Are VPNs a Valid Privacy Tool ?

Is privacy a right, or in this world of terrorist threats is it something that we have to accept as a price to pay for keeping us safe. For many people the two are not mutually exclusive, and for many losing that privacy means that those who threaten us have won. The problem is that digital privacy is not assigned by default and you need to employ methods to obtain it. One of the most obvious steps is to encrypt and protect your data using something called a Virtual private network (VPN) but there’s some perception that these are in some ways illegal.

For lots of folks there is a pervasive image of a VPN user, it’s something like a young person sporting a hoodie, hunched up in a coffee bar with their laptop computer. They’re most probably trying to hack into some federal government computers and are on the run from the authorities. Considering that a VPN hides your geographic location and your internet traffic there’s a natural idea that the individual is up to no good and without a doubt has something to conceal.

The real truth is actually a very long way from this assumption and even though numerous hackers do certainly use VPNs regularly so do an awful lot of ordinary individuals. Indeed most big companies have actually been using VPNs for many years to support inbound connections from remote users. For example in the event that a salesperson requires access to the product data base on the company’s network it’s much simpler to permit them to connect through the internet and view the most up to date version. This is much more secure than travelling around with DVDs and of course assures that he or she has the most recent versions.

In the event that you make any kind of normal connection online, all of your web traffic is pretty much visible, i.e anybody with a mind can intercept and read it. In the event that you’re logging and connecting to a protected share then this would include usernames and passwords. So in order to protect these connections, you might commonly install a VPN client on the laptop computer and make sure it’s utilized to encrypt the connection back to the company network. It is actually completely legitimate and indeed smart business practice.

Regular home users will make use of VPNs for very similar reasons. Essentially the internet is insecure and there is little provision for security integrated in automatically. Sure you can access secure sites through things like SSL whenever you need to enter a credit card or payment information. However this is the exception not the rule and the majority of sites are not secure and the vast majority of information flies across the wires in clear text.

In addition to the basic insecurity of the world wide web, there’s the additional issue of confidentiality. Your browsing data is easily accessible via a variety of sources. For a start, there’s a comprehensive list in your ISP of everything you do online and depending on where you reside this could be routinely and quickly accessed. Using a VPN stops this, transforming your web 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 advanced simply driven by demand and the risks of discovery. There are all sorts of variations including allowing different arrangements and ports to escape discovery. they are moving into new territories of functionality, for example some are linked to rotating and residential proxies distributed across the world. You can also get them to use home IP addresses through specific residential IP providers.

In the majority of countries VPNs are definitely not illegal but just a simple business and personal security tool. 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. Other countries only allow authorized services which typically mean those which could be compromised if required. Individuals still use VPNs in most of these nations indeed in Turkey mostly all expats employ one to watch things like British and American TV on-line. It’s actually quite difficult to detect a VPN in use however that doesn’t stop it technically being illegal in those locations.


Residential Proxies,  James Callum, Whatmore Press, 2015

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