they unearth with each other. It may not surprise you to learn that the U.S,  Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy are all part of that alliance.

What may surprise you is that it’s best to avoid any VPNs that are based in one of these 14 countries, because of their data retention laws and gag orders which prevent VPN providers from telling their customers when a government agency has requested information on their online activities.

If you’re serious about VPNs and want to know which are trustworthy and which aren’t worth your time, we’ve done a pretty extensive review of VPN services that you can access here. Used correctly, VPNs can provide you with a high degree of privacy when you’re online, but in an era in which billions have joined social media platforms such as Facebook, and services such as Google, what are the privacy risks related to how these companies use your personal information?

HOW THE HEAVY HITTERS USE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION

Facebook

There isn’t much privacy when you join Facebook, especially since the company’s privacy policy blatantly states that it monitors how you use the platform, the type of content you view or interact with, the number of times you’re on the site, how long you spend on the site, and all the other sites that you browse when you’re not on Facebook.

How does Facebook know that little nugget? By tracking the number of times you click ‘Like’ on any site that includes a Facebook button.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to make Facebook more private. You can access the ‘Download Your Information’ tool to know exactly what the site has on you, and you can check your activity log to track your actions since you joined Facebook, but that’s about it.

Deleting your account will remove your personal information, but any information about you that your followers have shared in a post will remain on the site.

Google

Google stores personal information such as your name, email contact, telephone number, how you use the service, how you use sites with Ad Words, your search inquiries, and location tracking. More importantly, your name, email address, and photo are publically available unless you opt out.

To protect some of your privacy, you can edit a number of preferences, turn off location tracking, change your public profile and read what information Google has collected on you through the company’s data board.

Apple

Apple’s privacy policy states that it collects information such as your name, contacts and music library content, and relays them to its own servers using encryption. Apple’s News app analyzes your reading preferences to match them to ads targeted toward what you like.

Targeted advertising is one of Apple’s biggest con jobs, and that’s said with respect for the company’s ability to print money like no other business on earth. Apple has created ad-blocking technology in its iOS software to prevent outside companies from reaching its customers.

But it makes no bones about using personal information and personal preferences culled from its customers to supply them with an endless stream of targeted and intrusive ads.

You can opt out of what Apple calls ‘interest-based ads’, but the company pretty much lets you figure this out on your own.

Amazon

Amazon collects a ton of person information, including name, address, phone number, email, credit card information, list of items bought, Wish List items, browsing history, names, addresses and phone numbers of every person who has ever received an Amazon product or service from you, reviews you’ve posted, and requests for product availability alerts.

It isn’t much you can do to keep Amazon from being intrusive unless you’re not planning on using the site for purchases. For example, Amazon uses ‘cookies,’ which are snippets of data that attach to your browser when you visit the site.

Cookies activate convenient features such as 1-Click purchasing and generate recommendations when you revisit Amazon, but they also allow Amazon to send you ads when you’re on another website, which can feel like an invasion of privacy and are also annoying.

The problem is if you opt to turn off cookies on your Amazon account, you won’t be able to add items to your shopping cart or do anything that requires a sign-in, which pretty much eliminates all your buying options.

That gives you a general overview of how some of the big brands use your data so you’re aware of the implications of providing your personal information. Let’s wrap things up with some frequently asked questions about security and privacy.

FAQ'S ABOUT SECURITY AND PRIVACY

1. Can people really hack me at a coffee shop?

Most coffee shops offer public WiFi that has varying levels of security. In many instances, these free networks are not very secure, and even a low-level hacker could gain access to the transmissions occurring at the coffee shop by setting up a fake hotspot. If you want to get online at a coffee shop, do so through a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, make sure you’re signing in under the name of the WiFi hotspot, and limit your activity to browsing instead of conducting financial transactions.

2. Is the NSA really watching me via my computer camera?

The NSA definitely has the technology to spy on you through your webcam. Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has plug-in that can hack cameras and take pictures, record video and turn on the mic on a webcam to act as a listening device. One easy way to thwart this hack is to place a sticker on your webcam lens that prevents a hacker from seeing anything in your home.

