What? NSA Data Collection Hasn’t Prevented Terrorist Attacks?

Say it isn’t so!  All the billions of dollars spent on massive data centers and tapping the phones of our allies have done zip to prevent a single attack on American interests anywhere in the world?  Well that’s what had been reported by MSNBC and Business insider, amongst others.

The reports go as far as saying that any national security benefit has been modest at best and that NSA programs were not essential to preventing attack.  This investigation is at direct odds with reports coming from the White House and the president directly.  The rabbit hole continues to get deeper…

The Coming Wave Of Quantum Computers & The NSA

News has recently come out showcasing the NSA’s desire to create a quantum computer in order to crack every existing form of encryption known.  Well that is until quantum computing is available for the companies creating encryption methodologies.  Although it isn’t new information that the NSA has had its beady eyes focus on this objective for a while, it just makes everything all the more creepier given all the recent revelations of their practices.

If you are not familiar with what a quantum computer is in the first place, here is a video from Veritasium that goes over the basics (if you can call it that).  Pay particularly close attention to the 5 minute mark forward and you’ll understand why this form of computer will be perfect to carry out the NSA’s schemes.

Thankfully, they will likely be some years off before attaining their goal. Hopefully…

The NSA And The Supreme Court

aerial-utah-data-centerYou may find this a bit disturbing but did you know that much of the NSA’s public justification for hoarding all of our data comes from a 1979 Supreme Case, Katz v. United States.  It basically states a very loose definition of the “right to privacy” in that when it comes to 4th Amendment issues people should only have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy.  As you can imagine, this leaves the door open to all sorts of abuse.

“The Atlantic” recently put out a great article on that case, as well as others (go here to read it yourself).  In a nutshell, they demonstrate how that law is ridiculously outmoded because technology and tactics have changed so dramatically since then. This is one of the reasons why I believe that there needs to be a single all encompassing statute on privacy that crosses every aspect of our lives and not a patchwork quilt of federal, state, and private regulation and policies (that’s a different story, though).

NSA Hacks The iPhone With A DropoutJeep!?

I’m starting to think that I am in the middle of a James Bond movie or something.  It recently came out that the NSA created a protocol they call DropoutJeep (who the hell names these things anyway…) that allows them to target iPhone users.  That little hack lets them access your phone’s camera and microphone without you knowing! That’s a happy thought…

BGR put out an article a couple of days back that goes into more detail on the depth of this proverbial rabbit hole; go here to check it out.  Apple has subsequently denied any assistance in or knowledge of the governments activity.  Here’s a pretty little chart that shows how it basically work:

NSA's iPhone Hack

2013: What A Year For Massive Security Breaches

Homeland Security logoIt seemed like a big company saw massive amounts of data stolen by hackers each month of the year.  Whether it was social media sites, pretty much all the big guys, or even the Department of Homeland Security, this year was exception by every count.

In case you haven’t heard about all these security breaches, Think Progress has put together a list of the top 9 for you.  Chances are, you may have been affected by at least one of them just due to the shear volume.  Either way, be careful of what you share and make those passwords a little more secure.  It isn’t a guarantee that your information won’t be taken, but it will make things a little more difficult hackers.

Using VPNs For Torrenting To Keep You Protected

Connectivity has become nothing short of ubiquitous and we are completely, totally and utterly reliant on it. However, the internet is still just a jungle, full of guerrilla hackers that will stop at nothing to get information out of everyday people like you and me. Besides these, there are totalitarian regimes and governments (including our own, as it now transpires) who want to make sure you can only access what they want you to see, and they want to keep tight tabs on what you are doing as well. This is why you should stay away from public networks and choose to use a VPN instead, particularly if you are interested in torrenting.

pirateflagPublic networks are nothing but cesspools for horrible things like Honeypot attacks, Wi-Fi spoofs and Firesheep, and then there is the NSA and PRISM of course. However, sometimes you simply have to work with sensitive data when you’re in a public area, such as if you work remotely. The information that you are potentially handing over in this case is huge and you must make sure you are better protected. With torrenting, for instance, we all worry about that dreaded email that we have been “caught” and need to cough up the dough for all those movies and albums we downloaded. Nightmare!

