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The Pros And Cons Of Using A VPN Or Proxy Service

Nuts, Bolts, And Why You Want A VPN

You know that the public Internet is not secure. It's like a public highway system. Any compliant traffic can hop on or off at will. To see what's inside of a car, all you have to do is look through the windows. A LAN is a private network, like driving inside of a gated community. Consumers, with their basic home routers, typically implement just enough security to deter curious onlookers -- a wooden fence, if you will. Businesses employ more serious measures, with dedicated firewall appliances, IT staff trained in security practices, and so on. LANs are essentially pockets of security dotting a landscape of open, insecure data traffic.

Many years ago (and to a lesser extent, still today), companies might opt to install a leased communications line from a provider, such as a T-1 or ISND line. This provided a new, private road between two points. In most cases, though, a VPN offers a drastically more cost-effective approach. A VPN is a sort of secure tunnel between a client (PC, laptop, tablet, etc.) and a LAN. The traffic between those two points still travels across the open Internet, but encryption provides a sort of shroud around the connection. Those who want a peek can't see inside the connection, and even if they manage to break in, the traffic packets are still encrypted and thus gibberish when examined.

Additionally, by manipulating the header information in your packet stream, an intermediary VPN service replaces your computer’s IP address with its own. If that VPN service's server happens to be in a country beside your own, then it appears as if you are generating traffic from within that server’s country. Illicit uses of this location spoofing abound, but think of it this way: You want to get hired by a company that is only recruiting from the town next to yours. You're willing to accept the commute to get the job, so you convince a friend in the neighboring town to let you send mail from his address. You correspond with the employer from this second address, get the job, and the employer is none the wiser. (Whether you get busted and fired in an audit later is a different story.) Is this how people get around regional DRM restrictions for streaming content? Sure. Every day. It's illegal, but it happens. To be fair, this is also how people in oppressive, Internet-blocking nations manage to receive exposure to the outside world. For one recent example, check out VPN provider TorGuard's blog post on China's recent blocking of Gmail service.

Legitimate and semi-legitimate scenarios for VPN use abound. What if you're a student whose college requires a secure connection to the school's costly subscription databases? What if you're using BitTorrent to download legal content (of course) but don't want to run the risk of getting accused of downloading something you may not have intended? What if you're an American paying for a music streaming service and you travel abroad for a month to a country that restricts your content? (Note that streaming service providers, such as Netflix, may be getting more aggressive about limiting geoblocking work-arounds.) And naturally, there's always the pursuit of privacy and shielding your traffic from everyone simply because that's your right. As we said, VPN technology can be used for good or evil, and deciding which is which may be a matter of perspective.

  • PaulBags
    Eh. In NZ, I'm pretty sure the tics bill made it illegal to sell vpn service that the gcsb doesn't already have a back door to. I could possibly source a service from outside the country, but it will likely throw up a flag & be traceable back to me anyway, just because they can't see what's in the tunnel doesn't mean they can't see the tunnel.

    I figure I'm better off being unassuming. They can't read _everything_, might as well stay in the open and be protected by the masses & luck.

    Of course, I have nothing worth hiding...
    Reply
  • heffeque
    Eh. In NZ, I'm pretty sure the tics bill made it illegal to sell vpn service that the gcsb doesn't already have a back door to. I could possibly source a service from outside the country, but it will likely throw up a flag & be traceable back to me anyway, just because they can't see what's in the tunnel doesn't mean they can't see the tunnel.

    I figure I'm better off being unassuming. They can't read _everything_, might as well stay in the open and be protected by the masses & luck.

    Of course, I have nothing worth hiding...
    We've gotten used to governments from all over the world spying on us.

    Sad that things have come to this.
    Reply
  • knowom
    VPN for security and proxy for performance & content filtering.
    Reply
  • rayden54
    @heffeque
    No, the sad part is that people ever thought there was such a thing as privacy on the internet. When I was a kid people knew better.

    People shouting from the rooftops shouldn't get to be surprised when someone listens in. It isn't even spying when you're the one broadcasting the information.
    Reply
  • Reepca
    @heffeque
    No, the sad part is that people ever thought there was such a thing as privacy on the internet. When I was a kid people knew better.

    People shouting from the rooftops shouldn't get to be surprised when someone listens in. It isn't even spying when you're the one broadcasting the information.

    I suppose the real question is why our only mode of efficient communication is shouting from the rooftops. Someone should do something about that...
    Reply
  • razor512
    Unless you are running your own VPN server, you can be sure that any paid VPN service will log just enough information in order to be able to link your actions back to your IP address.

    If they did not, then they would be liable for the traffic for their customers. Imagine if a customer of the paid VPN service, decided to do something highly illegal like downloading or distributing child pornography. The VPN service will have enough bits and pieces logged in order to know which customer generated the illegal traffic.

    They literally cannot do otherwise without becoming a safe heaven for crime, or or providing criminals at least a criminals with a 1 time free pass to do something highly illegal. Furthermore it can also be interpreted as allowing someone to mask their own illegal activity by blaming it on the customers who they are not logging the traffic of.

    Overall, the VPN services will log information for their own network management needs, but you can bet that it is enough for them to figure out who did what on their network if the government comes knocking.
    (They may not all be explicitly recording your session, but there is going to be enough logged to essentially allow them to rebuild the details session if they wanted to)
    Reply
  • PaulBags
    Eh. In NZ, I'm pretty sure the tics bill made it illegal to sell vpn service that the gcsb doesn't already have a back door to. I could possibly source a service from outside the country, but it will likely throw up a flag & be traceable back to me anyway, just because they can't see what's in the tunnel doesn't mean they can't see the tunnel.

    I figure I'm better off being unassuming. They can't read _everything_, might as well stay in the open and be protected by the masses & luck.

    Of course, I have nothing worth hiding...
    We've gotten used to governments from all over the world spying on us.

    Sad that things have come to this.
    I acknowledge the reality, that doesn't mean I'm okay with it. I just see no point in fighting when no-one else will stand up by my side. I'm fine with the idea of even armed revolution, but if I stand up alone I'm just going to get chopped down. Better to smile & nod & bow, and enjoy what little freedom and comfort I have; and be ignored by the big power wielding entities.
    Reply
  • Vosgy
    "Australians will have two years of their metadata stored by phone and internet providers after the Abbott government's controversial data retention laws passed Parliament."

    Yay for Australia, cost of Internet is already too high, now with go up more as the ISPs need to store years of data and will pass that cost on to the consumer. Loose loose for the consumer.

    Damn backward country I live in.
    Reply
  • otokomae
    I'd really love to see a "VPN for Gaming Guide" or something like that, as many people use them and other, similar-sounding services to reduce lag or latency when playing online games.
    Reply
  • ctsboss
    Here is the real question, Can I use a VPN or Proxy to fool Pokerstars or Full Tilt into believing that I am NOT inside the US and allow me access and play on the site? I have heard of some people using this solution instead of actually moving to canada or mexico to play?
    Reply