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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugSo you are concerned about Internet Security?

Much as you might love Comcast, or Cox Communications, or even AOL; do you really want them to hand over your browsing history to any LEO who asks? Warrant or not!

If you have nothing to hide, but believe in Civil Liberties, then read on.

Oh, and if anything I say here allows you to escape the clutches of a certain US Broadcaster, and pick your own Olympic coverage, well I didn't tell you how!!!

This is going to be brief because the rest is very easy indeed. You just have to know where to look.

Virtual Private Networks have been around for many years. They were designed to allow the transmission of sensitive data from insecure locations, to corporate servers.

So the sales agent in the field could connect to Company Headquarters from a motel, etc.

They are also used for far more nefarious purposes, but that is true of many things, and does not negate the lawful pursuits of others.

Basically, a VPN connects your computer to a remote server, and makes a private "tunnel". Everything passing through the tunnel is encrypted during transit. The implication here is that the ISP you are using cannot track your internet activity, at all.

So, in my case my friendly ISP can see a connection to a server. That is all they can see. So when the thought police contact my ISP and ask nicely for my browsing history, what they will get is simply a list of times, and amount of traffic between my PC and a remote server that could be anywhere in the world. They cannot see where I have been or what I have done.

Crucially, the internet requests I make from that remote server have no idea where I originated the request. They do not know, and they can not know.

The system is as secure as the VPN provider that you use. We are not too concerned with the actual "privacy" bit, so we use a commercial provider. Our provider keeps server logs for one week, for maintenance and billing purposes. If I were a political activist in fear of my safety, I would use a service that didn't keep records at all, and there are plenty of them .... You can even set up your own.

Not only is the actual transmitted data kept private, but also the geographical location of the originating request. Proxy Servers do this latter bit too, but they are woefully limited in their scope, reliability, and they are blacklisted and shut down frequently.

There are many commercial VPN Services out there. I am not, in any way, a representative of any of them but for what it's worth, we use witopia.net. I'm not linking the company, you all can type :)

There are several levels of service, and at least two connection protocols that are used

All the details are in the FAQ, but we use the higher level of service. One of the advantages of buying both protocols is that you can also connect with a cell phone. That might be useful for some.

Set up is a breeze. Any decent provider will give full instructions, and once it is working you should have few problems.

So ... Google "VPN", examine a few of the offerings and pick the one you feel most comfortable with. We pay $65 per year and are happy with that. You can get "free" too, it's a matter for you.

This whole area of PC use seems a bit technical, a bit nerdy and scary for some. It isn't. It's a simple service that is very easy to use.

The company we use has servers all over the world, including many in the US. If your primary concern is security, then pick the closest server and you should get almost full speed downloading. As an example, we often use a UK server, and streaming speeds regualrly hit 10 mbits per second. To put that in context you need about 3.5 mbits per second to stream HDTV. The bandwidth can get restricted, usually due to one of the intermediate links in the chain. Re-connecting will normally fix that.

As far as I am aware, there are NO legal implications to using a Virtual Private Network. It is a simple and common business tool. What you do with it once you have it installed is entirely a matter for you. If you, for example, choose to watch geographically restricted output, then that is a choice you make.

er ... I am not a lawyer!

I have deliberately kept this brief and not technical. I feel confident that others, way more knowledgeable than I, will answer technical queries. On the other hand, I can do it so you can too. It's just not hard.

