A Privacy Focused Perspective on VPN and its Solutions
Let’s start off with the basics.
What Is A VPN?
It stands for Virtual Private Network and its function is to encrypt your network traffic from your home or work to prevent people from potentially sniffing or spying on you.
How Does It Work?
Imagine a tunnel where one can drive or walk through from one end to the other. People from outside the tunnel will not be able to see what is happening in the tunnel – only the people inside the tunnel knows the situation. This tunnel is like your internet connection between your home or work, and the people inside is like your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Lets name this, tunnel A.
Now imagine having a tunnel within tunnel A. Lets name this, tunnel B. There you have it – this is exactly what a VPN does. It creates a ‘sub-tunnel’ and prevents people from outside tunnel A, and the people (the ISP) from seeing what’s inside tunnel B. This is to say, that tunnel B is now your newly encrypted internet connection which is supposedly very safe. Or is it ?
Is It Truly Safe?
Think back to the example above. The people inside tunnel A knows what is happening in tunnel A. Likewise, people in tunnel B knows what is happening in tunnel B. This is to say, no matter how many ‘sub-tunnel’ you create, there will always be a third-party that can see your information.
In the case of VPN solutions, that third-party can very well be the VPN provider (e.g the company that offers the VPN services), or the ISPs that the VPN providers make a deal with (ultimately, VPN providers do not own the internet connection – they pay others for it).
Having a VPN is definitely a good thing. It however, does not mean that you won’t be caught if you attempt to do things that are against the law. If the law enforcement sends a letter down to the ISP, your pretty much over. For that to happen though, you must have done something really big.
What you need to know about .app domain
Google first acquired the rights to the .app registry in 2015 after bidding $25m for it but nothing happened after Google acquired it.
However, recently Google has stated that it will be releasing the .app domain to the public, and not only for verified apps / developers as was what they intended to do with the .app domain initially
There will be 3 main phases for this .app domain
1. Trademark domains
Google will contact some trademark owners to see if they wish to have their trademark registered under the .app registry
2. Early acess period
Early access period, or EAP, will be from May 1 to May 8. It will be conducted in a dutch-auction format. The EAP pricing will decrease as each day passes. The pricing starts at 10k+ and decreases till about 100+ usd. Prices will vary with registrars as some may charge for early access
Sample prices (will vary with registrar)
May 1: 11,999 USD
May 2: 2,999 USD
May 3: 1,199 USD
May 4: 649 USD
May 5: 199 USD
May 6: 149 USD
May 7: 129 USD
3. Public sale
Everyone will be able to buy it now. Though if you do not want to participate in the EAP, some registrats will attempt to purchase the domain for you when it is immediately available on May 8. A fee is usually charged for this
1. Where can I check the domain availability?
Go to https://get.app
2. Where can i check the list registrars that support early access period?
Go to https://www.registry.google/about/register.html
3. Where can i check the list of registrars that supports .app domains?
Go to https://www.registry.google/about/register.html and some registrars are marked in red with ‘EAP’
4. What will the pricing be after it is publicly available?
Google has said that the wholesale prices are $10-$12 so expect registrars to mark up the prices by as much as 100% or more.
5 Tips to keep your computer safe
Following these 5 tips to keep your computer safe will go a long way. Although they may be inconvenient at times, it is certainly better than putting your computer at risk to being compromised. Getting your computer compromised by something like Ransomware will be extremely costly.
1. Install security software (aka Antivirus)
This is a very simple way to keep your computer safe. You just got to install the software and usually no other configurations are needed. A good free one is avast which you can get here
2. Avoid torrents or cracked software
Torrents have legitimate uses but are generally used for downloading of pirated contents. Pirated or cracked content software are very risky because there is a great motivation for them to infect the files – if they release the pirated or cracked content for free, they are essentially wasting their efforts cracking that software, which by the way is very very tough to do.
3. Secure software settings
Virus and malware can come through exploits found in various software. For example, there have been past cases of users gerting compromised through microsoft word, adobe flash player, and so on
4. Install security patches or updates
Don’t brush off that notification on the bottom right corner of your screen. It may be an important patch or update. Alternatively, click the flag icon bottom right corner of your taskbar and you will see the critical events at the moment.
Lastly, while keeping your computer safe is important and should be your priority, there is no guarantee it will be compromised one day. It is therefore vital that you make regular backups of whatever documents you deem critical. A 1TB external hard drive goes for less than a $60 these days so it is definitely worth it. Alternatively, use cloud storage solutions such as google drive. Better yet, use both.
5 Tips to keep your android device safe
- Install security software (aka Anti-virus)
Installing them will help to ward off malicious apps or links which could lead to your android device being compromised. Of course, this alone is not enough. There are many factors that lead to a device being compromised.
- Install updates and apply patches
Do you often get system update notifications but sweep them off because they take too long and are too noisy? Don’t do that anymore. System updates are very important as they usually contain fixes to various security flaws.
- Secure settings and configuration
Ensure that your android device has the right settings that is secure – that your device does not allow apps from unknown sources to be installed. This means apps can only be installed from the official play store app and not third party app stores.
- Ensure that Settings > Security > Unknown Sources is unchecked
- Ensure that Settings > Security > Verify Apps is checked (some device may not have this option)
It is important that you do not make exceptions, even if its a one-off thing, to the settings as that one time is all it takes for a malicious app to take over your device !
- Review app permissions
Never rush to download and install the app. Look at what permissions it requires and think about it logically. For example, would a note-taking app require permission to be able to use your phone’s camera or send sms? Highly unlikely. That makes the app very suspicious and should be a signal to not proceed installing the app.
Besides, there are usually many alternatives available, you just got to find the right one.
- See the statistics
Two key indicators I use are the number of downloads and reviews
Number of downloads
More downloads means that more user have already used the app. Should the app be malicious, there is a higher chance that someone would have already experienced it and reported it.
Look at the reviews and see what other people say about the app. Some keywords to look out for are “App crash”, “make my phone hot”, “extremely slow”. Look also at the number of reviews that have these keywords of course. A high number of reviews of such kind may be a good indicator that something is wrong with the app. So don’t bother with the app. Besides what’s the point of using an app that crash, makes your phone hot, or is so slow that its unusable?
These 5 points are probably a good start to keeping your device secure. Ultimately, you are responsible for keeping your device safe, so take the necessary steps and precautions to do so. Stay safe !