3. Can Facebook see my messenger chats and change my feed based on those conversations?

Facebook’s Messenger feature uses security that it says is similar to what banks use to protect their clients’ financial information. Two years ago, Facebook added end-to-end encryption to its messenger feature, but users must activate it because it’s not a default. However, Facebook does use your profile, public photos, and public posts to better customize things such as the content of the News feed it sends to you.

4. When can - or can’t - the government get personal data from companies?

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed in 1986, government agencies can obtain subpoenas and search warrants to force technology companies like Google or Apple to provide information about a user or a group of users. Companies can refuse based on the Fourth Amendment ban against unreasonable search and seizure, but they face an uphill battle if the request is for a legitimate reason. Recently, Amazon refused an order by the state of Massachusetts to turn over data about third-party sellers. But the company relented after it was served with court order to provide the data or face legal consequences.

THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE

Privacy and security are two sides of the same coin, and while there is no way to guarantee total privacy or complete security in the digital world, the first step is to understand the tools available to you, and the ways in which your personal data is being used by big companies that want your business.

While this isn’t a comprehensive guide to every aspect of online security and privacy, it provides you with some best practices and important concepts that can help you better understand this complex and ever-changing issue. 

 Written By Alex Grant

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Written By Bram Jansen

A lot more people are concerned about privacy today than used to be the case a few years ago. The efforts of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have a lot to do with this. Things have changed now that people realize just how vulnerable they are when browsing the web. When we say things have changed we mean people are starting to take their online privacy more seriously. It does not mean that the threats that you face while browsing has reduced. If anything, they have increased in number. If you still don’t look after your online privacy, there’s no time to think about it anymore. You have to take action now.

5 reasons to protect online privacy

1- Hide from government surveillance

Almost all countries of the world monitor the online activity of their citizens to some degree. It doesn’t matter how big or developed the country is. If you think that your government doesn’t look into your online privacy at all, you’re deluding yourself. The only thing that varies is the extent to which your internet activity is monitored and the information that is recorded.

2- Bypass government censorship

There are large parts of the world where internet is not a free place. Governments censor the internet and control what their citizens can and cannot access and do on the internet. While most people know about The Great Firewall of China and the way middle-eastern countries block access to social networking and news websites, the problem is there are a lot more countries.

3- Protect your personal data

You use the internet to share a lot of personal data. This includes your private conversations, pictures, bank details, social security numbers, etc. If you are sharing this without hiding it, then it is visible to everyone. Malicious users can intercept this data and make you a victim of identity theft quite easily. While HTTPS might protect you against them, not all websites use it.

4- Hiding P2P activity is important

P2P or torrenting is a huge part of everyone’s internet usage today. You can download all sorts of files from P2P websites. However, many of this content is copyrighted and protected by copyright laws. While downloading copyrighted content for personal usage is legal, sharing it is illegal. The way P2P works you are constantly sharing the files as you download them. If someone notices you downloading copyrighted content, you might be in trouble. There is a lot of vagueness when it comes to copyright laws, so it’s best to hide your torrent activity. Even those in Canada have to use P2P carefully. The country provides some of the fastest connections but is strengthening its stronghold on P2P users.

5- Stream content peacefully without ISP throttling

When you stream or download content, your ISP might throttle your bandwidth to balance the network load. This is only possible because your ISP can see your activity. You are robbed of a quality streaming experience because of this. The solution is to hide your online activity.

Online privacy is fast becoming a myth, and users have to make efforts to have some privacy on the internet. The best way to do this is to use a VPN, for they encrypt your connection and hide your true IP address. But be careful when you choose a VPN. If you don’t know how to choose the best VPN, visit VPNAlert for the detailed solution. Or choose a VPN that does not record activity logs and does not hand over data to the authorities, otherwise all your efforts will be for naught.  

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty

The Google Play app store holds about 250 Android apps that provide access to virtual private network (VPN) services.

The bad news? Many of these VPN apps could actually be sabotaging your security and privacy. A recent study by U.S. and Australian researchers found that many Android VPN apps were potentially malicious, let third parties spy on "secure" transmissions, tracked users or just plain didn't work.

It might be easy to disregard all VPN apps as too risky. But would that be a fair assessment? A number of free VPN apps are offered by reputable antivirus companies and desktop VPN providers, although most of those have some level of paid service. With that in mind, are free VPN apps worth the potential security risks?

