Many people use VPNs for their Internet connections, in the attempt to prevent their Internet Service Providers (and others) from seeing what they do while on the Internet, and sometimes to prevent website owners from knowing who is visiting their website.
These VPN services tunnel all of your web traffic (everything you do with your Internet connection, not just data from web browsing) through their servers to prevent your ISP and remote locations from knowing who you are.
( Of course, VPNs are also used for connecting two remote locations together over the Internet, but that is outside the scope of this post. )
While a VPN service can potentially help to protect your privacy, there are many myths people believe about VPNs.
1 : VPNs will prevent hackers from hacking into my computer
First off, if your computer has an open attack vector facing the Internet, you will eventually get hacked sooner or later.
Secondly, VPNs do not stop malware from infecting your computer (thus allowing a hacker into your computer), nor does it prevent a hacker from learning your real IP address and trying to attack your computer directly.
2 : no malware can get onto my computer while using a VPN
As mentioned above, VPNs do not stop malware from infecting your computer. The VPN service will download that malware-infested file just as happily as your ISP would have.
Your best defense against malware, is a good anti-virus/anti-malware application (e.g. Malwarebytes is a good one), and using common sense when downloading something off the Internet (e.g. does the website you are downloading the file from look sketchy?).
3 : VPNs will get past all geo-restricted websites
While VPNs can successfully access geo-restricted web content, some content providers (e.g. Netflix and Steam) disallow VPNs of any kind (according to their Terms of Service). However telling someone that VPNs will always work with geo-restricted websites is just plain false information.
4 : every “no log” provider really does not log anything
As I have said before on my blog, I am sure there really are VPN providers that honestly do not log anything that can easily trace back to a specific user. However, how do you know that they will not start logging without your knowledge? You don’t.
Also as an IT administrator, I know that not logging anything is pretty much impossible, since logs are necessary to help fix critical problems. It is up to you to decide who to believe when it comes to “no logs”. After all, you are using their network, not your own. Ultimately you are just taking their word for it.
In addition, the VPN’s upstream ISP most certainly will log all traffic. So by using traffic analysis attacks, your real IP may be uncovered anyway.
5 : I can be an outlaw online, since I use a VPN
No VPN will completely protect you if you are doing something to attract the attention of a large, well-connected organization (e.g. a government agency). So if you are thinking about doing something “out-lawish” online (via a VPN), you better just forget it. You will get caught sooner or later.
6 : I am completely anonymous to my VPN provider
This one can be semi-true. There are VPN providers that only require an email and can be paid in cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin). However, unless proper steps are taken, your Bitcoin payments can still be tracked.
Also, your VPN provider will know your real IP address, which could (please notice I said “could” not “will”) be leaked to certain people which may then expose your identity.
7 : anything I send over a VPN is completely secured from prying eyes
VPNs cannot always keep your information safe. All you are doing by using a VPN is making the VPN your “new” ISP. If you ever use a HTTP (non-encrypted) website, both the VPN provider and anyone else that is listening (after the data leaves the VPN server), can then intercept the data you sent.
Now please keep in mind that this mainly applies to un-encrypted web traffic (e.g. HTTP, FTP, Telnet, non-secured SMTP & IMAP, etc.)
Adding to the above info, you must remember that a VPN service does not provide point-to-point security. What I mean is that if you access my blog (via HTTPS) through a VPN, your initial connection is encrypted both at the browser and the VPN connection you have established.
However that extra security stops at the VPN itself. Whatever you transmitted to my server gets sent out as if you never used a VPN to begin with after it leaves the VPN’s server (hope that makes sense to you). This means by using a VPN service you only are protecting yourself from 1) your ISP or untrusted network (e.g. coffee shop Wi-Fi) 2) the remote computer knowing your real IP address and 3) circumvent Geo restrictions. If that is all you care about, then you should be ok.
8 : all VPN services have full control over their servers
While it is true that most (if not all) VPN services own their own servers (dedicated or VPS), this does not necessarily mean they have full, complete control over their servers.
Why? Simple. Unless they acquire their own data-center, the VPN company has no real idea of what is happening to their servers. This may not bother you, but it is a potential vector for a security breach of customer information.
9 : with a VPN, you will be anonymous everywhere you go online
There are three problems with this idea.
First, there is no way to be 100% anonymous online. That is a myth.
Secondly, assuming your VPN is not a bad actor itself, the minute you login into a personal account (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, etc.), you will have just identified yourself to the remote computer.
Third, a VPN service cannot stop web tracking methods like tracking cookies and web browser fingerprinting.
Now you may be asking, “How does this allow someone to track my online visits?” Good question. A web browser fingerprint is the identification of someone’s web browser in an attempt to track you regardless of what IP address you are coming from.
Basically your web browser is probed to determine what add-ons you have installed, what fonts are installed on your computer, what video card your computer has (via WebGL), PNG hash, what operating system you are using, your web browser’s 2D canvas, etc. All of this information is combined to form a fingerprint of your web browser.
If you have ever visited a website (without using a VPN) and later on you visit the same website (this time, using a VPN), they can still have a pretty good guess that it is you just by looking at your browser fingerprint you left the last time you visited (without the VPN).
Web browser cookies work in a similar manner. If you do not delete your cookies every time you exit a website, later on when you visit that same website again, they can read the cookie they placed in your web browser and know it is you, even if you are connecting under a different IP address via a VPN service.
(web cookies used for good – online shopping cart, logging into your webmail | used for evil – tracking your visits to spy on you and sell the collected information to 3rd-parties…or worse).
10 : “my Internet service gets 100/10 (download / upload) speed, so the VPN service I purchased will give me the same download/upload speed”
This one can sometimes be true, but usually isn’t. You have to understand that there are usually so many customers on any particular VPN server, that the bandwidth is strained between all the users.
If you have 200-300 people each using 10 Mbps of download bandwidth, there is not going to be much left for anyone else to use, especially if the server does a max of 1000 Mbps download.
If you have a 100/10 Internet service, you are doing good if you get 50/8 on a VPN. I am not saying that all VPN servers are slow, but in my experience, most of them are. If you have very fast Internet service, don’t expect to utilize all your bandwidth with a VPN service.
I hope this post has helped dismantle some myths you may have heard online about VPN services.
So what is the best use for a VPN service?
As mentioned before: 1) hide your activity from your ISP or untrusted network 2) prevent the remote computer from knowing your real IP address and 3) circumvent Geo restrictions (not always reliable)
Anything other than those three reasons will result in a false sense of security for you.
Please Note: I did not write this post to scare you away from using a VPN provider, but I wanted to make sure people understand that a VPN service is not a “magic pill” that will cure all of your online web privacy problems. Using a VPN for the purpose of preventing your government from spying on you or being 100% anonymous on the web is pointless.
Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Security, VPN
Genesis 1 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Posted in Biblical Accounts, Christian
Luke 2:8-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Posted in Biblical Accounts, Christian, Holiday