I need your help. My laptop computer has virtually ground to a halt and someone suggested it could be out of date Windows 7. I tried to update (which should be automatic) with no luck. Am also getting warning about large amount of memory being used on Firefox. I can't use Facebook at all and I'm going into withdrawal, but more seriously it's slowing down my ability to work (translating) on my computer. Help!!
Hi John, Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have qualifications covering internet law so I understand the issues and the international legal requirements but I leave the tech to the MSCE's who tell me which buttons to press. However, independent confirmation of what I'm being told is always good. Thank you. MJS
Here's another way to look at it. Your ISP is like the postman. When he delivers the mail he can see who sent it, and can often make good guesses about the content and about your life and status from what he sees. Imagine then that your mail was delivered in opaque black sacks, into which it had been packed by your "VPN" provider. The postie knows you are receiving stuff, but he can't tell what that stuff is, although he can see that it comes from your VPN company. At the same time your mail is sent to you care/of the VPN company, so people sending you letters have no idea what your actual address is. You see? But while those letters are in transit between the sender and your VPN office they are just as vulnerable as your letters would have been had you not sent them via the VPN. So it hides your location, but not much else.
A VPN tunnel provides you with a secure network connection between the two ends of the VPN. Whether it actually is secure from the NSA is another matter, given that the cryptographic algorithm used by default for many of these products is suspected to have an NSA back door, but that's another story.
Anyway, if you establish a VPN connection between your pc and a server somewhere then your ISP knows you are connecting to that server, because that information (the IP address) is in the clear in the network packets, but beyond that the ISP is blind. It cannot then, for example, throttle your bandwidth if you are using NetFlix, as it can't tell.
Next, you appear on the web somewhere. VPN products like StrongVPN or ProXPN give you a choice of where to appear, so for example with ProXPN I can connect to their server in Texas, and amazon.com will behave as if I am in America. You can use this to bypass country restrictions on content, for example with iPlayer. Or you can simply use it to fox the ISP and to disguise your home location. In any case it secures the traffic between you and the other server, but after that the network traffic is as encrypted (or not) as it would have been if you had not used a VPN.
I have one for work, for example, which allows the traffic between my work laptop and my company network to be secure - hence the name, Virtual Private Network because their private network is extended across the normal public internet.
So you see it depends how much you want to obscure. They are not a bad idea, but they certainly don't stop you being tracked.
Frankly Martin, Carl is talking naive “poop”. I suspect Carl isn’t actually an IT professional. If so his opinions are just that, opinions. One of the biggest internet issues is privacy and I’m happy to contest any of his “zillion” reasons (none of which he actually specified). I think Carl should take look at the very recent case taken by none other than Microsoft to get the EU to protect MS from having to disclose private information to a US court.
And to do all this you must have a point of connection to the internet provided by an ISP who is bound by law to collect the relevant information about traffic on their network.
Are you safe from Amazon adds for Christmas deals? Yes. Are you safe from the NSA? Nope.
The real question is why would you feel the need to do all that just to surf the internet.
I was watching something the other day about how security agencies are specifically targeting people using interesting forms of hiding (apparently they are not hard to spot) just to see what they are hiding.
You always need to connect to the internet somewhere and that is where they'll get you. You just cant hide that bit.
It's worth differentiating between what level of 'hiding' we are talking about.
Using TOR to download a few movies will keep you safe because you are one of only a few and they can't be bothered with you. Use it to plan a terrorist attack and the result might be a little different.
Carl, A question. When I need to be discrete I use a private VPN tunnel to a set of secure servers run by an associate. They spoof my IP whenever I need to go out into the public network and give assurance that the source is secure from tracking. Is this safe or are they "talking poop"?
One thing I forgot to mention: a download for Chrome and FireFox, though not IE, called Readability Redux. Use it to transform a noisy web-page into just a page of simple text. It mostly works like magic, and makes reading articles on the web a pleasure. That alone, for me, is a big point against IE.