Secure your Internet connection with a VPN

 

Worried about your internet provider selling your browsing history and other data?
There are a few things that you can do to help protect your data and keep your data from prying eyes.
One of the easy things that you can do, is just to quit using the internet but nobody is going to do that. The other thing that you could do is use a 3rd party service called a VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and what that means per Wikipedia is " is a virtualized extension of a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across the VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network"
The nice thing about VPN's is that some are really good and out of the really good ones they can also be fairly affordable as well. Some will work on a wide array of devices from windows based computers, Android phones, iPhones , Macintosh computers and even routers. The features of the VPN will vary also as well as how many connections you can have.
If you are wondering what I mean by how many connections you can have, that refers to how many concurrent connections the VPN will allow to be run at the same time. Lets say that you have 2 laptops and 2 smart phones and you buy a VPN service that allows 2 connections. This would mean that you could install the VPN service on all your devices, but only 2 can be connected to the VPN service at the same time. You also do not have to be connected to the VPN service 100% of the time either.
If you have a lot of devices and you do not want to pay a lot to have them protected, or some devices that you just cannot install a VPN service to there are other options. Some of these options include installing a VPN service directly onto your router (note that this will usually consist of installing a 3rd party operating system directly onto your router, to which can void your warranty on your router. I do not suggest you do this unless you know exactly what you are doing), or you can buy a router that is already configured to work with a VPN service, or one that has the 3rd party software installed, to which is usually DD-WRT or Tomato.
The benefit of having the VPN run on the router is that anything that is connected to your network will be going thru the VPN all the time as long as the VPN service is working.
There are a lot of VPN services out there and in this post I am going to go over just a few, and in a later post I will go over each of them. All of the VPN services I have personally used and all of them I do like.

The first one is NordVPN


NordVPN has a special right now where you can get the VPN service for $3.29 a month when you sign up for a 2 year service ( $80.00 for 2 years of service)
Some of the features of NordVPN include:

The 1-month plan costs $11.95, our 1-year plan is $5.75/month, the 2-year plan is $3.29/month and their special 3-year deal is only $2.75/month.

  • Strict no log policy
  • Custom software for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android
  • Connect up to 6 Devices under one account
  • P2P Friendly
  • No Bandwidth Limit
  • Pay using Bitcoin, PayPal, Credit Cards and more
  • 4200+ servers in 62+ countries
  • Double VPN for increased anonymity
  • IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IPSec security protocols offered
  • Free proxy list (up to 3000 free proxies)
  • Multiple Device Support: iPhone, iPad, Routers, Game Consoles and More
  • Multiple OS Support: Win, iOS, OS X, Android, Linux, Blackberry and More
  • Shared IP (static/dynamic)
  • Dedicated IPs (special price)
  • Own DNS servers
  • OpenVPN AES-256-SHA
  • IKEv2/IPsec (AES-256-GCM / SHA2-384 / PFS 3072-bit)
  • Unique SmartPlay feature for added streaming connectivity
  • Customer Support (24/7) via Ticket system, Facebook, Twitter or Email
  • Convenient server map & custom software
  • Kill switch: NordVPN offers an automatic kill switch (it can kill individual processes or kill whole Internet connection)
  • NordVPN offers encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers
  • NordVPN has a CyberSec feature that blocks dangerous websites and lets users avoid annoying ads
  • NordVPN will automatically initiate a VPN connection whenever a Wi-Fi network is joined. It can be set up to auto-connect to Nord on both secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks
  • Restricted countries: with the help of obfuscated servers, NordVPN works in countries (China, the Middle East countries) where Internet access is restricted and strong censorship is in place as well as in restricted local networks

NordVPN will also work with DD-WRT as I had it installed on my older router.

I use NordVPN on my computer and my cellphone, to which I have not had any issues with. I especially like to use it when connecting to unsecure WiFi

 


The 2nd is PIA or Private Internet Access. 


Buy VPN
PIA has a deal for VPN service billed yearly for $40.00, to which comes out to be $3.33 a month.
PIA features include:

  • Secure VPN Account
  • Encrypted WiFi
  • P2P Support
  • PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec
  • 5 devices simultaneously
  • Block ads, trackers, and malware
  • Multiple VPN Gateways
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • SOCKS5 Proxy Included
  • No traffic logs
  • Instant Setup
  • Easy to use
  • Works with Mac OS
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7
  • Linux
  • IOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Android
  • DD-WRT
  • Tomato

The 3rd is TorGuard



TorGuard is $9.99 a month.
Some of their features include :

  • Unlimited Speeds
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • x5 Connections Allowed
  • OpenVPN/SSTP/L2TP/IPsec
  • OpenConnect SSL Based VPN
    (Fastest VPN protocol on the net)
  • TorGuard Stealth Proxy (See this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkoKZHxAEpQ to see what Stealth Proxy is)
  • 1600+ Servers in 50+ Countries
  • FREE 24/7 365 Support

 

 

The last one is IPVanish

IP Vanish is $6.49 a month when you sign up for a year plan and pay annually. 

