You may have heard the term of a “VPN”, and in 2018 it is more important than ever to have one than ever to protect your online privacy, In this article the main threats to online privacy are explored.
The Investigatory Powers Act
Better known as the snooper’s charter, has been in place for just over a year after its introduction at the end of 2016. The Act itself, as well as the Snowden revelations were some of the main drivers that rose awareness of InfoSec issues through the year, where people are now more concerned about their data more than ever.
Jim Killock, the director of Open Rights Group, described it as the “most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy”. It effectively removes your right to online privacy.
The law forces internet service providers (ISP’s) to keep a record of all websites, Although, not the pages you visit for up to a year. It also obliges companies to decrypt data on request to authorities and gives government security services the power to legally hack your devices.
With this act in place there is a general concern that a person’s privacy is no longer obtainable in the online world, however there Is a solution.
The solution, But not a complete solution.
The solution comes in the form of a VPN, however, it’s important to recognise that a VPN is only part of the privacy picture here. Remember that the Snoopers’ Charter effectively legalises the government hacking of smartphones, laptops and other devices; a VPN can’t protect you against the police and security services gaining your information in that way.
However, by using a VPN you can circumvent the most nefarious and controversial part of the bill, which gives the police and security services ready access to the records kept by your ISP of your internet activities.
A VPN can cloak your connection and hide your web browsing habits, and the ISP although required to log your activity by law, these logs while connected to a VPN would only show a single connection and the amount of data used, with no information on any of the specifics of your online sessions.
The VPN would allow the now “Illusion of Luxury” of privacy in a now heavily “Big Brother” style world.
The “Eyes” Agreements
The “Eyes” agreements are an overall surveillance agreement between specific countries that means they will share surveillance data between them to create an overall big picture and profile on each person, in the interests of public safety.
In total there are currently three “eyes” agreements, “Five, Nine and Fourteen” The countries involved in each are shown below.
As it turns out over the past few decades, the intelligence sharing program had created a few other alliances, but the details are murky. In addition to the above 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes nations, here are other countries that may be part of this secretive alliance.
- Israel (Suspected – Reported observer for 5 Eyes)
- Japan (Suspected – Fibre optic tapping request)
- Singapore and South Korea (Confirmed – Revealed in Snowden leak)
How to pick a VPN?
There is a large selection of VPN’s available and it is important to look around and do your research, it is important to ask questions such as:
- Their operating Base or Jurisdiction.
Their operating location is important as you may be taking yourself out of one privacy Act into another such as Five, Nine or Fourteen Eyes, which may not give the privacy aspect hoped for.
- Does it support OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is a VPN standard that is widely considered as the most secure and most reliable standard while also maintain speed.
- How many devices can you use at once?
Some devices allow a few devices at a time to make sure the amount of the devices that can connect to the service is adequate.
- Does it log your information?
Relevant to the first question, if they do log, what specifically is logged? Timestamps?.
If they are based outside a “eyes” jurisdiction and they still log, why? what is the purpose of this?
- Do you have to use a credit card?
Do they have an anonymous payment option such as cryptocurrency? if not what details do they ask for, do they require your address?
- Does it throttle bandwidth or have a bandwidth cap?
Does it purposely slow down your connection to handle an overload of users or do they have a cap of bandwidth, such as a fair usage policy?
- Does it have a ‘kill switch?
Does the VPN have a kill switch, this is important as it will automatically cut off internet connection when traffic is not flowing through the VPN connection. This prevents data leaks and keeps your traffic secure.
Some VPN’s offer the option of split tunnelling, where it can be individually selected what applications send traffic through the VPN and what traffic would not.
Author: Taran Ranger, CyNation