Originally posted to Every Part of You Belongs to You on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anonymous Dkos and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (221+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    middleagedhousewife, Flyswatterbanjo, stevej, GRLionsFan, rja, Eddie L, AsianAfricanAmerican, Mr Robert, millwood, bakeneko, 2thanks, Shuksan Tahoma, TiaRachel, kevinpdx, peptabysmal, here4tehbeer, cassandracarolina, Wee Mama, Thinking Fella, I give in to sin, Terri, johanus, Pescadero Bill, turn blue, Horace Boothroyd III, ask, chimpy, Rosaura, chrississippi, Odysseus, Lorinda Pike, Senor Unoball, northsylvania, Wayward Wind, Tinfoil Hat, Bill Roberts, maybeeso in michigan, a gilas girl, TracieLynn, retLT, wordene, gfv6800, YucatanMan, thomask, FloridaSNMOM, jadt65, this just in, Mnemosyne, tobendaro, madhaus, bluedust, Carnivorous Plantling, tapestry, ccmask, slowbutsure, Son of a Cat, eXtina, Richard Cranium, Paper Cup, shortgirl, tarminian, terabytes, TalkieToaster, xanthippe2, kyril, sap, nickrud, furi kuri, hulibow, fuzzyguy, DickCheneyBeforeHeDicksYou, pixxer, bnasley, whenwego, Trotskyrepublican, DebtorsPrison, We Won, DontTaseMeBro, jamess, antirove, poco, ParkRanger, ca democrat, zesty grapher, Kentucky Kid, nancat357, Pluto, Eileen B, sukeyna, Just Bob, VexingEyes, kurious, eeff, Dumbo, 207wickedgood, Brown Thrasher, Bob Guyer, Tommymac, jguzman17, flowerfarmer, Reel Woman, zerelda, Skennet Boch, LamontCranston, radical simplicity, KenBee, homerun, old wobbly, Gustogirl, MJB, Anne was here, DavidHeart, NYC Sophia, Siri, Justina, some other george, subtropolis, Jeffersonian Democrat, Radhika, Ginny in CO, Nebraskablue, MattYellingAtTheMoon, rmonroe, geebeebee, VTCC73, PaloAltoPixie, doingbusinessas, Yohannon, WakeUpNeo, wblynch, topazOR, roadbear, MikePhoenix, Larsstephens, highacidity, srelar, uciguy30, expatjourno, koNko, JimWilson, grover, MsGrin, BachFan, weelzup, Creosote, vicki, rapala, Emerson, possum, dear occupant, Robynhood too, edie haskell, p gorden lippy, frisco, dewtx, BYw, mali muso, madmsf, envwq, kestrel9000, Ophelia, Kristina40, temptxan, Scioto, marleycat, Lisa Lockwood, PeterHug, revsue, pat bunny, freeport beach PA, ChemBob, boadicea, CocoaLove, MKinTN, Nowhere Man, FindingMyVoice, AlyoshaKaramazov, Clues, JDWolverton, haremoor, Loudoun County Dem, means are the ends, JBL55, kharma, elengul, Glacial Erratic, flitedocnm, DefendOurConstitution, NonnyO, limeyswife, No one gets out alive, KVoimakas, linkage, blueyescryinintherain, enhydra lutris, cybersaur, fumie, lulusbackintown, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, TomFromNJ, where4art, semiot, skyounkin, Pandoras Box, OpherGopher, RichterScale, tiponeill, Susan from 29, LaFeminista, LunkHead, VaBreeze, solesse413, minidriver, annan, vivian darkbloom, aznavy, NoMoJoe, greengemini, BlueMississippi, GreyHawk, KathyinSC

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:55:17 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this. (17+ / 0-)

    What are the differences between the free ones and the ones that charge a fee?

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    by Flyswatterbanjo on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:01:43 PM PDT

  •  or... (9+ / 0-)

    ...you can buy a used Cisco.  Used Pix with a VPN client license or five will set you back 150 or so on Craigslist.  My DD-WRT router also has a VPN service but I haven't used it (have used Pix firewall VPNs though and they work fine)

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:20:36 PM PDT

  •  My VPN (24+ / 0-)

    My situation is a tad different than most but it works spectacularly for me.

    I own my own (Debian) server in a colocation facility (aka "server farm")

    I run OpenVPN server on the Debian box and the OpenVPN client on my laptop here (or wherever I am), and this gives me a secure tunnel into my own server, where all the important stuff resides.

    Connections into the server, such as SSH (Secure Shell) and virtualization (VMWare, VirtualBox, VNC et al) are only allowed via the VPN.   Conversely, the VPN can be used to tunnel back into the home pc's via the server.

    It's pretty damned cool to be able to securely connect to your own resources from anywhere.   Great for working vacations and world travel.

  •  I've been using (11+ / 0-)

    HideMyAss the last 5 months, or so. Mostly to be able to watch Netflix or other sources otherwise unavailable in Europe.

    Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid. You step out of line, the man come and take you away. - S. Stills

    by ask on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:52:21 PM PDT

  •  Because I'm tactless... (5+ / 0-)

    I'll ask. Is what you're saying here: If I use a VPN service, the 'authorities' won't be able to learn if I spend all my internet time on pr0n sites or political sites or whatever, whereas Yahoo will roll over and spill their guts about whether I frequent liberal or conservative sites or view unhealthy amounts of food porn? If I use a VPN, and go to Yahoo via/through the VPN, then yahoo will still track me won't they?

    Does using VPN have implications for me avoiding hacking/security issues?  
    Does every internet crook in the world do this to avoid detection/capture?
    Is this how wikileaks operated to avoid getting busted--but he did anyway, right? What's up with that?
    Are you saying that if I were to use a VPN, I would be able to watch the Olympis without NBC's 'censorship'?

    I wish I didn't feel like a Luddite around computers. But that DD-WRT stuff makes no sense to me. I don't understand that whole comment thread...

    "The better I know people, the more I like my dog."

    by Thinking Fella on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:53:39 PM PDT

    •  I use a VPN service for which I pay about $10/ (11+ / 0-)

      month and I was able to live stream the BBC coverage of the Olympics Open Ceremony as it happened. I prefer British and Irish TV to American but my VPN gives me access to most of Europe and Asia. I really only use it to watch TV from other countries but it works great.

    •  Let me try: (30+ / 0-)
      I'll ask. Is what you're saying here: If I use a VPN service, the 'authorities' won't be able to learn if I spend all my internet time on pr0n sites or political sites or whatever, whereas Yahoo will roll over and spill their guts about whether I frequent liberal or conservative sites or view unhealthy amounts of food porn?

      Correct. Your "food porn browsing" will remain between you and your weighing scales.

