Thursday 11 August 2016

Avoiding Big Brother

Did you know your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is probably keeping an eye on you? Ok, they aren't sitting there watching you specifically, but they are likely logging your use of the internet.

The vast majority of ISP's keep logs on all their client activities, what web sites you visit, what files you download, what terms you search for, etc, all of which can be requested by 3rd parties.

ISP's also watch your online activities to lower your bandwidth (speed) based on the type of activity you are conducting. I've seen many people have their speed dropped while downloading a torrent file.

Online companies routinely collect information about you using tracking cookies and other methods if you connect directly to the internet.

So what can you do to keep your online activities private? The easiest way is use a VPN.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an encrypted tunnel that protects all data sent through it from logging or prying eyes. Your internet traffic goes to/from the internet through the VPN's endpoint, rendering your online activities fairly invisible.

Anyone trying to trace your location will only see the VPN's location, not yours, and with most VPN providers you can select what country you want Big Brother to see regardless of where you are. This can be helpful for accessing resources that might be blocked in your country.

There are cybersecurity reasons to use a VPN. If you are on hotel WiFi and not using a personal router, or you are using the WiFi at your local Starbucks pretty much everyone else using that WiFi can try to snoop on what you are doing. VPN's can stop that.

Most VPN providers intentionally don't keep logs of their user's activities, so even if they were compelled  to provide logs of your online activities they can't.

Use this technology in conjunction with a secure email service like Protonmail and your digital footprint becomes almost invisible.

You will take a hit to your internet speed because the VPN adds overhead, however if you want to ensure your privacy on the internet it's a small price to pay.

There are many free and paid VPN providers out there. Paid services usually offer faster connections and an easier setup process.

Some VPN providers offer enhanced services, increasing your online security with anti-malware capabilties, like F-Secure's Freedome. (F-Secure offers a 7-day free trial of Freedome)

I usually use VPN providers located outside of North America, and only ones that post their privacy policy, indicating they do not keep logs of client activity.

After all, if I'm going to pay for security it should actually be secure.

Happy Surfing!

-The Home Geek

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