How Safe Is Your VPN Keeping You

By now, unless you are very new to the free streaming world, you will  have all heard of a VPN. Let’s start out with the basics what does a VPN stand for: Virtual Private Network. There are two types of VPN services available paid and free VPN. This article will teach you about the uses and why you should always avoid free VPN services. You will probably know of a VPN as something that keeps your online activities and location hidden, masked, or secret. Something that is a necessity for certain online activities such as online banking or financial transactions. I know from experience how overwhelming the tech jargon can be and how most goes right over your head. You would almost think someone would need a Master’s Degree to understand it all.  Don’t worry I promise to keep all that to a minimum.

How Safe is your vpn

What Are VPNs Used For?

VPN Benefits  

A VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.

VPNs essentially forward all your network traffic to the network, which is where the benefits – like accessing local network resources remotely and bypassing Internet censorship – all come from. Most operating systems have integrated VPN support.

Here is an example of how the VPN can work. Tommy wants to access a site that is unavailable from his location or has been blocked by ISP (Internet Service Provider) so he connects to VPN. Once he connects the device to VPN service the site or app will work again. This happens because the device “appears” to be on another network which can utilize the site or app. For instance, you can disguise your connect to appear like you are in the USA to watch the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries. All the time you are sitting on your couch drinking coco in the UK and no one is the wiser.

While I can deny how important the latest fix of Damon from The Vampire Dairies is. There are a few other reasons to use a VPN including:

How VPN works?

Accessing a business network while travelling

While on the road business travelers can access their work network, including all local network resources using a VPN. The local resources don’t have to be exposed directly to the Internet, which increases security.

private internet access, pia, vpn, paid versus free vpn

Accessing your home network while travelling

You can also set up your own VPN to access your own network while travelling. This will allow you to access a Windows Remote Desktop over the Internet. From here you can use local file shares and play games as if you were on the same LAN.  For those who are unfamiliar this stands for local area network.

Hide your browsing activity from your local network and ISP

Using a public Wi-Fi connection makes you vulnerable to others viewing your browsing activity on non-https websites. While this is only a danger if they know how to look, a VPN can protect you once again. If you want to hide your browsing activity for whatever reason (no one judges), connect to a VPN. The local network will only see a single, secure VPN connection. All the other traffic will travel over the VPN connection. While this can be used to bypass connection-monitoring by your Internet service provider, bear in mind that VPN providers may opt to log the traffic on their ends.

Access geo-blocked websites

For someone plagued by geo-blocking a VPN is a wonderful solution.  If you are not familiar with geo-blocking; this is what happens when you try to access something that is specific to another country. Netflix is a prime example of a service that will geo-block you when not in the home country. An American trying to access Netflix in France would have a problem because the licensing is not valid in France. Netflix would not work and they would receive a message stating they were out of their region. Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu are just some of the sites you’ll be able to access from outside the US while using your VPN.

Bypass internet censorship

VPN’s help save those who are stuck behind the Great Firewall of China access the internet on a daily basis. This once again will help those travelling on vacation, for business, or residents.

Downloading files

Yes, let’s be honest – many people use VPN connections to download files from Bittorrent or any of the torrent sites.  This can actually be useful even if you’re downloading completely legal torrents. If your ISP is throttling BitTorrent and making it extremely slow, you can use BitTorrent on a VPN to get faster speeds. The same is true for other types of traffic your ISP might interfere with.

Is There A Difference In Free And Paid VPN Services?

Now here’s a topic that quite frankly drives me nuts. I know here in the world of free streaming everyone just loves to get something for nothing. Would I trust my online security to a free VPN though? NOT A CHANCE!

There are so many Android Apps available both from Google play store and from other sources that claim to provide anonymity for their users while online streaming. How could that really be though? I mean think about it. These apps and services cost a great deal of money to start-up, run and maintain. So how could they possibly afford to offer that service to anyone absolutely free of charge? They couldn’t, they don’t and they never have. Somehow it has all been funded and paid for. This will be either from the selling on of your personal data or with advertising.

There is any number of instances where these Free Apps claiming to provide a free VPN service have been proven to be selling users data. Hola VPN being just one Yet still in every free streaming group across the free streaming community you will get any number of people claiming that this Free VPN app will protect you online. I can only advise caution in blindly trusting what some stranger in a social networking group is telling you. In this day and age with all the information you could possibly need right at your fingertips. Isn’t it worth a quick search to research your own security online? After all its not just your free streaming history your protecting its your sensitive and private bank and credit card details along with the details of all your private accounts.

Free VPN

A Major Study Carried Out By CSISO

Many very informative studies have been carried out by respected bodies to better inform us. They focus on studying the pitfalls of trusting our online security to these free services. The CSISO’s disturbing findings really struck home to me.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSISO) have recently carried out some extensive and enlightening research into the privacy and security risks of Android VPN permission-enabled apps,’ the team investigated 283 Android VPN apps to explore their impact on user privacy and security. Here are some of the highlights of what they learned about the apps:

  • 18% do not encrypt traffic at all
  • 84% leak user traffic
  • 2 out of 3 use third-party tracking libraries
  • 38% reveal a malware or malvertising presence
  • More than 80% request sensitive data such as user accounts and text messages
  • Less than 1% of app reviews mention security or privacy concerns

What Does This Tell Us?

“Based on these findings, it’s estimated that 4 out of 5 of Android VPN apps will ask for sensitive permissions, 4 out of 5 contain malware, 2 out of 5 aren’t even encrypted and some may be seeking to access your data to sell to third parties.

“The very reason users install these apps — to protect their data — is the very function they are not performing and these apps have been installed by tens of millions of users,” said CSIRO in the paper.”

Worst Offenders

You can find a list of the researchers’ most worrisome VPNs below.  The Play Store has removed five of these apps since the publication of this list.
OkVpn [removed] EasyVpn [removed] SuperVPN [removed] HatVPN [removed] sFly Network Booster [removed] Betternet CrossVpn Archie VPN One Click Fast Secure Payment
The apps in the list were those with the highest (worst) AV score, which tests apps for 5 different type of malware: Adware, Trojan, Malvertising, Riskware and Spyware. All of the apps had a Play Store rating of 4.0 or more, exluding SuperVPN.

Finding a trustworthy VPN

Professor and Senior Principal Researcher in Online Privacy and Security at CSIRO, Dali Kaafar advises that those looking for a VPN app should shop around and compare functionality between prospective products. Professor Kaafar also advises that consumers look closely at the app’s permissions to ensure that it’s not asking for anything irrelevant to the VPN service itself.
private internet access, pia, vpn, paid versus free vpn

In Conclusion

There is a chance some of this will go straight over people’s head.  It most certainly went over mine when I first began studying this. My only hope from this blog is that it at least makes you stop and think before taking any stranger’s advice over your online security on a social networking site. Yes, they do have the best of intentions when advising you of a ‘free option,’ but if they where armed with the facts and if they had actually put some research into it, would they still have given you the same advice? However, I really don’t think they would.  Your own research with the guidance of those who have put the time and effort into researching the cold hard facts will always be your best option. Finally don’t forget to ask questions to learn more about the dangers out there. Please visit us at Ares Forum with any questions and one of our team members would be glad to help.