A recent investigation into 115 of the world’s most popular VPN services revealed that many are antithetical to their stated claims. To build trust, providers make promises not to track users through logs or other identifying information. But as a popular VPN comparison site found out, this isn’t always true. The Best VPN recently peeked under the hood of over 100 of the biggest VPN services. All told, 26 of them collect three or more important log files that could contain personal and identifying information — things like your IP address, location, bandwidth data, and connection timestamps. For VPN users,…
Admittedly, we spend a lot of time using the Internet — but how much of that time is actually spent on a laptop or desktop? It’s much less than you think: anymore, the people’s device of choice is actually a smartphone like an iPhone or a tablet like an iPad. As of 2016, Internet usage with a mobile device surpassed that of more traditional devices like computers and notebooks — in fact, 51.3% of all web visits came from mobile devices compared to 48.7% of visits from the usual computing platforms.
But unusually, despite the fact we’re using our iPhones and smartphones so much more frequently for casual web browsing, there’s less of a focus on protecting the data on our phones beyond worrying about redundancy (i.e., protecting our information via a cloud-based backup or otherwise). From antivirus software to malware protection to regular software updates, there’s a whole host of protection options for your computer. But the fact of the matter is, your phone is just as susceptible to infiltration — whether that’s by a malicious hacker or otherwise.
The recent Equifax data breach and ransomware attacks are an example of how valuable your data can be to hackers. While a VPN may not completely protect you from unwanted people taking advantage of your social security number, it will prevent a majority of so-called “low hanging fruit” attacks that happen today more often than ever before.
Recommended VPN Services:
- VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription– 4.5 out of 5 stars (92% off)
- Windscribe VPN: Lifetime Pro Subscription– 5 out of 5 stars (92% off)
- VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription– 5 out of 5 stars (91% off)
Taking that into consideration, it’s shocking we don’t take increased measures to keep ourselves protected online. More and more users are occasionally using a VPN, but not nearly enough. Studies conducted by British psychologists revealed we spend double the amount of time that we think we do on our phones. That’s double the number of times we send out pieces of information about ourselves — from credit card information, to work and home addresses, even personal information about our family and friends.
We’ve seen malicious attacks from individual hackers and even organized rings take down people and even powerful corporations. Just take a look at the Sony hacking saga — the company was infiltrated more than ten times, exposing over 100 million user accounts. So what does this growing crime rate mean to the average person?
For better or for worse, if you’re an iPhone user, you’re still susceptible to attacks from hackers and malware (even though iOS itself is particularly secure). That’s because iPhones are, and continue to be, some of the most popular smartphones in history. That means the iOS platform is one of the most dominant operating systems out there — and its ins and outs are highly coveted by hackers and hacking groups alike. And if they can’t get the information stored inside of an iPhone, they’ll try to access data as it’s transferred through LTE or Wi-Fi.
Remember how many transactions you make on your phone? Double that, and that’s not even close to the number of opportunities that exist to steal your data. And don’t think you’re safe if you just purchased a new, from the factory, iPhone 8 — according to CNET, investigators found new malware that, once in a computer, can infect mobile devices and download malicious apps independently. That means that the user could technically not do anything wrong and their device could still be corrupted. And that includes just clicking a malicious link — without taking any action or manually entering in any information.
Sound bleak? Don’t worry — there are options out there to help keep your online identity safe. One of these options is the use of a VPN: a virtual private network.
A VPN works by extending a private network over the public connections we use daily. VPNs use a series of discrete networks or computers to secure and encrypt communication when using the Internet. A user logging into a VPN would typically access it via a client/browser window, log-in with unique credentials (really similar to how you’d log into your email) and voila — once inside the VPN, the user is secure from any eavesdropping or spying.
Any time you’re doing something on the Internet, you’re exchanging and sending data to another source. A VPN ensures that each time you do so, all the data that’s being sent from your end is encrypted and safe from people seeking to steal it or profit off of it.
Back to our point about iPhone users: while Apple’s iOS is particularly robust, that doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable. And that also doesn’t mean that hackers aren’t trying to get into one of the largest user bases of all time.