It depends, said Joe Carson, chief security scientist with Thycotic, an information-security provider based in Washington, D.C.

"VPNs are safer than doing nothing," Carson said. But he added that if you are downloading an Android app, you have to do your homework.

That includes investigating the origin of the VPN app — you probably want to skip any from China, Russia or other countries with a dubious security history, Carson said — and sticking with vendors you are familiar with and trust.

Nothing is ever really free

However, Ryan O'Leary, vice president of the Threat Research Center at WhiteHat Security in Santa Clara, California, is more skeptical.

"I don't think VPN apps are secure, especially free ones," O'Leary said. "The lower the cost of the app, the greater the chance they have security problems."

App developers want to make money, he said, but on a VPN app, you can't really be sure how that's happening.

"At best," O'Leary said, "they are using ads to earn income. At worst, they are selling your private information."

"The lower the cost of the app, the greater the chance they have security problems." -- Ryan O'Leary, Threat Research Center at WhiteHat Security

In fact, he said, "free" should be a red flag when it comes to VPN apps. Unscrupulous app developers may utilize users as end points or for extra bandwidth to support other customers.

"It's expensive to run a VPN," O'Leary said. "There's a good chance that someone else is using your connection."

The most serious risk of free VPN apps is that you may lose control of your data. A VPN service is supposed to encrypt your data stream from your device all the way to the service's servers, from where it enters the open internet. But a shady or poorly configured service could compromise your traffic, either by design or by accident, or could even piggyback on your encrypted connection for nefarious purposes.

"Your data could be intercepted or decrypted," said Mat Gangwer, chief technology officer with Rook Security in Indianapolis. "Bad guys could be using your connection for shady activities or to cover their tracks."

How to pick a VPN app

Are free VPN apps worth that risk? The experts agree: No, unless you are confident the free app is extremely trustworthy.

If you can find a paid VPN app, or one that has in-app purchases for higher levels of service, consider that option instead. We recently reviewed several VPN apps and services, and the paid IPVanish ($10 per month or $78 yearly) took the top spot. The runner-up option, Avast Secureline VPN, is also paid at $59.99 per year.

Paid doesn't guarantee secure, but even partially paid apps are often more protective of your data and give more software updates.

Better yet, stick with apps made by well-known desktop VPN service providers or antivirus software makers. All will include in-app purchases, or some other kind of paid subscription, to use the higher tiers of service, but many will give you a certain amount of free VPN usage per month.

"Bad guys could be using your connection for shady activities or to cover their tracks." -- Mat Gangwer, chief technology officer with Rook Security

Reputable partly free VPN services include Avast's SecureLine VPN and Avira's Phantom VPN There's also F-Secure's Freedome VPN; it costs $6 per month to use, but was singled out as being especially trustworthy by the authors of the VPN-app research paper we mentioned earlier.

However, if you still want to use a completely free VPN app, do your research, the experts advised. Investigate the vendor's reputation, and see where it is located. Question the permissions requested by the app – for example, would a VPN app really need permission to access your phone number or text messages? Read user reviews, especially the less-than-stellar ones, to find out which problems and concerns other users had.

"When done correctly, VPNs are a good option," said O'Leary. "But never forget that, in the end, you get what you pay for."

Source: This article was published on tomsguide.com by SUE MARQUETTE POREMBA


Categorized in Internet Privacy

Achieving internet privacy is possible but often requires overlapping services

It’s one of the internet’s oft-mentioned 'creepy' moments. A user is served a banner ad in their browser promoting products on a site they visited hours, days or months in the past. It’s as if the ads are following them around from site to site. Most people know that the issue of ad stalking – termed 'remarketing' or 'retargeting' - has something to do with cookies but that’s barely the half of it.

The underlying tracking for all this is provided by the search engine provider, be that Google, Microsoft or Yahoo, or one of a number of programmatic ad platforms most people have never heard of. The ad system notices which sites people are visiting, choosing an opportune moment to 're-market' products from a site they visited at some point based on how receptive it thinks they will be. The promoted site has paid for this privilege of course. Unless that cookie is cleared, the user will every now and then be served the same ad for days or weeks on end.

Is this creepy? Only if you don’t understand what is really going on when you use the internet. As far as advertisers are concerned, if the user has a negative feeling about it then the remarketing has probably not worked.

