I love it when people say, as if a mantra on privacy, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” I’d like to think the mantra should be, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, they shouldn’t be spying on you.”
All my communications are belong to ME.
I signed up with Private Internet Access and set myself and the rest of the house up with secure, encrypted, privacy having, security getting big tastiness. Err, private VPN service.
A private VPN service works as a corporate Virtual Private Network does, though the end goal is more along the lines of anonymity and privacy. It takes all of your Internet traffic and encrypts it so your Internet provider (and other less-than-reputable individuals, companies + government agencies) have to work *much* harder to spy on you. First, your computer (or in my case, router) makes an encrypted connection to a VPN server/service online. Default routes and DNS servers are modified on your end. All requests from your network thus traverse the encrypted VPN tunnel and the servers at the other end make the same requests on behalf of you, sending the resulting data back over the encrypted tunnel.
The end result is a greater individual sense of online privacy, anonymity. Liberty and freedom. Oh, how sweet it is. It’s like, it’s like…America used to be. Think about it – using technology to liberate.
Like I said, my router actually makes the VPN connection. This is very beneficial from a setup and maintenance standpoint as I only have to configure my VPN account once and it applies to all devices on my network that traverse the big fluffy I in the sky (since all of my devices go to the router for Internet access). All data that traverses outside of my local network and to/from the Internet traverses through the encrypted tunnel.
Off the top of my head, my home network has 11 devices connected to it (with others coming and going, such as family + friends with wifi phones/tablets/laptops/whatever). Installing a VPN client on each device would not only be an administration nightmare, but the service allows for up to 5 simultaneous VPN connections at once. So instead of running short of client connections, I can use a single connection for a cover-all for my home network via my router and have 4 left for devices, say, connecting to the net outside of my local LAN (phones over less than reputable 3G/4G data networks, for instance).
Not to say that having an “anonymizing” VPN tunnel is the end-all privacy solution. You have to trust the VPN provider’s technical ability as well as their moral standing. I find it very comforting to know that their service supports Linux OS (gasp! They even make a dedicated client!). They are also sponsors of projects such as the EFF, Freenode and Gnome. With street cred like that, it’s hard to dismiss that they are serious about their customers’ privacy, security, and maybe most importantly, business ethics. Never the less, using something like this doesn’t mean you’re immune, completely anonymous online, able to do whatever you want without a single trace. There are plenty of other ways to get spied on. I feel like this, however, is at least one more step in the right direction.
I’ve found it interesting that, after connecting my router DD-WRT flashed router to PIA via it’s built-in OpenVPN client that my overall speed and response time online actually seems to have increased. This could be due to my ISP prioritizing certain types of Internet traffic (QoS). Since VPN traffic is many times considered “business” related, they likely put it ahead of normal HTTP/POP3 and other commonly used protocols. Kind of makes me laugh that I not only have helped protect my family and business from the all too common invasions of privacy online, but my connection is faster because of it. Take that, greedy ISP! =p
A good friend of mine was the one who really pushed me toward getting a private VPN. He already had one and was touting how well it worked on a frequent basis. That frequency, along with the constant news stories (this one was the straw that broke the camel’s back), along with the curiosity of being able to defend myself and my family against industrialized Fourth Amendment rights violations, finally got me on board. And for paying $40/yearly for service, I think it’s the best thing I’ve bought all year.
Cheers to a better sense of liberty and personal privacy in an increasingly surveilled nation.