Privacy Tools – VPNs

I have been using a VPN for about 15 years now, and to be honest it’s now a matter of habit. My first experience was when I worked for a large pharmaceutical firm, traveling between various doctors surgeries. I had to keep in touch with head office all the time and have access to some documents and a database. To do this I had to use the internet, and in order to do it securely every employee had a small IBM VPN client on their laptops. The program connected to the companies own VPN server and then allowed full access to the corporate network from over the internet. It was safe, cheap and easy to use.

For many people there is a pervasive image of a VPN user, it’s something like a young person wearing a hoodie, huddled up in a coffee room with their computer. They’re quite possibly attempting to hack right into some federal government computers and are on the run from the authorities. As a VPN hides your geographic location and your internet traffic there’s a natural idea that the individual is up to no good and indeed has something to conceal.

The reality is actually a very long way from this perception and although many hackers do certainly use VPNs routinely so do an awful number of ordinary individuals. Certainly the majority of large organizations have actually been actually making use of VPNs for decades to sustain inbound connections from remote end users. For example if a salesperson needs access to the product data base on the company’s network it’s significantly simpler to permit them to connect through the web and view the most recent version. This is a lot more secure than travelling around with DVDs and obviously ensures that he or she has the latest versions.

If you make any type of normal connection online, all of your traffic is pretty much visible, i.e anybody with a mind can intercept and see it. In the event that you’re logging and connecting to a secured share then this might include usernames and passwords. So if you want to protect these connections, you might generally install a VPN client on the laptop computer and ensure it’s used to encrypt the connection back to the company network. It is actually completely genuine and indeed smart business practice.

Regular home users will make use of VPNs for very similar reasons. Pretty much the internet is insecure and there is minimal provision for safety and security integrated in automatically. Sure you can gain access to secure sites through things like SSL when you need to enter a credit card or payment information. This is the exception not the rule and most sites are not secure and the vast majority of data flies across the wires in clear text.

In addition to the basic insecurity of the world wide web, there’s the other issue of privacy. Your surfing data is easily obtainable via a variety of sources. For a start, there’s a comprehensive list in your ISP of everything you do online and depending upon where you live this can be routinely and quickly accessed. Using a VPN prevents this, turning your internet activity into an encrypted list which is unreadable without your permission. Are they used by cyber criminals and terrorists? Sure but also by millions of people who think that what they do online shouldn’t be part of public records.

The VPN systems are becoming more and more sophisticated merely driven by demand and the risks of discovery. There are all sorts of alternatives including allowing different arrangements and ports to dodge discovery. You can even get them to use home based IP addresses through specific residential IP providers –

In a large number of countries VPNs are definitely not illegal but just a practical business and personal security tool. However in some countries this is not the case and you can get into trouble if caught using them. Countries that actually ban the use of VPN include places like China, Iraq, Belarus and Turkey. Various other countries simply allow permitted services which usually mean those that could be jeopardized if required. Individuals still use VPNs in the majority of these nations indeed in Turkey nearly all expats employ one to watch things like English and American TV online. It’s actually quite difficult to detect a VPN in use however that doesn’t stop it technically being illegal in those locations.