If it was only advertisers, privacy would be challenging enough but almost every popular free service, including search engines, social media, cloud storage and webmail, now gathers intrusive amounts of personal data as a fundamental part of its business model. User data is simply too valuable to advertisers and profilers not to. The service is free precisely because the user has 'become the product' whose habits and behaviour can be sold on to third parties. Broadband providers, meanwhile, are increasingly required by governments to store the internet usage history of subscribers for reasons justified by national security and policing.

The cost of privacy - dynamic pricing

Disturbingly, this personal tracking can also cost surfers money through a marketing technique called 'dynamic pricing' whereby websites mysteriously offer two users a different bill for an identical product or service. How this is done is never clear but everything from the browser used, the search engine in question the time of day, the buying history of the user or the profile of data suggesting their affluence may come into play. Even the number of searches could raise the price.

This seems to be most common when buying commodity services such as flights, hotel rooms and car rental, all of which are sold through a network of middlemen providers who get to decide the rules without having to tell anyone what these are. Privacy in this context becomes about being treated fairly, something internet providers don't always seem keen to do.

How to browse privately

Achieving privacy requires finding a way to minimise the oversight of internet service providers (IPS) as well as the profiling built into browsers, search engines and websites. It is also important to watch out for DNS name servers used to resolve IP addresses because these are increasingly used as data capture systems.

At any one of these stages, data unique to each user is being logged. This is especially true when using search engines while logged into services such as Google or Facebook. You might not mind that a particular search is logged by the search provider but most people don’t realise how this is connected directly to personal data such as IP address, browser and computer ID not to mention the name and email address for those services.

Put bluntly, the fact that an individual searched for health, job or legal advice is stored indefinitely as part of their personal online profile whether they like it or not.

VPNs

In theory, the traditional way of shielding internet use from ISPs can be achieved using a VPN provider.

A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel from the user’s device and the service provider’s servers which means that any websites visited after that become invisible to the user’s primary ISP. In turn, the user’s IP address is also hidden from those websites. Notice, however, that the VPN provider can still see which sites are being visited and will also know the user’s ISP IP.

Why are some VPNs free? Good question but one answer is that they can perform precisely the same sort of profiling of user behaviour that the ISP does but for commercial rather than legal reasons. In effect, the user has simply swapped the spying of one company, the ISP, for another, the VPN.

Post-Snowden, a growing number advertise themselves as 'no logging' providers, but how far the user is willing to go in this respect needs to be thought about. Wanting to dodge tracking and profiling is one thing, trying to avoid intelligence services quite another because it assumes that there are no weaknesses in the VPN software or even the underlying encryption that have not been publicly exposed.

IPVanish

IPVanish is a well-regarded US-based service offering an unusually wide range of software clients, including for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux, as well as mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. There is also a setup routine for DD-WRT and Tomato for those who use open source router firmware. Promoted on the back of speed (useful when in a coffee shop) and global reach as well as security. On that topic, it requires no personal data other than for payment and states that it does not collect or log any user traffic.

Cyberghost

Another multi-platform VPN, Romanian-based Cyberghost goes to some lengths to advertise its security features, its main USP. These include multi-protocol support (OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP and PPTP), DNS leak prevention, IP sharing (essentially subnetting multiple users on one virtual IP) and IPv6 protection. Provisions around 50 servers for UK users. It also says it doesn’t store user data.

Privacy browsers

All browsers claim to be ‘privacy browsers’ if the services around them are used in specific ways, for example in incognito or privacy mode. As wonderful as Google’s Chrome or Microsoft’s Edge might be their primary purpose, isn't security. The companies that offer them simply have too much to gain from

The companies that offer them simply have too much to gain from a world in which users are tagged, tracked and profiled no matter what their makers say. To Google’s credit, the company doesn’t really hide this fact and does a reasonable job of explaining its privacy settings.

Firefox, by contrast, is by some distance the best of the browser makers simply because it does not depend on the user tracking that helps to fund others. But this becomes moot the minute you log into third-party services, which is why most of the privacy action in the browser space now centres around add-ons.

