How and why you should use a VPN to protect your data’s final mile

“Your greatest security and privacy risk relates to data in transit, as it passes to and from your devices. In a coffeeshop, airport, or other public space using Wi-Fi, your information passes in the clear between your hardware and the network’s hub,” Glenn Fleishman writes for Macworld. “You may not be sure how and whether the hotspot secures access to the wired side of its routers, either.”

“Even if you’re using a secure Wi-Fi network at home, work, or school — or even wired Ethernet — your bits still pass across a broadband modem and through intermediate points on the Internet before reaching the destination server and vice-versa,” Fleishman writes. “(Cellular networks are generally considered quite secure unless you are being either individually targeted or swept into a government-backed interception project.)”

“Imagine the Internet as a series of pipes — seriously. And then imagine that you could thread your own thin, flexible, impenetrable stainless-steel pipe from your house through all the water mains to where the water comes,” Fleishman writes. “That’s a virtual private network (VPN). It’s a secure end-to-end tunnel between your device and some far-off destination.”

Read more in the full article here.

11 Comments

  1. It’s my experience that using a VPN disrupts my iMessages. They often don’t arrive and my devices don’t stay in sync. Resolve this and I’m all for VPNs.

    1. That’s a function of the VPN you are using. For instance, if I use my work VPN, I do lose messages. But that’s because my work blocks them on our corporate network, not because of using “VPN” in general. Once I connect to VPN, I’m on the corporate network and subject to all their filtering and restrictions. But if use TunnelBear, a VPN service you can buy if you like secure connections, there are no restrictions or filters applied in their network and therefore everything works. Again, it’s a function of the network, and it’s associated rules, the VPN is connecting you to, not VPN technology that causes issues.

      1. So Atlanta, ye recommend TunnelBear? I tried that one, wha’s it called? Forgot, but it started getting bad reviews about something, forgot that too (hey, I’d leave me old haid if it weren’t hooked to me neck) so I deleted it off me Mac and iPad. Yes, we need a good recommendation for VPN.

          1. I’ve been using Witopia for my iPhone and computer for about five years and love it. I’ve never had a problem with connectivity, and like that I have access to sites “off limits” to American viewers.

  2. Hahahaha !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yosemite 10.10 is the real Pain the ass … not only the VPN issue.

    VPN does not work at all. Try it, damn fool.

    I am going to downgrade to Mavericks, very very soon, the last known stable Mac OS.

  3. Hahahaha !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yosemite 10.10 is the real Pain the ass … not only the VPN issue.

    VPN does not work at all. Try it, damn fool.

    I am going to downgrade to Mavericks, very very soon, the last known stable Mac OS.

    1. Got ya beat – I never “upgraded” to Yosemite. With all the problems reported I’m very glad that I didn’t.

      I hope you’re able to downgrade easily.

  4. I chose Hotspot Shield Elite. Runs fine on iOS 8 & Yosemite. $30/year, 5 devices, for unlimited add-free data, so all my gizmos have it. Offers servers in USA, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, UK.
    Cloak at a similar price point, offers those + France and Netherlands.
    Sometimes Hotspot on the iPad would disconnect, but that could be due to the fact I was in the backwaters of Laos.
    I just wish the control window on the OS X version weren’t so big, but you can minimize it to the Dock.

  5. Author Glenn Fleishman uses words like “impenetrable” and “uncrackable” to describe VPN encryption, stating, for instance, “With proper, modern techniques, VPN traffic is essentially uncrackable.”

    This is entirely misleading. While a VPN is certainly better than nothing, the encryption isn’t anywhere near “uncrackable.” As with any such matter, it’s important to understand all the facts.

    Fleishman tenuously hedges by admitting, “There are weakness[es]…. But these typically only affect you if you’re individually targeted by criminals or a government.” That’s a whopping equivocation. It’s also rather meaningless, as “criminals or a government” includes just about anyone and everyone who might steal your data. But mostly it’s wrong, because your data can be stolen whether you are “targeted” or not.

    In this article, Fleishman also cites a Spiegel piece about the NSA that gets the facts straight (see link below). The cited piece states, in contradiction, “When it comes to the level of privacy offered [via VPN, or ‘Virtual Private Network’], virtual is the right word, too. This is because the NSA operates a large-scale VPN exploitation project to crack large numbers of connections.” Furthermore, the Spiegel article states, “VPN connections can be based on a number of different protocols. The most widely used ones are called Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Internet Protocol Security (Ipsec). Both seem to pose few problems for the NSA spies if they really want to crack a connection. Experts have considered PPTP insecure for some time now, but it is still in use in many commercial systems.”

    Also, in apparent contradiction to Fleishman, the Spiegel piece has an even lower regard for standard web encryption (https): “Even more vulnerable than VPN systems are the supposedly secure connections ordinary Internet users must rely on all the time for Web applications like financial services, e-commerce or accessing webmail accounts. [With https,] the ’s’ stands for ‘secure.’ The problem is that there isn’t really anything secure about them.”

    The Spiegel piece concludes, “The fact that large amounts of the cryptographic systems that underpin the entire Internet have been intentionally weakened or broken by the NSA and its allies poses a grave threat to the security of everyone who relies on the Internet—from individuals looking for privacy to institutions and companies relying on cloud computing. Many of these weaknesses can be exploited by anyone who knows about them—not just the NSA.”

    —–

    “Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA’s War on Internet Security” (December 28, 2014)

    m.spiegel.de/international/germany/a-1010361.html#spRedirectedFrom=www&referrrer=http://www.macworld.com/article/2871286/how-and-why-you-should-use-a-vpn-to-protect-your-datas-final-mile.html

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