      If I use a VPN, and go to Yahoo via/through the VPN, then yahoo will still track me won't they?
      No. They will track the browsing of an IP address that is not assigned to you.
      Does using VPN have implications for me avoiding hacking/security issues?  
      Yes. Everything you do is encrypted locally, on your PC, before it is transmitted. Security in browsing, not so much from hacckers but packet sniffers won't have much joy.
      Does every internet crook in the world do this to avoid detection/capture?
      I am not a crook, and I don't know what they do. But they get caught so they are doing something wrong. If I were a crook I would use a VPN, and other tools.
      Is this how wikileaks operated to avoid getting busted--but he did anyway, right? What's up with that?
      I imagine wikileaks used a variety of security measures.
      Are you saying that if I were to use a VPN, I would be able to watch the Olympis without NBC's 'censorship'?
      Yes
      I wish I didn't feel like a Luddite around computers. But that DD-WRT stuff makes no sense to me. I don't understand that whole comment thread...
      That is why I wrote the Diary and left all that stuff out :)

      It gets nerdy, for the nerds, but it doesn't have to for those who just want privacy :)

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:03:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'll take another stab, as my answers differ .. (16+ / 0-)

      I've also been on the corporate side in day job, and have also helped some people with issues with hostile home countries, and some other things.

      I'll ask. Is what you're saying here: If I use a VPN service, the 'authorities' won't be able to learn if I spend all my internet time on pr0n sites or political sites or whatever, whereas Yahoo will roll over and spill their guts about whether I frequent liberal or conservative sites or view unhealthy amounts of food porn? If I use a VPN, and go to Yahoo via/through the VPN, then yahoo will still track me won't they?
      Untrue. They won't learn from your ISP. They could learn from the VPN provider or the destination website like Yahoo or err Facebook. They can also learn from link redirectors that use your login credentials (also like Facebook). Even if you were smart enough (and the people I help are not criminals so they usually aren't) to not log in explicitly as "you" to the destination website, you may still be logged in implicitly by link redirectors or cookies.

      The OP mentioned log retention. Many VPN keep logs and will turn them over to the 'authorities' upon request. Those that don't keep logs can not. There have been instances of ones that do not keep logs being asked to keep logs for specific investigations. The VPN providers can either comply or push-back. But either way, the VPNs desire to keep your secrecy and their legal ability to push back at the requesting authority are factors. Hidemyass, already mentioned is a legitimate VPN. But, if they think the FBI has a legitimate reason, your connection history is theirs. Here is their blog explaining this: http://blog.hidemyass.com/...

      Some free VPNs are "honeypots" http://www.webopedia.com/... and their whole purpose is to track you and sell or otherwise provide your history to others.

      Destination websites often track by cookies and browser footprints. The EFF explains this fairly well, but the one paragraph description on slashdot of their study does a good summary:
      http://yro.slashdot.org/...

      In short, no, depending on what you are trying to hide, or who you are trying to hide from and where you go, and your own savvy and discipline, the VPN can be made irrelevant as protection.

      Does using VPN have implications for me avoiding hacking/security issues?
      Not really. Basically it changes your route. Theoretically you could avoid certain routing issues, but most of the security holes are probably between you and your destination. Basically, you can travel from LA to NYC openly through Chicago, or really quietly through Bumpass, VA. If they are going to rob you in NYC, you're still robbed. Though a few cases of people were detouring you in Chicago you'd avoid.
      Does every internet crook in the world do this to avoid detection/capture?
      The good ones must, but it is really only a very small tool for a crook being actively chased. Some crooks RUN VPNs themselves, not for their use, but to steal from people who thought they were safe using them. The honeypots I mentioned above. I even exposed one, once.
      Is this how wikileaks operated to avoid getting busted--but he did anyway, right? What's up with that?
      They used not only VPN's but other things and modified TOR https://www.torproject.org/ . I think you are confused. Wikileaks was always fairly open about who they were and what they did. Sources leaking to them should not have been compromised, if they set up the security properly. In short, the sources that have made media as being compromised were either undone by Wikileaks own amateurish editing of the leaked materials, and I won't defend them for those mistakes. After that, some more perhaps after an internal implosion among its own techies. One of them in Germany wrote a book on that after he was out. I'm not an insider, just a watcher. So I can't tell you what part of "he said, she said" is true. I can say that there was some internal techie explosion and split as enough has been said about it to European documentaries, and in books.

      Many of the legal threats, however, are for actually publishing what they got. That would be more like reporter or newspaper being sued to give up a source or under an espionage act, and the fact that web publishing in another country has iffy or no legal protections as a news outlet. So even the techie implosion is fairly irrelevant in that angle.

      •  Great comment. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vzfk3s

        Very thorough. A VPN may be useful. But it's no panacea, and for some, it may be a waste of money, or even harmful, eh?

        Thanks for a good summary of the facts.

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 02:29:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks again! (4+ / 0-)

    I understand now!

    "The better I know people, the more I like my dog."

    by Thinking Fella on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 02:38:00 PM PDT

  •  Here's link (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, strandedlad, Larsstephens

    to a survey of some of the common VPN providers asking about whether they keep logs and how they'd respond to a request for info from authorities: http://torrentfreak.com/...

    I use IPredator and found it very easy to set up -- they provide screenshots of each step for whatever operating system you use. They also will let you have a free trial for a couple of days to see if it works on your machine.

