August 7, 2015 0 Comments AUTHOR: Kevin CATEGORIES: Security

What is a VPN and 3 Reasons Why You Should Have One

One of the most common questions I get from friends and family is which VPN provider I recommend for protecting privacy online. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is basically an encrypted tunnel for all of your internet traffic to pass through. Using one makes it impossible very difficult for third parties to monitor what websites you visit and the data your computer sends and receives across the internet.

It’s like a condom for public WiFi

If you’ve ever used free WiFi that didn’t require a password (at Starbucks, McDonalds, an airport, etc.), you may be surprised to learn that pretty much everything you did was wide open for anyone to snoop on. For someone with the right tools, it’s as easy as tuning a radio to a certain station. Once an attacker picks a certain WiFi “channel”, they can see everything unencrypted that is currently going across it. This means the websites you’re visiting, the photos you’re scrolling on Instagram, and in some cases even the contents of your emails are in plain sight. Then the same attackers can also conduct what is called a Man-In-The-Middle attack to trick your computer into accessing malicious websites or modifying what you see – all without you knowing. All pretty nasty stuff. When you connect to public WiFi with a VPN, all an attacker can see is a meaningless encrypted connection to your VPN provider – everything you’re doing in that tunnel is hidden.

It will let you get around filtering or regional restrictions

I don’t think I need to explain this one too much. A VPN will let you appear as if you are accessing a website from another country, and therefore give you access to all of the content that may happen to only be available to that country. I’ll let you connect the dots on where this might come in handy.

It will (help) protect you against surveillance from your company, ISP, or government

The same way a VPN protects you from bad guys at Starbucks, it also masks your traffic from the people who run your network (usually your ISP) or even the government‘s watchful eye. Not to suggest that you do anything illegal, but this is a valuable tool in protecting some of the most private information you may exchange on the internet.

In addition, because all of your traffic is being routed through servers that are securely shared by countless other customers, tracing your actions back to your IP address becomes very difficult. Morally speaking, I’ll advise you not to abuse this :)

My recommendation…

PrivateInternetAccess is arguably the world’s top VPN provider, and for good reason. $40/year gives you access to their secure VPN gateways in 19 countries. I’ve been with them for several years and can’t recommend their service enough. Their apps are reliable and easy to use, their support is very helpful, and they take privacy very seriously. You can even pay them with Bitcoin or retail store gift cards if you don’t want to give out your personal info. When connecting to local servers, I rarely even notice that the VPN is on – it’s that fast.

Check out PrivateInternetAccess and actually use it! It is definitely the cheapest way to really increase your privacy and security online.

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August 3, 2015 0 Comments AUTHOR: Kevin CATEGORIES: Misc

How 15 Minutes On One Website Taught Me A Lot About Myself

In my various jobs I’ve often heard people mention or discuss something called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) but I never really understood what it was until recently. It’s a psychological theory dating back to 1921 that basically says that every person fits into one of 16 different distinct personality types. 89 out of the Fortune 100 companies pay for their employees to read a book and take a test to determine their type in order to try to craft a “perfect” team of compatible personalities.

My friend told me about a site called 16Personalities which uses the same methodology but through a web-based test that’s free for anyone

July 29, 2015 0 Comments AUTHOR: Kevin CATEGORIES: Security, Software, Technology

Windows 10’s New Privacy Statement Is Uhhh… Interesting

Just in case you were considering upgrading to Windows 10 , take a look at what you’re agreeing to by installing it…

we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to:
1. comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies;

2. protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone;

3. operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or

4. protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement.”

Though this is likely mostly geared towards their online services like Hotmail and SkyDrive, this is taken directly from Microsoft’s main privacy statement and does not include a specific exception for Windows 10. So legally speaking the two are one and the same.

What Microsoft doesn’t make clear is exactly who determines when they are acting to protect their customers or their intellectual property rights. You are essentially trusting them that they will only use this when someone they consider trustworthy thinks it’s acceptable.

 

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