Epic Privacy Browser

Epic is a Chromium-based browser that takes a minimalistic approach to browsing in order to maximise privacy. It claims that both cookies and trackers are deleted after each session and that all browser searches are proxied through their own servers, meaning that there is no way to connect an IP address to a search. This means your identity is hidden. Epic also provides a fully encrypted connection and users can use its one-button proxying feature that makes quick private browsing easy, although it could slow down your browser.

Tor

This Firefox-based browser that runs on the Tor network can be used with Windows, Mac or Linux PCs. This browser is built on an entire infrastructure of ‘hidden’ relay servers, which means that you can use the internet with your IP and digital identity hidden. Unlike other browsers, Tor is built for privacy only, so it does lack certain security features such as built-in antivirus and anti-malware software.

Dooble

This stripped back Chromium-based browser offers great privacy potential but it may not be the first choice for everyone. Able to run on Windows, Linux and OS X, Dooble offers strict privacy features. It will disable insecure web-based interfaces such as Flash and Javascript, which will make some web pages harder to read. In addition, user content such as bookmarks and browsing history can be encrypted using various passphrases.

See here for a full list of our best secure browsers. 

Privacy search engines

It might seem a bit pointless to worry about a privacy search engine given that this is an inherent quality of the VPN services already discussed but a couple are worth looking out for. The advantage of this approach is that it is free and incredibly simple. Users simply start using a different search engine and aren’t required to buy or install anything.

DuckDuckGo

The best-known example of this is DuckDuckGo. What we like about DuckDuckGo is it protects searches by stopping 'search leakage' by default. This means visited sites will not know what other terms a user searched for and will not be sent a user’s IP address or browser user agent. It also offers an encrypted version that connects to the encrypted versions of major websites, preserving some privacy between the user and the site.

In addition, DuckDuckGo offers a neat password-protected 'cloud save' setting that makes it possible to create search policies and sync these across devices using the search engine.

Oscobo UK search

Launched in late 2015, Oscobo returns UK-specific search results by default (which DuckDuckGo will require a manual setting for). As with DuckDuckGo, the search results are based on Yahoo and Bing although the US outfit also has some of its own spidering. Beyond that, Oscobo does not record IP address or any other user data. According to its founders, no trace of searches made from a computer is left behind. It makes its money from sponsored search returns.

DNS nameservers

Techworld's sister title Computerworld UK recently covered the issue of alternative DNS nameservers, including Norton ConnecSafe, OpenDNS, Comodo Secure DNS, DNS.Watch, VeriSign and, of course, Google.

However, as with any DNS nameserver, there are also privacy concerns because the growing number of free services are really being driven by data gathering. The only way to bypass nameservers completely is to use a VPN provider’s infrastructure. The point of even mentioning them is that using an alternative might be faster than the ISP but come at the expense of less privacy.

DNS.Watch

Available on 84.200.69.80 and 84.200.70.40, DNS.Watch is unique in offering an alternative DNS service without the website logging found on almost every rival. We quote: “We're not interested in shady deals with your data. You own it. We're not a big corporation and don't have to participate in shady deals. We're not running any ad network or anything else where your DNS queries could be of interest for us.”

OpenDNS

Now part of Cisco, the primary is 208.67.220.220 with a backup on 208.67.222.222. Home users can simply adjust their DNS to point at one of the above but OpenDNS also offers the service wrapped up in three further tiers of service, Family Shield, Home, and VIP Home. Each comes with varying levels of filtering and security, parental control and anti-phishing protection.

Privacy utilities

Abine Blur

Blur is an all-in-one desktop and mobile privacy tool that offers a range of privacy features with some adblocking thrown in for good measure. Available in free and Premium versions ($39 a year) on Firefox and Chrome only, principle features include:

- Masked cards: a way of entering a real credit card into the Blur database which then pays merchants without revealing those details. 

- Passwords: similar in operation to password managers such as LastPass and Dashlane without some of the layers of security and sophistication that come with those platforms. When signing up for or encountering a new site Blur offers to save or create a new strong password.

Masked email addresses are another feature, identical in principle to the aliases that can be used with webmail systems such as Gmail.  Bur’s management of these is a bit more involved and we’d question whether it’s worth it to be honest were it not for the single advantage of completely hiding the destination address, including the domain. Some will value this masking as well as the ease of turning addresses on and off and creating new ones. On a Premium subscription, it is also possible to set up more than one destination address.

