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One Thing To Do Today: VPNs beyond the hype.

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TL;DR: A VPN is a narrow tool. Use them accordingly.

Virtual Private Networks evolved to connect remote workers into their organization’s network in a way that can’t be easily snooped. If that’s your organizations situation, run, don’t walk, to set up a VPN. It should have clever, well paid administrators and hardware under your companies control. This is what VPNs were designed for. Make it happen.

However, the concern I have is watching a number of folks touting VPN services as a “privacy” solution for individuals. People are being sold an acronym, not a solution. Properly configured VPNs create a secure connection between a remote user and secure network that already trust each other.  VPN protocols in and of themselves afford no privacy from the parent network.  If the host network is being used as a tunnel instead of a destination this is a clever hack use for VPNs, but not their original design. There is neither privacy nor security once the traffic leaves the host network on the far side. To understand how to determine if a digital tool provides the service you expect, read up on the distinctions between anonymity, privacy, security . Yael Grauer breaks down the problem in his article “The impossible task of creating a “Best VPNs” list today.”  The take away quote comes from Kenneth White, “You’re getting a pinky promise as a service.”

Now for the twist. In spite of all that grumpy-cat complaining, I actually do use VPNs. They work great as a narrow tool for specific scenarios.

If those sound like common situations, then going through the trouble of vetting a VPN service might actually be useful.  “That One Privacy Site” maintains a some serious spreadsheetsTorrentFreak has a list of providers that have answered their questionnaire.  BoingBoing published a shorter list with a decent comment section that I found helpful.  LifeHacker has a 5 Best list with more discussed below. The options on the list from digitaltrends.com seemed credible as well. Cross referencing these lists and the, and requiring a mention in TorrentFreak’s:

Also frequently mentioned is AirVPN, who offer free services to activists in human rights hostile regions. So that’s cool. It’s worth searching for the name of the service your considering into VPN reddit community. Folks seems pretty polite and knowledgeable.

So go forth, choose a VPN, just remember its part of a suite of tools and the company chosen needs to be checked on regularly.

 

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I make things that do stuff. The best, though, is teaching others to do the same. Founder of @crashspacela Alum of @ITP_NYU

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