And with the elimination of net neutrality, ISPs have the legal power to prioritize and even block some content providers/platforms. Imagine having to pay extra to access Netflix, check your email or say “Hi” to family on Facebook.
Your ISP could choose to slow down access to websites that don’t pay the premiums they demand — and if you don’t want to deal with waiting around, a VPN may help by hiding your network traffic, so even your ISP can’t see what services or websites you’re visiting. Still not convinced?
Here are a few more reasons why you should use a VPN:
General Privacy and Security Concerns
First and foremost, there’s the issue of all your personal information — credit cards, social security, loan information and more that could technically be yanked from you. Beyond that, hackers can gain insight into details as granular as your location. That’s where online threats go beyond the virtual plane and into the real world: and in that case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You might work in an environment that values the privacy of the people you help service — whether that’s in education, health, law or medicine, there might be strict standards around how you transmit information. A VPN helps ensure that you can do your job a little more effectively, knowing you’ve taken proactive steps to minimize data leakage.
We’ll keep this one between the two of us — but if you’re using a torrenting app, you’re making yourself particularly susceptible to hackers. VPNs are a way to help stay safe if you’re using something to download materials.
Repeal of Net Neutrality
You may have heard the phrase “net neutrality” being tossed around in the news recently — that’s because recently the United States government essentially decided to repeal it. So what is net neutrality and how does it relate to VPN use? It’s what powers the phenomenon of the free Internet, and what keeps it open and equal, whether you’re a billionaire browsing on your laptop, or a teenager looking up resources for a project in the school library. Net neutrality isn’t just a technological tool describing the way in which the Internet is a massive interconnected web of computers that contains the vessel of human knowledge — it’s also an economic argument and a moral standpoint. As egalitarian as the Internet is, if its core nature is changed, the resulting butterfly effect is tremendous.
The recent repeal of net neutrality compromises the way the Internet is used as a public utility, specifically high-speed Internet. Whereas before, Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) were supposed to direct web traffic without discrimination of any kind, now an ISP can dictate usage terms to both sites and to users. For example, that means a Verizon, Comcast or other large ISP can charge customers a premium to receive content more quickly — which completely changes the concept of equal and fair access to all users. An ISP could also charge more for access that had previously been free — for example, bundling up social media, or charging more for access to Instagram versus Facebook.
People wary of the repeal are also concerned it changes the nature of innovation and the Internet. In a world where much of what we see is controlled by algorithms and mandated by giants like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, there’s less and less of a chance that smaller companies looking to break ground with new information will be seen, heard and discovered. While VPNs will not solve all the issues caused by a net neutrality repeal, it will protect your data from your ISP.
So you’ve decided to start using a VPN to protect yourself online. Keep in mind, not all VPNs are created equal, although there are always solid options to choose from no matter what your budget is.
We’ve compiled a few of our favorites below — and the best news is, they’re all currently on sale at discounts up to 92% off.
1 VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription (92% off)
With protected servers in 70 different countries, VPN Unlimited was named 2016 PC Mag Top VPN for its top-notch security. You can use VPN Unlimited on five different devices at the same time – including your phone and your computer – and it’s one of the most affordable deals on the web for just $ 39.99. Get it now for $ 39.99 — that’s 92% off.
2 Windscribe VPN: Lifetime Pro Subscription (92% off)
This VPN is all-in-one solution for users; stay protected while surfing the web through Windscribe VPN’s browser extension. You will never have to adjust any technical settings or options — just plug and play. Get it now for $ 69 — that’s 92% off.
3 VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription (91% off)
Protect your data from falling into the wrong hands with a lifetime subscription to VPNSecure for just $ 39.99 — a savings of over 91% off the $ 450 MSRP. Equip your device with an impenetrable “security vest,” allowing you to browse the web 100% at your discretion without worrying about anyone watching your every move.