- Adblocking: with the browser extension installed, Blur will block ad tracking systems without the conflict of interest are inherent in the Acceptable Ads program used by AdBlock Plus and a number of others.  We didn’t test this feature across many sites but it can be easily turned on and off from the toolbar.

- Two-factor authentication: Given the amount of data users are storing in Blur, using two-factor authentication (2FA) is an absolute must. This can be set up using a mobile app such as Google Authenticator, Authy or FreeOTP.

- Backup and Sync:  Another premium feature, this will sync account data across multiple devices in an encrypted state.

- Masked phone: probably only useful in the US where intrusive telemarketing is a problem, this gives users a second phone number to hand to marketers.  Only works in named countries including the UK. Only on Premium.

Overall, Blur represents a lot of features in one desktop/mobile browser extension. Limitations? Not terribly well explained in places and getting the best out of it requires a Premium subscription. Although the tools are well integrated and thought out most of them can be found for less (e.g. LastPass) or free (e.g. adblocking) elsewhere.  The features that can’t are masked phone and masked card numbers/addresses.

Source : This article was published in techworld.com By John E Dunn

Categorized in Internet Privacy

We'll show you how to protect your online privacy as governments around the world, including the U.S., step up their online surveillance efforts.

One of the most important skills any computer user should have is the ability to use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect their privacy. A VPN is typically a paid service that keeps your web browsing secure and private over public Wi-Fi hotspots. VPNs can also get past regional restrictions for video- and music-streaming sites and help you evade government censorship restrictions—though that last one is especially tricky.

The best way to think of a VPN is as a secure tunnel between your PC and destinations you visit on the internet. Your PC connects to a VPN server, which can be located in the United States or a foreign country like the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, or Thailand. Your web traffic then passes back and forth through that server. The end result: As far as most websites are concerned, you’re browsing from that server’s geographical location, not your computer’s location.

We’ll get to the implications of a VPN’s location in a moment, but first, let’s get back to our secure tunnel example. Once you’re connected to the VPN and are “inside the tunnel,” it becomes very difficult for anyone else to spy on your web-browsing activity. The only people who will know what you’re up to are you, the VPN provider (usually an HTTPS connection can mitigate this), and the website you’re visiting.

A VPN is like a secure tunnel for a web traffic.

When you’re on public Wi-Fi at an airport or café, that means hackers will have a harder time stealing your login credentials or redirecting your PC to a phony banking site. Your Internet service provider (ISP), or anyone else trying to spy on you, will also have a near impossible time figuring out which websites you’re visiting.

On top of all that, you get the benefits of spoofing your location. If you’re in Los Angeles, for example, and the VPN server is in the U.K., it will look to most websites that you’re browsing from there, not southern California.

This is why many regionally restricted websites and online services such as BBC’s iPlayer or Sling TV can be fooled by a VPN. I say “most” services because some, most notably Netflix, are fighting against VPN (ab)use to prevent people from getting access to, say, the American version of Netflix when they’re really in Australia.

For the most part, however, if you’re visiting Belgium and connect to a U.S. VPN server, you should get access to most American sites and services just as if you were sitting at a Starbucks in Chicago.

What a VPN can’t do

While VPNs are an important tool, they are far from foolproof. Let’s say you live in an oppressive country and want to evade censorship in order to access the unrestricted web. A VPN would have limited use. If you’re trying to evade government restrictions and access sites like Facebook and Twitter, a VPN might be useful. Even then, you’d have to be somewhat dependent on the government’s willingness to look the other way.

Anything more serious than that, such as mission-critical anonymity, is far more difficult to achieve—even with a VPN. Privacy against passive surveillance? No problem. Protection against an active and hostile government? Probably not.

HideMyAss Pro 2

HideMyAssA VPN service provider such as HideMyAss can protect your privacy by ensuring your internet connection is encrypted.

The problem with anonymity is there are so many issues to consider—most of which are beyond the scope of this article. Has the government surreptitiously installed malware on your PC in order to monitor your activity, for example? Does the VPN you want to use have any issues with data leakage or weak encryption that could expose your web browsing? How much information does your VPN provider log about your activity, and would that information be accessible to the government? Are you using an anonymous identity online on a PC that you never use in conjunction with your actual identity?