Some of the features of IPVanish are :

  • User-friendly apps for all of your devices
  • Access to the world's fastest VPN
  • 40,000+ shared IPs, 750+ VPN servers in 60+ countries
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Zero traffic logs
  • Anonymous torrenting
  • Unlimited P2P traffic
  • SOCKS5 web proxy
  • Access to censored apps & websites
  • OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols
  • Unlimited server switching
  • 5 simultaneous connections on multiple devices
  • 24/7 customer support
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Works with Android
  • Works with IOS
  • Works with Mac's
  • Works with Windows
  • Withs with DD-WRT & Tomato
  • Works with Ubuntu
  • Works with Chrome book

 

There are other VPN clients out there and Torrent Freak wrote up a good article with feedback from the above companies about logging, security and other great information that is a good read before you sign up for any VPN service - https://torrentfreak.com/vpn-services-anonymous-review-2017-170304/

In a later post, I will go over how to install and configure the above VPN clients.

 

If not being able to be tracked is the utmost secuirty for you, then a single VPN client will not suffice for your needs. In that event you will need at least 2 VPN clients, which they should be seperate companies. 

1 VPN service should be running on your Router and it should also be using your VPN service's DNS servers as well. 

The other VPN serviceshould be running on your computer / devices as well. 

Note that doing this will cause your internet speeds to be fairly slow. If you wanted yet another layer of protection, cascade another router to your main router and have different VPN services running on both (This can be done) and have 1 VPN service using TCP and the other VPN service using UDP. Then have another VPN service on your devices for a total of 3 VPN services running. This will result in your internet to be extremly slow and some pages may not work correctly, but it can be done. 

 

Some of the terms used in this post

Double VPN - With Double VPN, the connection is A – VPN Server 1 – VPN Server 2 – B. First, the traffic is protected with the military-grade encryption between the user's device and the first VPN server. Then it's encrypted again on its way to the second VPN server. In other words, the connection goes through two different servers in different locations: once traffic gets encrypted on the first one, IP changes and gets re-encrypted on the second server in another location. In the end, you get enhanced encryption, security and anonymity.

 

SOCKS5 Proxy - A proxy server functions as an intermediary between your device and the Internet. Any traffic directed through a proxy server will look as if it came from its IP address rather than yours. Unlike VPN servers, proxy servers do not encrypt the traffic passing through them, which saves resources and allows accepting simultaneous connections from much larger numbers of users.

SOCKS5 proxy servers are very flexible and compatible with all kinds of Internet traffic, including POP3 and SMTP for emails, FTP for uploading files to websites, and P2P. As a result, they're very popular among users who don't need advanced security and encryption but do require the privacy and flexibility achieved by replacing their IP addresses. They are also noticeably faster than services with encryption.

Dedicated IP – With this service, one is assigned a single IP that is for your own use only.  This is especially useful when accessing secure corporate, banking, or IP restricted websites or servers. It's possible to activate your own Dedicated IP VPN in the country of your choice so that each time you login to that VPN Server, you will be assigned the dedicated IP automatically.

Shared IP – With shared IP VPN's, you are assigned multiple static, shared IP's that are being used by hundreds (or thousands) of clients simultaneously. Because the same IP is being shared by such a large pool of users, it in turn offers more anonymity for the end user.  

Own DNS Server - When you use a VPN service, the DNS request should instead be routed through the VPN tunnel to your VPN provider's DNS servers (rather than those of your ISP). However, it is common for  some devices (computers, routers, smart phones, etc..) to instead use its default settings, and send the request to the ISP's DNS server rather than through the VPN tunnel. This is known as a DNS leak, and if it happens then it results in your ISP being able to track your internet movements, regardless of whether you are using a VPN or not.

TCP -  is one of the main protocols of the Internet protocol suite. It originated in the initial network implementation in which it complemented the Internet Protocol (IP). Therefore, the entire suite is commonly referred to as TCP/IP. TCP provides reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of a stream of octets between applications running on hosts communicating by an IP network. Major Internet applications such as the World Wide Web, email, remote administration, and file transfer rely on TCP. Applications that do not require reliable data stream service may use the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), which provides a connectionless datagram service that emphasizes reduced latency over reliability.

 

UDP -  is one of the core members of the Internet protocol suite. The protocol was designed by David P. Reed in 1980 and formally defined in RFC 768. With UDP, computer applications can send messages, in this case referred to as datagrams, to other hosts on an Internet Protocol (IP) network. Prior communications are not required in order to set up transmission channels or data paths.




Do I need network cables, and if I do what kind?

This topic works fairly close with my other post about routers.

Just like the post about if you need a router and what kind, the question about do you really need network cables and if you do what kind do you need all depends upon what you are trying to do and what your current hardware is.

