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Virtual Private Network (VPN) and why it’s Important

Virtual Private Network (VPN) and why it’s Important

Virtual private networking should be a standard connection type offered by internet service providers.  The reasons behind this seem appalling.

Think about that statement for just one second… any longer, and you might develop a small migraine.  Why would decision makers from companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Time Warner, and Comcast want to know what moves across their network from your home, work, small business, or home office?  What do they gain from knowing what websites you’ve visited, what search engine key prompts you’ve entered and what applications you’re using and at how much bandwidth?  It doesn’t appear to be due in part to security reasons and that’s why perhaps we’ve reached a far more consequential and grim reality in terms of what web security and online privacy means for us as the end user.

The End User

Online security and privacy are the responsibility of the end-user. Simply put, If you don’t protect yourself or just don’t know how to, we’re sorry, but it’s your fault.

This means the internet service providers offer services geared towards increased revenue through advertising while data mining the feedback you blindly provide to them with a day full of browsing habits.

Don’t get us wrong… They’ll protect a designated email so long as it’s a service they offer or you pay for, but what happens when there’s a compromise on their end? What is actually happening?

Well, you’ll likely receive an email from a CEO who admits the vulnerability exists or existed, then recommends that you change your password all while providing assurance that the vulnerabilities will be or have been fixed… As for the data compromised… Well, it’s complicated…

What data was actually collected?  Seeing how the company is sending you an email, one can only assume that your message log and provided contact information could likely be a factor.  This could include correspondences saved, sent, and received, flagged messages, and saved contacts.  

Meanwhile the party or parties responsible for using said vulnerability are nowhere to be found, and seeing how they were smart enough to cloak their activities, it’s hard to hold someone, much less some thing, accountable.

What’s even stranger…

Your web browser right now, even as you read this blog page, is compiling site traffic that builds up lists and charts of analytical data which gives us perspective on your browsing habits while you engage and navigate through our website.  Everything from what pages you’ve looked at, to how long, to even what kind of device, and operating system you’re using is included. 

Should we go further or are you thoroughly freaked out yet?…. Let’s go further, because…. why not….

Since you’ve read this far, we’ve discovered the web browser your using. We even know what service you’re using to connect to the web. Additionally the resolution of your computer screen(s), and even a location based on a recorded Internet Protocol, (IP address) from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or cellphone provider.

Heck, we even know how long you’ve been here, how you arrived, and what website you will navigate to as you leave ours.

Take a chill pill, we have solutions… kinda

Before you have a panic attack, keep in mind, we’re web designers that have a devotion to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.  Also, at no point is any of our analytical info shared or relayed to third parties.

VPN is your friend

Assuming we still have your attention thus far, encrypting a data signal between our laptops, pc’s, and tablets protects the consumer from third party products handled by internet service providers?  It also assures any company you wouldn’t want involved in your business fails to intercept any readable data through an unsecured connection, add-on, or third party app.  In the event that there is a security compromise, data retrieved by the third party, in theory, would be incomprehensible due to encryption.

Another reason for encryption is freedom.   As seen in countries where internet service providers are run strictly by their governments; virtual private networks (VPN’s) can mask an ip address location which can provide the user access to sites that they would otherwise be restricted or blocked from.  The user can then browse and communicate online anonymously.

In a small business setting, a dedicated IP address that people access from devices from a remote location, it imperative that those devices are secured from outside vulnerabilities, yet are they?

joffi / Pixabay

How to stop us, and them…

And by them, I mean site trackers:

  • Try the browser add-on Ghostery for Firefox and/or Chrome.

    If anything, the add-on prevents us, and “them”, from seeing what you navigate to while visiting our website… For web designers, this is a good way to prevent your browser from increasing the traffic and artificially inflating a site stat based on how many times you refresh the website in your browser during site builds.  That said, you might want to omit an IP address for other reasons, but that’s another article for another day.

 

  • Consider installing Privacy Badger into your browser add-ons.Non consensual tracking happens when third party sources have their code and scripts running on a web page you’re viewing.  Privacy Badger is endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and is an all in one browser add-on that blocks said content from loading on a web page in your web browser.  Rather than seeing the content that the script runs, you’ll see a block notice over the website element.
  • TOR Browser is anonymous browser synonymous with what people call the Dark Web.

