As the fight continues to control and sensor the internet, people are left wondering, will it even make a difference?
The short answer is, probably not. Thinking back to my school days, I remember the IT staff trying to lock down the computers in the libary. Things like Ask Jeeves (uk.ask.com) were blocked and they thought they had done their job well. The thing is, someone found that you could easily get around this by going to French version fr.ask.com. When you try to block or restrict something people have one of two reactions. They either accept it and move on or they try to find ways around it. Now this is just a simple example but if you swap the school for the internet and the IT staff for the government, you get the same result. The difference being is that the latter could have serious concicenses.
Think of countries blocking Netflix or more recently, the UK putting stronger age verification steps on adult sites. They put a simple block and law in place to say you can’t do something. This then brings out the two reactions, you have some people that will accept the block or you will have people that will get around it by using things like a proxy or a VPN. The one who found a way around it then makes it public knowledge and the whole thing becomes less affective. The knock on affect to this is that people start to realise that there is money to be made by offering the bypass solution. If there is attention, there’s money right?
On a side note, the UK ban is a funny one. Now this might have been done with good intensions but things like this cause concern. The first being, how are these sites going to protect all this data? Are we going to see breaches in the future that identify who visited what and the videos they watched? Are we also going to see thousands of identification documents leaked such as driving licenses and passport details?
Now back to my point. It’s not just business people that will be offering their services but malicious parties too. They may be posing as a nice, friendly, free VPN service. They make the user think that they are landing in a nice friendly country which allows them to view Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, this may be the case for some, but not for others.
I heard a report today that VPN providers are seeing an increase in customers. This is what malicious parties are going to thrive on. People will want the service but without having to pay for it . The bad guys know this so will advertise their VPN service as “secure and free” in order to lure you in.
When you connect to one of these, your devices traffic is routed through a private tunnel and comes out the other end. What you will never know with these free services, is whose network have you landed on. This is where the problem lies.
This “Free” VPN application that you have downloaded from the Play Store might be tracking and selling all your data. Not to mention that the application itself could be riddled with adware or malware. If you are going to use one of these freebies on your smartphone and it prompts you for full permission to your smartphone, instantly say no. These applications need little to no permissions in order to tunnel your traffic.
It’s not just smartphones though. Laptops can also use these services and both are very chatty. This is something that simply stops once you have connected to these services. Someone on the other end could be tracking and recording all your activity, ready to use as they see fit. You could also be putting your device at risk as you are on a unsecure network. Malicious parties could be on the same network as you and if security controls aren’t in place. This is why you need to be careful out there.
Using a free service might seem like a good idea but when is anything ever free?
It might be better for you to spend a small penny now. Look for services such as ExpressVPN which don’t store any logs. This means that your activity is not recorded at all. What you do on here is only known to yourself. No one will be able to tell where you bank or what purchases you make. There are more out there and will only take a quick search to find them. Most will advertise on their site that they don’t store logs as it will be a selling point.
If you don’t care about logs and are going to use it for certain reasons, cheaper providers such as NordVPN are a good shout. What you are looking for is a trusted provider which conforms to some level of security standard. Not some random guy in a bedroom waiting to sniff all of your traffic.
Just remember, a small cost now may save you in the long run.