On July 29th, Apple began notifying VPN companies that their apps would shortly be pulled from the App Store in China. In a statement, ExpressVPN said that the move was "surprising and unfortunate," and that it was "disappointed in this development."…
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Russian and Chinese authorities are separately cracking down on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). News surfaced over the weekend that all major VPN apps were pulled from Apple’s regional App Store in China. Similarly, Russia introduced new legislation that will likely ban VPNs in the Russian App Store.
On Saturday, July 29, ExpressVPN received an alert from Apple stating that their app had been pulled from the Chinese App Store because “it includes content that is illegal in China.” According to a blog post on the company’s website, their preliminary research also indicated that “all major VPN apps” have similarly been pulled from the App Store in the country. Chinese authorities passed regulations earlier in the year that required all VPN apps to be explicitly approved and licensed by the government.
As revealed in a statement to TechCrunch, Apple is simply complying with the new laws. “Earlier this year China’s [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.” ExpressVPN strongly condemned the move and added that they are “troubled” by Apple’s apparent decision to aid it.
Additionally, VPNs and privacy advocates also suffered another setback over the weekend. On Monday, the Russian government passed new legislation — signed into law by President Vladimir Putin — that would ban VPNs and other anonymity-based applications in the country. The new regulations will go into effect on Nov. 1, and presumably, will mean that VPNs will also be pulled from the Russian App Store.
Russian legislator Leonid Levin, who chairs the Duma’s committee on information and tech policy, said that the measure is meant to prohibit access to illegal content, rather than introduce more general access bans for law-abiding citizens, according to state-run media organization RIA. However, what counts as “illegal content” has expanded rapidly in Putin’s third term, TechCrunch points out. The move coincides with other Russian regulations cracking down on internet security and privacy, including a legislation in 2015 that required user data for Russian citizens to be stored locally.
Apple’s differing privacy policies have invited controversy in recent years. The company remains a staunch advocate for user security and privacy in the U.S., even going so far as to wrestle with the FBI over creating backdoors for iOS. In countries like Russia and China, on the other hand, Cupertino has shied away from those values in favor of market access.
VPNs are a staple of privacy advocates across the world, and their use has become more commonplace as news of government surveillance and corporate data-mining has become more prevalent. Indeed, for many iPhone users, VPNs have become more of a necessity than simply an extra layer of security.
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It's going to be much harder to view the full web in Russia before the year is out. President Putin has signed a law that, as of November 1st, bans technology which lets you access banned websites, including virtual private networks and proxies. Inte…
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Following a report claiming it was banning personal VPNs, Chinese officials are hitting back with cries of “fake news.” Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Chinese telecommunications carriers were ordered to block access to virtual private networks (VPNs) by February 1 next year. However, according to The Paper (as translated by The Shanghaiist), China is doing nothing of the kind. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology denied a call to ban personal VPNs. They went so far as to call the Bloomberg piece “false.” The same source says the only measures the government has so far taken this year is a directive…
With China making "unapproved" virtual private networks illegal at the start of the year, we previously reported that the nation planned to completely block public access to VPNs by February 1st. Now, just a few days later, China's Ministry of Indust…
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China has moved to block all virtual private networks (VPNs) by next year, according to a report from Bloomberg, in what would mark a significant crackdown on citizens’ access to the open web.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese government ordered state-run telecoms to begin blocking VPNs by February 1st. Earlier this year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that all VPN services would need to obtain government approval, as part of a “cleanup” of unauthorized internet connections.
Many Chinese internet users use VPNs to privately access websites that are blocked under China’s so-called “Great Firewall,” including restricted news sites and social…
If you’ve been clued into the news on internet privacy recently, you’re probably no stranger to the buzz around Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). So, what is a VPN, and more importantly, why the sudden sense of urgency around protecting your data everywhere from the airport to your own home?
Exploring the Rocky State of the Current Digital Environment
Online privacy has been a hotly contested area of debate for a long time, but more recently, both the House and Senate agreed to move towards a less regulated online environment. During Obama’s presidency, there was a regulation put in place that required ISPs, internet service providers, to obtain a consumer’s permission (that’s us, and whoever else uses the internet) before collecting and selling private data.