  •  Don't remember where (7+ / 0-)

    I read it, but using VPN was suggested to provide security when you're travelling and especially when using a hotel internet connection or WiFi.

    I've never installed it because I am still unsure of what happens or what you do when you connect to the internet.

    The question I have is about connecting. I have a router from my service provider.  When one sets up VPN service, do your settings on your computer or router change so that you connect to the internet via the VPN rather than your service provider.  Or do you connect to the internet via your service provider and then connect to VPN.

    Do you have to have VPN software loaded on every cmpt in your home that connects using your router - PC, Laptop, iPad, iPhone.

    Maybe I'm not getting it yet.

    James Fallows at the Atlantic and the NY times had articles about how VPN provides security when you're travelling.  I'd really like to have it.

    •  Under normal circumstances (3+ / 0-)

      you don't have to change anything on your machine.

      The Provider I use sends a set-up utility. You simply click on it, pick a server and wait for it to connect. Then you simply browse normally.

      The license you buy will specify how many computers you can use it on, and some providers have "boxes" that will funnel your whole network through a VPN. (witopias is called "cloakbox")

      It's all pretty simple.

      We only use ours when we need to, mainly for TV and Radio streaming. Others do all their browsing through a VPN.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:21:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Watch out with VPNs! If you are using one (5+ / 0-)

    that supports MS-CHAPv2 then you have no security at all and are basically sending everything including your passwords without any sort of encryption at all.

    There is no saving throw against stupid.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:13:21 PM PDT

  •  Appropriate that I am reading this while finishing (6+ / 0-)

    dinner... I love me some tech-geek pr0n!  In a better economy, I would have taken the time to finish some of the Cisco certifications and gone on to Network Engineering; however, keeping the bill collectors away from my house has prevented this from happening.

    Thanks for providing this diary!

    -8.88, -7.77 Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. -- Joe Conanson

    by wordene on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:48:00 PM PDT

  •  "far more nefarious purposes" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    Boy, you ain't kiddin' about that. I did some reading about criminal activity on Dark Nets last month and I really wish I hadn't. "hurtcore" child porn nets where you have to fork over a big wad of cash and a video of yourself very violently raping a child just to get access. The shit that nightmares are made of.

    "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

    by TheHalfrican on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:49:53 PM PDT

    •  Almost TMI... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      How do people even think of this, never mind form groups for like minded people?

      Seriously fucked up.

      And I'm sure there's more crazy to be found...

      The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

      by No one gets out alive on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:09:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Welcome to the Internet (4+ / 0-)

        There is content on the Internet far weirder -- & worse -- than any of us can dream. You just have to look a little further to find it.

        The problem is people -- not technology. People have been doing stuff far weirder -- & worse -- than any of us can imagine for untold millennia. The Internet just makes it easier to share the stuff.

        Unfortunately, there are people who confuse human behavior with technology & think "If we could only keep it off the Internet, then all that yucky stuff would come to an immediate & irreversible end." I wish it were that simple, but it ain't.

        [/rant]

  •  Great post. No Romney references (so far) a bonus. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, eXtina, Paulie200, psnyder, Pluto, grover

    nt

  •  Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, twigg

    I've had my eye on witopia and have seen some pretty good reviews of it but was still hesitating. I'd only thought of using it so I could safely access free WiFi with my phone, didn't realize I could use it at home as well. Thanks again.

  •  this one was mentioned (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, BachFan, aznavy

    earlier today in another diary: expat shield. Anyone have any experience with it?

    Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today. -- James Dean

    by Mnemosyne on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:07:17 PM PDT

  •  Not as easy as it may seem (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, twigg, rfall, llywrch

    It's not incredibly hard, but it's not as easy as you make it out to be.

    There are 3 different kinds of VPN services, IPSEC, OpenVPN and another that escapes me at the moment. Your equipment and software will need to be matched up against the various providers to see which provide a good match for your situation.

    Secondly, the better VPN providers are not free. No, they're not outrageously expensive, but they are not free either. Many do have "free" plans, but be aware that the free plans typically involved reduced levels of service and restricted connection points.

    I discovered the latter the hard way last Friday as I was furiously trying to cobble together a solution at the last minute that would allow me to watch a certain opening ceremony in a certain British capitol city, that was being streamed live via a certain British broadcasting network.

    After spending 4 hours setting up my computer and router to access the "free" VPN service I had signed up for, I found out that I was limited to an access point within the US. Which, of course, was still blocked (and the reason I was trying to do this anyway).

    I didn't need to see live coverage of said ceremony so badly that I was willing to fork over my credit card information to any company without doing some research first, so I never did get to watch what I wanted.

    Summary: VPNs can be an effective solution for many things where you want to attain a bit better security than you otherwise might have, or when you need to evade censorship. Do your homework first, though, and be prepared to cast off your desire for instant gratification if you decide to go the VPN route on a whim.

  •  one of my pals is from London (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    and likes to keep up with his UK Tv. been using a VPN service that terminates back in GB for several years. works well.

    Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

    by al23 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:09:09 PM PDT

  •  I work in corporate IT security (10+ / 0-)

    and I would say to avoid setting up any unauthorized  VPNs at work. We've got real cool tools that allow us to see tunnels from end to end. We can't see your data, but we can see where you're coming from and where you're going. Makes us kind of cranky when we find one.

    Also, your ISP can see the tunnels, too. Mostly, as long as you don't get too piggy with your bandwidth, they don't give shit.

    Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

    by al23 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:33:34 PM PDT

  •  Wow! (5+ / 0-)

    I've been working from home for 10 years.  I do medical transcription and have worked for several hospitals.

    Basically my boss takes over my computer remotely, installs all the programs I need, makes sure they work and wammo, I am off to type until I can't feel my fingers anymore.

    So, I never knew exactly how my VPN worked.  It's good to know that Time Warner Cable can't interfere.  

    "Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure." Emma 1816 Check out my blog http://uninsuredinca.blogspot.com

    by ArtemisBSG on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:36:33 PM PDT

  •  Just know... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    al23, twigg, ozsea1, grover, BachFan

    That given the adequate level of effort, the ISPs are still fully capable of tracking everything that you do over their network, encrypted packets or otherwise. Sure, they are not likely to be inspecting, and subsequently decrypting, all of your packets, but they are certainly capable if motivated to do so. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from doing so... It certainly does offer one some level of protection, but I wouldn't want anyone coming away full a false sense of "total security."

    Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    by Trev2HI on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:48:06 PM PDT

    •  exactly n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, ozsea1, grover

      Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

      by al23 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:52:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well it is true they can see (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cybersaur

      the amount of traffic to and from your PC and the remote server.

      They cannot see what is being encrypted at either end, so they do not know what you are doing viz a vis browsing, etc.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:45:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not inherently.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        But, like I said, they are entirely capable of capturing and inspecting every single packet that you trasmit and receive, regardless of source/destination, or encryption level. They are also capable of decrypting said packets, if they are motivated to put forth the effort to do so. Granted, the effort required to decrypt your traffic is considerable, even for them, so it is not likely that they are actively doing it at any given time. Still, I think it is an important point to make.

        Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

        by Trev2HI on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 04:10:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't they need NSA-level decryption tools (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg

          and expertise to do that, which they're unlikely to have since they're unlikely to need them for day to day purposes? Isn't it more likely that if anyone wants to decrypt "questionable" packets, it would be the NSA or some similar agency (depending on the country and nature of the data in question), in which case they would "ask" the ISP or provider for the packets (or a direct feed) and then do the decryption with tools and expertise that they obviously have?

          This is assuming, of course, that one is using high quality encryption, be it on one's own end, on the VPN, or both. But I find it hard to believe that ISPs would have the ability to decrypt such encryption, unless given the ability and mandate to do so by such agencies. And even then, they're probably mostly interested in serious criminal or security-related activity (as defined by each country's authorities, of course, which might not always match many peoples' definition of such), not people trying to view entertainment content they're not authorized to view or which might cause them social embarrassment.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:55:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  ISP != NSA (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, eataTREE
          They are also capable of decrypting said packets
          This is not true.

          --- Keep Christian mythology out of science class!

          by cybersaur on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:52:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cybersaur

            I don't think it's true either. I do not believe that Cox Communications has the capacity to decrypt 256 bit cyphers.

            They can cut the link, they can feed the packets to the NSA, they know where I live and they could tell LEOs which servers I connect to ... and that is pretty much that.

            I never tried to argue that a VPN was foolproof security, but it is vastly better than no security at all, and unless you are a terrorist suspect, no one will even attempt to decrypt your traffic.

            If you are using a public wireless connection, a VPN will defeat all casual attempts to intercept your traffic and streal passwords, etc.

            That is my understanding of the practicalities. I'm not too concerned about the theoretical possibility of what folk with too much time on their hands, and access to a supercomputer can do.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:01:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Just to throw another one in the ring (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, KenBee, WakeUpNeo

    I've used SwissVPN for years.

    You can pay by the month (about $6) if you wish and the set up is not technical at all. Your computer knows what to do. I don't constantly use it, but some of the research I do can go deep. And you never know what those imbeciles in Utah are looking for.

    As for watching broadcasts, I haven't used it for that. Since it's out of Zurich, chances are not a lot is available. Makes sense to have a US VPN when traveling internationally. Otherwise, your Netflix is not available.

    Another handy email solution is PeopleString. It's like Gmail, except it takes your words and turns them into a gif. So there's no text to sniff. Looks the same to the recipient, unless they try to copy it. Links don't work, naturally. You can also delete your emails remotely. Or time them to self-destruct, so I hear. It's behind a social wall, but you don't have to get involved with that after signing up. It's free.


    I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell. – Harry Truman

    by Pluto on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:58:34 PM PDT

  •  There are plenty of other choices (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, PeterHug

    besides witopia.  I've thought about using a VPN but haven't taken that leap yet.  If/when I do, though, I'm likely to use one that is recommended by the p2p community, a community who tends to be more extreme in their paranoia and cheapness and they keep each other informed of developments.

    Googling VPN+torrents, for instance, brought up this review site:

    http://torrentfreak.com/...