If all you want to do is surf the internet, play on social media, send emails and you have a laptop, tablet or a smartphone then the answer to that question is that you can pretty much rely off of your wireless. If you have desktops that do not have wirless cards in them then you do need to get either a wireless network card, or network cables run in your house.

If you have a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone and you also have a streaming device such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV , a Roku or other similar devices then you still should be able to get away with just your WiFi on your router, depending on if your router is good enough for that.

If you have multiple streaming devices and you have laptops, tablets and smartphones that use WiFi, you could be pushing the limit of your router to where internet slow-downs might start to happen or the streaming media on your TV will get choppy here and there as it is a lot of work for the router to do via WiFi.

If you are in the above where your internet is not perfectly stable, the first thing that you can do is to try to restart your router and or modem and try again. If it still persisits then you may want to hard-wire your streaming devices.

As for the type of cable that you can use also depends on the hardware that you have. If your router cannot handle gigabit, then there really is not much sense in getting the top of the line, latest up to date cable to which I think is CAT-7 right now, the norm is still CAT-5, which is widely available and easy enough for you to make your own cable runs and crimp the ends yourself.

If you do have a good router that has Gigabit capabilities and you are only wanting to run lines to your streaming boxes, then I would suggest getting a variation of CAT-6, to which can handle the Gigabit data transfer, and it is almost 4 times as thick as CAT-5e as it is shielded much better to prevent signal interference. This you can also do yourself, and the cable almost looks like the size of a Cable TV line. You will need to get special tools to do this, or you can measure our how long of a cable you need and order one online for CAT-6a. If you fully want to know the specs behind all the different cables (CAT-5, CAT5e, CAT-6, CAT6a and CAT-7, I would head over to differencebetween.com. They have a good writeup on the differences between CAT5,CAT6 & CAT7.

If it were up to me, I would do what I did and run CAT-6a as my router, switch and PC can handle gigabit. In another post, I willl go over the switch and if you need one of those or not.

Using hard-wired cable can releive some of the stress on your router and it can also make your network faster as data in the wires can travel much faster and push more data than over the WiFi signal can.




Which router should I get and do I need a router?

A question that I get quite often from people is to which router should they get and do they need one. Computer networking is not my big subject, but I can manage to some extent.

My usual answer is it depends on what you want.

Normally, I would suggest a router as they usually have some sort of safeguards built into it from preventing someone from snooping around in your computer, but having a router alone will not prevent this.

A router will have a few main functions, and the more you spend the more features you will get just like with everything else. The basic thing that it does is take a network of computers and have the ability to "link" them up so that they can have the ability to talk to each other. Most people will get the router so that they can expand the internet capabilities of their incoming internet connection so you are not bound by the old "dial up" days where one computer was connected to the internet only.

They can also provide WiFi capabilities, which is a way for wireless devices to connect to the router and gain access to the internal network that you have setup and get access to the same internet connection that you have setup.

Routers will usally have at least 4 connections on the back for the possibility of having 4 computers hooked up to it, but you can always expand the number of computers that are hard wired using what is called a switch, but that is another topic.

As for what kind of router to get if you want to get a router that is really up to what you want to do, what brands you like and what features a router has that you like. I like the cisco brand routers, but this tends to come down to the Ford vs Chevy discussion.

Then it comes down to what do you expect to do. I like to plan for the future, so I will usually get more power than I really need as bandwidth use gets higher the impact on the router get to be higher.

Some of the newer high end routers do look more like space ships than a router.

If you plan on connecting via WiFi and streaming video over it, I would suggest getting a dual or a tri-band router (here is a good writeup regarding single band, vs dual band WiFi and here is a good writeup on the difference between dual band and tri-band WiFi )and I will usually get a gigabit router. The gigabit refers to how much data the router can send and receive, but if you do not have a computer card that can handle gigabit and cables that cannot handle gibabit then it might not be worht the investment, unless you plan on upgrading your equipment at some point. Some may disagree with that and may say that getting a gigabit router is a good thing or some may say that it is just overkill.

Some other features that may be nice to have.

  • Guest access (this creates a guest network so that you can create a temporary guest WiFi network without having to give out your WiFi password)
  • Config from anywhere. I know that newer Linksys routers provide this via mobile app that allows you to configure your router from where ever you are, even if you are not connected to your network.
  • Network Map - This lets you see what all devices are connected to your network. Some routers will provide this and some dont. Others will show it in hard to find places. I have a Linksys router and it shows
  • Parental Controls - This allows you to block certain websites on all or certain devices only, and allows you to set internet blocks on certain or all devices for specified times.
  • External Storage - Some routers allow you to hook up an external hard drive to it so that you can use it for a network attached storage devices (NAS). This can allow all the members of your network to share files in a central location.

 

Which routers do I suggest?

That one is up to you. I like Linksys (which Cisco bought out Linksys). I have heard of others having good luck with BelkinAsus and TP-Link

 

If you have any sugestions or comments, let me know.