As of April 3, 2017, President Trump signed a joint resolution (S.J.Res.34) that nullified the FCC’s “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.” It was a landmark decision: ISPs now have the unrestricted ability to access 100% of your online activity and sell it to the highest bidder without your consent. This includes data you share on websites you visit, apps you use and even which types of devices you own.
In fact, every time you use the internet, you transmit data through your IP address. How exactly? Every gadget and computer is assigned a unique IP, and your internet service provider can legally use your IP to harvest your data how it chooses.
Historically, prior to the Obama administration, ISPs had the right to use your data within the confines of the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission rules. So, when you compare net losses, the situation hasn’t changed too much, but it certainly hasn’t improved. After all, the privacy policies that the former administration attempted to put into play were shot down.
Make no mistake, the implications of a completely deregulated internet environment are dark.
The US government is essentially allowing ISPs to continue to: sell your browsing history to interested parties, share your searches with third parties, monitor your traffic and, as a result, fill the sites you visit with ads. Companies can legally track you and your activity with undetectable cookies in any of your non-encrypted traffic (think public Wi-Fi connection), and even pre-install software on phones that will monitor all your traffic moving forward.
Why This Matters Today More Than Ever
What’s the big deal if we never had much internet privacy to start? As technology becomes more and more sophisticated, expect increasingly advanced targeting methodology. Advertising will become more and more aggressive, especially around data collection and retention.
And that’s just through legal means. Whatever companies decide to do through legitimized marketing purposes, expect a more nefarious underbelly—we have yet to see what new hacking tactics are to come.
How Can You Protect Your Data?
Circling back to our first point: VPNs—what are they, and how can they help? You might already be working at a company that uses a VPN, especially if you’re dealing with sensitive or confidential information on a daily basis. A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, creates a secure, encrypted connection between your computer or device and a private server. That means that no one else can see your activity or modify (aka hack) that traffic.
So, whenever you browse the internet using a VPN, your data travels to the secure server and then back to you in a tunnel-like fashion. When you are interacting with a site or app, all your data will appear to be coming from the IP address associated with remote server, rather than your own. This helps make you actually anonymous on the web. And while some less reputable VPN companies can log your activity and law enforcement can request data from your VPN company, it certainly does mean that you’re putting a stop to ISPs using your data against you for aggressive advertising tactics.
In short, a VPN is great for those wary of the outcome of a deregulated internet or fearful of growing cyber attacks. But keep in mind, not all VPNs are equal. Despite how a VPN can shield you from hackers, government surveillance and malware, take caution against using a free service. Check carefully for reports of security flaws, and make sure you have a good idea of what the company is actually doing with your data. If you’re a privacy stickler, double check to see that the company isn’t keeping a log of your activities (it’s rarer than you think).
A shortlist of features to look for in a premium VPN service:
- Number of servers and geographic locations — the more locations, the more options you have
- Bandwidth — this greatly affects the speed of your service, and how much you’ll actually get out of the service
- Mobile protection on public Wi-Fi connections — while protection at home is great, most people browse the internet on their mobile device when they’re on the road
- Logs of activity — does your service take a log of your account activity and what are their policies around your data?
A verified service like this VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription is a great pick for those who might now know where to start. VPN Unlimited protects both your cellular and Wi-Fi connections, meaning your data is fully secure and encrypted even as you travel. And thanks to unlimited traffic bandwidth and a high-speed connection, you don’t need to worry about lags in service as you move around, or data restrictions.
VPN Unlimited employs a growing selection of servers globally: up to 70+ locations in 50+ countries including USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, with more than 1000 servers around the globe. Plus, this VPN service blocks ads, malware and tracking systems with a newly included DNS Firewall.
In short, the landscape around digital policies in 2017 is up in the air. It’s important to take measures now to protect yourself and your data against whatever interests both the government and other entities might have in it. And while a VPN might not be a flawless solution, it certainly works to make it difficult to prevent ISPs from simply scooping up your data and selling it to the highest bidder.
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