    They review a number of different VPNs with respect to the type of logging they do and the country of origin and their response to questions of how they respond to subpoenas, etc.

    I'm seeing funny things here about Witopia, one that I'm not going to repeat because it's apocryphal and overly paranoid sounding.  But there are many people in p2p land who don't trust witopia in particular.  I'm seeing that on other sites, as well.

    I'm starting to wonder now if a diary on the how-tos of torrent p2p might be a useful thing to post, or if I'd be risking my TU status.  Thoughts on that?  Torrent clients are totally legal and have many legitimate uses, but they are also often used for trading files in violation of copyright like films, music, books, wikileaks files, etc.

    •  My thoughts on that are simple (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, Dumbo, PeterHug

      You go out in the web and you will hear suspicious things about pretty much any service provider you care to mention.

      Indeed, the bigger the company, the more bad things you will hear .... including about those the size of Microsoft, or Google.

      I have no idea if witopia are good, bad or indifferent, but I have used the service for three years, incident free. My service is due for renewal so if anyone has anything to share, then please do so.

      You will not risk your TU status, or your account by describing a legal process, even if there are those who would prefer you not to, often from their own mis-information.

      Emphasise the legal :)

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:51:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does VPN block Ads and trackers like AdBlock Plus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    and Ghostery do in Firefox? Or, would you still need those add-ons even in a VPN environment?

    "We are a Plutocracy, we ought to face it. We need, desperately, to find new ways to hear independent voices & points of view" Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General.

    by Mr SeeMore on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:25:06 PM PDT

    •  Nope (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sacrelicious, ozsea1, BachFan

      All a VPN does is provide a secure connection between your machine and a remote server.

      It obscures your point of origin, and encrypts the data.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:52:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Be clear on this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, cybersaur

        It may obscure your origin to someone on the far side of the tunnel, but it does not obscure the origin to the administrators of your ISP  or, if at work, your corporate IT staff.

        Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

        by al23 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 04:47:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ok, so let's say my target is www.xyz.com (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        and I'm using one of these VPN services. I assume that the connection from my computer to the VPN's server is encrypted, but what about the connection from the VPN to www.xyz.com? Is that second leg also encrypted?

        Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

        by Mr Robert on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 11:23:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mr Robert

          There is no need for it to be, and no reason why the client server would have the software installed to perform the task.

          The info you are seeking from xyz.com is public. It cannot be tied to you by the supplying server, that only has the call from your VPN, and an IP that isn't you.

          It becomes anonymous when it is transmitted back to your PC.

          I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
          but I fear we will remain Democrats.

          by twigg on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:48:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Still need the extensions. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, PeterHug

      You should always be running ghostery and flashblock - if only for the benefit of the added security.

      I'll leave adblock as a moral option - some folks feel it's not ethical considering web servers and bandwidth aren't free.

      --
      Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

      by sacrelicious on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 11:02:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Adblock (0+ / 0-)

        Adblock is perfectly ethical-- just as ethical as getting up to get a snack when commercials come on TV. No one is under any moral obligation to support any ad-based revenue model.
        Ad servers are a well known and very common attack vector. Blocking ad servers is a crucial part of basic web security IMHO. I would consider Adblock to be a basic security precaution.

        --- Keep Christian mythology out of science class!

        by cybersaur on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:03:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What are the main difference between the free VPNs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, PeterHug

    and the ones that cost $$$ (like the $65 one you have)?

    Terrific diary, I really needed a sort of "VPN for Dummies" to get off the dime on this. Thank you.

    •  I have no idea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      because I haven't reviewed the services.

      Like everything else, the companies have to make money and invest in servers and an infrastructure.

      I would imagine that a paid service is likely to have more help available, and fewer restrictions.

      Commenters are already suggesting that some free services restrict US customers to US servers.

      Great for security, not so much for foreign TV.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:55:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I suggested earlier someone should do a diary (7+ / 0-)

    about VPN and you did (and din't tell me!!)

    and not only that, you did it retroactively, successfully predicting I would ask.

    Powerful software!

    thanks...

    From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America!...Langston Hughes

    by KenBee on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:02:58 PM PDT

  •  What about onion routing as opposed to VPN? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, ozsea1, PeterHug

    That way your data take many, constantly changing paths to the destination, can be encrypted, and can't be linked to any one VPN tunnel.  The torproject is an example of one popular implementation of this idea.

  •  Thank You For Beating Me To This... :-D (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, PeterHug

    Seriously, with all of the crying and wailing about #nbcfails, I've been strongly resisting the urge to start shouting about VPN's from the rooftops. I was already using it for watching Dr. Who on iPlayer on BBC, but when the ISP announced that they were going to start doing a "six strikes" thing to bounce subscribers using services they didn't like as of July (they've since "postponed" that plan), I was glad I had it just on principle.

  •  Ironically (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, PeterHug, llywrch

    Because I blog from China, Dkos is infested with banner ads for VPNs if I turn on the ads.

    And yes, I occasionally use one, but at reduced speed.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:33:41 AM PDT

  •  I use one at work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    Because I'd rather they not know where I'm going, what I'm doing or what I'm downloading.