Anonymity online is a very difficult goal to achieve. If, however, you are trying to remain private from prying eyes or evade NSA-style bulk data collection as a matter of principle, a reputable VPN will probably be good enough.

Beyond surveillance, a VPN also won’t do much to keep advertisers from tracking you online. Remember that the website you visit is aware of what you do on its site and that applies equally to advertisers serving ads on that site.

To prevent online tracking by advertisers and websites you’ll still need browser add-ons like GhosteryPrivacy Badger, and HTTPS Everywhere.

How to choose a VPN provider

There was a time when using a VPN required users to know about the built-in VPN client for Windows or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, however, nearly every VPN provider has their own one-click client that gets you up and running in seconds. There are usually mobile apps as well to keep your Android or iOS device secure over public Wi-Fi.

Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using, and what are the criteria to judge them by?

First, let’s get the big question out of the way. The bad news for anyone used to free services is that it pays to pay when it comes to a VPN. There are tons of free options from reputable companies, but these are usually a poor substitute for the paid options. Free services usually allow a limited amount of bandwidth usage per month or offer a slower service. Tunnel Bear, for example, offers just 500MB of free bandwidth per month, while CyberGhost offers a free service that is significantly slower than its paid service.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhostEverybody loves free services; but when you want to use a VPN, the free version usually isn't the best deal.

Then there are the free VPNs that use an ad-supported model, which in my experience usually aren’t worth using at all. Plus, free VPNs are usually anything but; in lieu of payment they may be harvesting your data (in anonymized form of course) and selling it as “marketing insights” to advertisers.

The good news is VPNs aren’t expensive. You can usually pay as little as $5 a month (billed annually or in blocks of several months) for VPN coverage.

We won’t get into specific VPN service recommendations in this article; instead, here are some issues to consider when shopping around for a VPN provider.

First, what kind of logging does your VPN provider do? In other words, what information do they keep about your VPN sessions and how long is it kept? Are they recording the IP addresses you use, the websites you visit, the amount of bandwidth used, or any other key details?

All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist. On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time. How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.

TunnelBear interface

TunnelBear
TunnelBear is one of the author's favorite VPNs, but there are many good choices on the market.

Second, what are the acceptable terms of use for your VPN provider? Thanks to the popularity of VPNs with torrent users, permissible activity on specific VPNs can vary. Some companies disallow torrents completely, some are totally fine with them, while others won’t stop torrents but officially disallow them. We aren’t here to advise pirates, but anyone looking to use a VPN should understand what is and is not okay to do on their provider’s network.

Finally, does the VPN provider offer their own application that you can download and install? Unless you’re a power user who wants to mess with OpenVPN, a customized VPN program is really the way to go. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any great technical knowledge or the need to adjust any significant settings.

Using a VPN

You’ve done your due diligence, checked out your VPN’s logging policies, and found a service with a great price and a customized application. Now, for the easy part: connecting to the VPN.

Here’s a look at a few examples of VPN desktop applications.

TunnelBear, which is currently my VPN of choice, has a very simple interface—if a little skeuomorphic. With Tunnel Bear, all you need to do is select the country you want to be virtually present in, click the dial to the “on” position, and wait for a connection-confirmation message.

SaferVPN works similarly. From the left-hand side you select the country you’d like to use—the more common choices such as the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. are at the top. Once that’s done, hit the big Connect button and wait once again for the confirmation message.

SaferVPN

SaferVPN

With SaferVPN, all you need to do is choose the country you wish to have a virtual presence in.

HMA Pro is a VPN I'll be reviewing in the next few days. This interface is slightly more complicated, but it’s far from difficult to understand. If you want to select your desired virtual location click the Location mode tab, click on the location name, and then choose your preferred location from the list. Once that’s done click the slider button that says Disconnected. Once it flips to Connected,you’re ready to roll.

There are numerous VPN services out there, and they all have different interfaces; but they are all similar enough that if you can successfully use one, you’ll be able to use the others.

That’s all there is to using a VPN. The hard part is figuring out which service to use. Once that’s done, connecting to a VPN for added privacy or to stream your favorite TV shows while abroad is just a click away.

Source : techhive.com

Categorized in How to
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