VPN

How to Avoid Censorship and Stay Private Using a VPN

The internet is an open network. Your traffic is visible to your ISP, government spies, hackers and who knows who else? Even if your connection to a site is encrypted, your ISP still tracks which sites you’re visiting. When you access the network in a library, café, and some mobile networks, your access to many services is often censored. The solution is to install virtual private network (VPN) software on your devices.

There are a number of good commercial VPNs available. In terms of privacy as well as quality of services, NordVPN comes highly recommended, and is currently offering 70% off its list pricing. NordVPN is based in Panama, which does not force ISP and VPN providers to log customer data. As far as we know (and it’s impossible to ever tell for sure), NordVPN doesn’t log customer data. The company’s services were audited in late-2018 by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG of Zurich, who confirmed that (then at least), there was no evidence of logging activity. By using a VPN, you prevent your own ISP from being able to log your activity. This means that, if you install VPN software on your devices, there will be no record of your web activity (except perhaps on your own device – see below).

By using a VPN, you can mask your location and appear to be based in any country. NordVPN has over 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries.

Other Ways to Protect Your Privacy

Normally, your browser records your web history, caches images, and stores cookies that reveal which sites you have accessed. For any browsing that you wouldn’t want to share with others (porn, for example), you should use your browser’s private mode (InPrivate on Edge, Incognito on Chrome, Private WIndow on Firefox). Or even better, use a separate browser that doesn’t log – Firefox Focus is a good choice for mobile devices. These privacy features ensure your browsing history isn’t revealed, even if your device falls into the wrong hands. They still need to be used in conjunction with a VPN though, otherwise your ISP can still see (and log) which sites you’re accessing.

For max-strength privacy, there is the free Tor browser, which sends your traffic through multiple servers, each of which adds its own layer of encryption. Your ISP (and anyone else trying to snoop on you) cannot see any of your traffic, or even know which sites you are accessing. However, Tor should still be used in conjunction with a VPN, as this prevents your ISP even knowing you are using Tor at all. While it’s perfectly legal to use Tor, ISPs may be taking note of users who take special steps to preserve their privacy. While one would like to think the British state isn’t tracking Tor usage, we are moving into an authoritarian age, and anything is possible.

The video below gives a short overview of NordVPN‘s privacy features.

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