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:53:52 AM PDT

  •  VPN: only as anonymous as your provider can be. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kristina40, PeterHug

    If you're paying for the service, be mindful that you're paying someone who knows--or is in the position to know--your source and destination of your inbound and outbound traffic and, if routed in the clear, the content as well.

  •  Unless you have a real need for a VPN (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    al23, PeterHug, llywrch

    such as to watch streaming video from another country or you live in China and are trying to get around the Great Firewall, I just don't see a huge need for VPN for everyday browsing. The thought of paying for a VPN just for the sake of hiding something from your ISP is ridiculous, because you're assuming a few things. The first thing is that your ISP is actually logging every site you go to (and no, I do not believe they are, the amount of storage required to store every single site visited and every single request for every single one of their millions of users would be massive) and two, that even if they are storing that data, that a bored employee at the ISP is going to go through the logs and be like "Oh look, Mr. John Doe at 123 Main Street in Timbuktu, Montana is looking at German scheisse porn for 5 hours a day!". Lastly, you're assuming that the VPN service isn't storing data about who you are and what you do on the internet. If you firmly believe your ISP is, who's to say the VPN service isn't? I'm not one of those people who says "I've got nothing to hide, so why do I care if they track me?" either, but using a VPN just so you can post on DailyKos or whatever is a bit paranoid.

    Of course, business uses of VPN make complete sense. I have to VPN in to the corporate network on my work laptop whenever I'm away from the office, and that makes total sense.

    "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

    by yg17 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:37:28 AM PDT

  •  Being anal and having a tech background (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, twigg

    (just not in security or networking), I tend to prefer to first learn how things work and should be used (and why one might do this in some cases and that in other cases) before actually trying them out.

    I.e. I'm one of those annoying RTFM manual readers who don't just plunge in and figure things out through trial and error, but rather prefer to learn the "theory" before getting down to the "practice". This isn't for everyone, especially people who hate manuals and like to get their "hands dirty", but it's how I operate and it's worked well for me in the past (I like to believe).

    So I'm wondering, where can I learn about how all this works so I have a decent understanding of what I'm doing before I actually do it? I realize that there are tons of books, courses and web sites I can check out, but which ones do people here recommend, for starters, so I can then take it from there on my own? I.e. what VPNs are, how they work and why one might use them, but on a technical level. Or, the basics of computer, network and internet security, in terms of preventing others from getting to your devices and data, and of protecting yourself when doing stuff online.

    As for the Olympics, I recently got a pretty good cable/internet package from my local cable company so I can watch all the badminton, skeet shooting and dressage I like on Bravo, MSNBC and NBC Sports, so I don't really need VPN for all that. NBC in the states is offering a crazy amount of coverage on nearly 10 channels (20 if you count each twice for SD and HD), some dedicated to a single sport like basketball, soccer, tennis and boxing, and I've used up nearly all my HD recording much of it (most of which I'll never watch). So the LAST thing I want/need is access to yet more Olympic coverage! ;-)

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:40:34 AM PDT

    •  Do what we do in IT (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, twigg

      Google it.

      From this thread I would search on SSL/TLS, IPSec, VPN, Proxy Server, Internet routing, etc.

      good luck!

      Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

      by al23 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:46:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, I know (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, twigg

        Eventually I'll find the good sources of tech info I'm looking for. I'm just lazy and hate doing the initial searching and sifting and was hoping for some recs.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:57:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I almost always find a literate, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie, twigg

          understandable stuff on the first search page.

          Try this book. Its an easy to read study guide to a security certification. Covers lots of the stuff from this thread

          Called "Get Certified, Get Ahead, SYO 301 Study Guide"

          by Darril Gibson

          $9 bucks on my Kindle.

          guy's a gifted technical writer.

          Re-elect Barack Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren "Mitt Romney...utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive."

          by al23 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:35:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Try Professor Messer's CompTIA Net+ site (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, kovie, twigg

      It's designed for those seeking Net+ certifications, but well worth the investment of a few hours to understand this stuff in some level of detail.  Here's a link to a discussion in the Net+ course on VPNs from a hardware perspective.  As Twigg (and others) have noted in this thread, using a VPN service is one way to skin this particular cat, however, setting up a hardware based VPN in your home is not all that difficult once you understand the theory behind it and invest a few bucks in the hardware.

      The test of whether we're willing to stand up to the thugs that wrote voter suppression laws is this: Are you willing to hold hands with someone that needs hand holding in order to qualify to vote?

      by Richard Cranium on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:16:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Whoops, link didn't linky properly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kovie, twigg

        The test of whether we're willing to stand up to the thugs that wrote voter suppression laws is this: Are you willing to hold hands with someone that needs hand holding in order to qualify to vote?

        by Richard Cranium on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:17:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        I like to "deconstruct" things into their constituent components and concepts to get an inside-out idea of how they work on their own and in concert, before attempting to work with them for real. Not an approach that's for everyone, but it's worked fairly well for me in the past and gives me the confidence to know what I'm doing rather than just have a "feel" for it.

        You may say that I'm "severely conservative" this way. :-)

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:58:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  not true (0+ / 0-)
    The implication here is that the ISP you are using cannot track your internet activity, at all.
    the encryption can be hacked (quickly) as the fellows at defcon recently proved.