    TOR browser stands for The Onion Router.  The program relays your signal or routes you to other connections elsewhere in the world which ghosts your IP into making analytics on websites think you’re located somewhere you’re not. This is how a lot of websites blocked by a government become available for view in countries that otherwise restrict content and online expression.  The primary goal focused by TOR is providing anonymous communication and web browsing.  Additionally, Virtual Private Network, aka VPN, is recommended with TOR.

 

  • Subscribe to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.

    The annual subscription costs less than that of annual virus protection.  This is especially important if you’re using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) as a way of accessing computers you own remotely or if you have a dedicated IP address that houses your company server. There are a lot of programs available for personal computers, laptops, and smart devices that can be installed which will encrypt the connection being used.

Update: People have asked if we have a recommended VPN service… We’ve found Nord VPN to be the fastest with the best annual price subscription-wise

  • Check to see if your current Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers VPN. You may have to make a few network changes, or even access your router, and the internet service provider may have the VPN expire after a period of time which you’ll have to occasionally change the settings to update to manually, but this option has feasibility especially if you’re transferring a lot of important files or documents online. Here’s one of the latest articles on setting up VPN with your Xfinity (read here)

A slight drawback with Virtual Private Networks…

Most users that have VPN, like those using the browser TOR, report reduced performance and speeds. We too saw an observably drastic reduction as well with speeds dropping from 38mbs to 2.1mbs (Megabytes per second). Over the next 5-10 years however, data transfer speeds are expected to approach near light speed as fiber optic connections become a standard. Both VPN software and TOR will likely evolve with theses technologies.

 

Secure Site License = Safer Online Shopping Experiences

Don’t buy from websites that do not have a Secure Site License or SSL!  That little lock icon at the top left of the browser address is important!  This dedicates the website to an encrypted server and routes data you send thru website forms through an encrypted connection.  This means no compromises to your name, email, contact address, credit card, but most importantly, your identity.  An example of what a secure site with a valid SSL looks like is below:

Digital Bricklayers Secure Site Licensing Available

Good Luck, and browse safe….

A fun way to “Stumble” upon new ideas

A fun way to “Stumble” upon new ideas

When was the last time you left a classroom, business lecture, company sales meeting, webinar, or computer terminal, feeling like you truly learned something from the experience?

The internet is our classroom, but all too often we find ourselves visiting the same websites, saved bookmarks, news feeds, work interface, and search engine(s) all for information, which not only becomes a daunting task, but ultimately stops us from exploring the web any further. It’s self limitation that’s not only demotivating, but at times leaves you asking, “What have I actually taken out of this experience?”

Our personal browsing habits are doing little if anything to motivate, inspire, and give us purpose when we’re AFK (Away From Keyboard). The solution, while simple, is to change our browsing habits so that we can see new content.  The problems arise when we find ourselves stuck in our ways.

So the battle continues and we scour our typical news feeds, hash tags, and slew of status updates from around the world, with hopes of being led to a site that brings salvation.  To our dismay, that all to common voice in the back of our mind says, “We’re wasting time.” So we close our browser, log off, walk away and think nothing of it…

The developers at www.StumbleUpon.com have the answer with their fun and creative site that helps visitors find websites, blogs, and content that they never knew existed.

The site helps “Stumble” by randomizing a search with the simple push of a button that sends the visitor to websites, topics, blogs and subjects. Stumble also compiles it’s data based on interests the visitor highlights and suggests, all while randomizing the next webpage.

What’s in a good “Stumble”:

  • New ideas for marketing and design.
  • It’s a fun and creative way to share or engage users on topics that appeal to an audience or clientele.
  • Networking with similar individuals, business, websites, and blogs that aren’t top ranked on search engines or paying to be advertised across mainstream web.
  • Stories, videos, songs, artists, photos, and beauty yet to be read or discovered.
  • An overall feeling that even though the visitor may have, “Wasted time,” they come out feeling as if they’ve learned something new outside of his or her regular browsing habits.