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 05:59:34 AM PDT

  •  If you're not worried about privacy, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution

    then all you need is knowledge of your IP address, at the host computer, and some free software.

    Check out RealVNC.  YOu'll need to have the server running on the host, and the viewer running on the remote computer.

    There are also free programs for both Mac and PC that will display your IP address on your screen at all times, so you don't have to go searching for it.

    If you're on DSL or Cable, etc. your IP address will generally stay the same over time.

    There is also free software that will periodically email you your IP address, so that you always know what it is.


    "A recent study reveals Americans' heads are larger than they were 150 years ago but sadly there is no indication that the extra room is used for anything." - entlord

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 06:36:10 AM PDT

  •  Hosted on NSA servers? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    It's much easier to cut out the middle man, when you ARE the man.

    I'd like to know who really owns/controls the servers.

    Just because your paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't watching you...

    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 07:55:00 AM PDT

  •  Tipped, recced. (8+ / 0-)

    As a computer tech, I find VPNs extremely useful, especially if I want to work from home.

    Great article Twigg, though I had to laugh at this:

    They are also used for far more nefarious purposes, but that is true of many things, and does not negate the lawful pursuits of others.
    and you know exactly why I'm laughing.

    Republicans cause more damage than guns ever will. Share Our Wealth

    by KVoimakas on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 08:29:35 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. I'm so clueless when it comes to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    computers but I hate having my privacy invaded. I will try it.

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam> "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Edna St.V. Millay

    by slouching on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 09:17:46 AM PDT

  •  Nicely summarized! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    I've been aware of these issues for a long time.  I think the answer may lie in a two-part strategy (and one that everyone really should follow): consider carefully what you put in cloud storage.

    I will, for instance house my photos that I'm using to document my informal research on the drought here in Texas.  I will NOT, however, put any of my short stories, works in progress, cartoons, etc there.  I will house music I've bought from Amazon on the Amazon servers (so I can enjoy it on multiple devices and when I have to replace this laptop, I can get my music again without having to do a very tiresome transfer-and-hope-data-wasn't damaged.

    Thanks for putting up such a clear summary of the issues.  People need to be informed about these and need to develop their own strategies for data storage.

  •  Pedantic comments (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semiot, twigg

    IIRC, the primary reason VPNs were created weren't for any need for transferring sensitive information form location A to location B (well, not directly), but for cost.

    Back in the early days of the Internet (the 1980s & 1990s, to be precise), it used to be the only way one could connect one node to another on the Internet was to put down a physical devoted connection -- either copper or fiber. One reason for this is that it was -- & still is, to some degree -- considered good practice to have security fire walls at the points where a local network connects to the rest of the Internet. Another reason is that all of those phone lines that Ma Bell had knitted across the US either weren't designed for packet switching, or had too many doohickies (sorry for the technical jargon) on them to reliably propagate the signal. Creating devoted network connections was expensive to do & to maintain, especially when a company wanted to network locations together that were located different cities -- say Los Angeles & New York.

    As well all know, the phone companies finally woke up & realized that they had to modernize to keep their customers & revenue stream, & upgraded the lines between their central offices (or COs). Then some bright guy figured out how to virtualize a devoted network connection, so all of the teleco bandwidth could be repackaged & sold as VPNs. Now a corporation that wanted a reasonable guarantee of privacy needed only a devoted network line to the local COs -- or simply to the phone switch in the office complex. Costs went down & more people could afford to be connected.

    It's gotten to the point where having a dedicated network connection to even the local CO could be a red flag for suspicious activity -- say a foreign national with a dedicated line to the local CO. Of course, this can be fixed by having a friendly contact at the local Water Department dig up the street this physical connection runs under. And besides, the folks who really want to keep their information secret are at least a couple steps beyond this -- for example, using free wireless access at coffee shops to create a VPN to one server, which connects to one of several computers that have been Pwned (selected at random) to relay information to its ultimate destination. I don't know if the people who worry about these things -- for only understandable reasons, of course -- have kept up with what the bad guys are doing, so it's likely innocent bystanders who unknowingly are following last year's best practices for evading NSA snooping.

    And besides, the most secure form of communications avoids networks entirely: it's amazing how much data one can carry in a suitcase packed with USB sticks. And I doubt the average TSA employee would even wonder if this was as suspicious as a passenger who refused to remove his or her shoes to board.

    •  The world needs its pedants (0+ / 0-)

      and that was a great contribution :)

      The TSA have the authority to examine the content of all those USB sticks.

      Most foreign travelers working with sensitive information, no longer carry that info through US Border Control.

      They load it all to secure cloud storage, buy a laptop when they arrive, and download it once in the country.

      It's quick, easy, relatively cheap and totally defeats Homeland Security.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 10:35:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I use (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

    by theRoaringGirl on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:28:06 PM PDT

  •  I use the TOR Bundle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    Here: https://www.torproject.org/

    TOR has apps for android and apple products, as well as mac/pc/linux friendly.

    "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

    by theRoaringGirl on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 01:05:59 PM PDT

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