By using a VPN instead, you can access any network and share your data completely privately, even if you are on an open, public network, such as the McDonald’s Wi-Fi hotspot. It is like a firewall, which protects your computer’s data, but this actually protects you online. Technically, a VPN is a Wide Area Network (WAN), but it allows you to have all the security, functionality and appearance as if you would be on the private network. Perfect, in other words, because you don’t need to be a computer genius in order to continue to access your favorite torrent sites.

Corporations are using VPNs more and more commonly, but now individual users are starting to catch on to the benefits. A VPN that doesn’t log uses encryption protocols and dedicated connections to give you a virtual P2P connection. This means that if a really good hacker would somehow be able to get into that connection, they would not be able to know what you are doing, because all your data is fully encrypted. Besides this, VPNs that don’t log also don’t have a fixed IP address, which means your physical location will always remain completely hidden. This also means that you can get around content filters, including, by the way, the Great Firewall of China. You can get past all of the nasty filters our own government has put in place and you can actually watch that YouTube video that they so badly want to keep hidden from you. And download a couple of good movies while you’re at it, of course!

It is actually really easy to sign up to a VPN network. You do have to make sure that you work with a provider that has a commitment to keeping your data safe and secure. The only way to do this, really, is by not keeping any logs of data and information. There are a number of really good VPNs out there that you may want to consider. Two of the best are Private Internet Access and BTGuard.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is an award-winning VPN that can be used all over the world. They will completely and totally protect your identity and keep your privacy intact. All censorship filters are unblocked (you would be surprised to find out just how much as been hidden from you all this time) and it only takes seconds to connect through their tunnel. Cheap and with many different payment options, this is the VPN of choice for many torrenters.

BTGuard

BTGuard is another of the world’s most respected VPN services. Best of all, they have a service specifically geared towards torrenters, which is the Bittorrent Proxy. For a nominal fee, you are able to access both Vuze and UTorrent, two of the world’s best torrent websites. They are as good as Private Internet Access in as such that they do not keep any records, information or data on file. In fact, if they would be court ordered to provide information, they wouldn’t be able to hand any over even if they wanted to do. The only downside to BTGuard is that they currently only offer limited payment options, although they are trying to improve this.

VPN Services That Don’t Log

world-internet

If you are using a VPN provider, you have to make sure that they take your privacy and security very serious. This has been highlighted strongly with the NSA and PRISM allegations released by Edward Snowden, and we are all concerned about how much of our data actually goes into the public domain. What you need to look for is a provider that will never link your activity to any external IP address.

Only recently did someone use a so called “anonymous” VPN, but it turned out that the protection that they offered was sub-standard to say the every least. Hence, a list of questions was developed to help people find a VPN service that really doesn’t log. You need to look, firstly, at issues surrounding your anonymity, but you should also look into limitations and the aspect of file sharing. The questions we will list below are those that you can ask a VPN provider that you are considering. It makes it very difficult for them to give a direct answer, and if you find yourself speaking to a provider that is trying to get out of the questions, you may as well move on.

Questions to Ask to Find a VPN Provider That Doesn’t Log

The first question is the most direct of all: simply ask whether they keep any logs. Also ask them whether there are any third parties who match IP addresses as well as time stamps to service users. If the answer is yes to either of these questions, make sure you ask what information is being held and why.

Next, ask the company under which jurisdiction they come. You also want to find out which circumstances can arise in which case they must, by law, share information. Also find out which third parties they would share with in these circumstances. Similarly, you should ask what would happen if they receive a DMCA take down notice and what their procedures are for handling these.

Next, ask about their payment systems. Which ones do they use? How do these link to the accounts of their users? Are payments secured and safe through an SSL server?

If you are satisfied with the answers you have been given, you will have found yourself a VPN service that doesn’t log. There are various providers out there that really give a good service, so you shouldn’t have to spend too much time finding one. However, you must take this time, because the last thing you want is for your information to be sold or released for no reason whatsoever. There are two services in particular that do not log, which are Private Internet Access and BTGuard. Let’s take a look at these two.

Private Internet Access (PIA)

Private Internet Access LogoPIA does not keep any logs at all. They use shared, rather than static or dynamic IP addresses, which means that users can never be matched to an IP address. They take anonymity very seriously. They operate within our own country, but also have gateways in Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania and the Netherlands. Because there isn’t a data retention law in place here, PIA choose to be under local jurisdiction. They will only share information with a third party if they are court ordered to do so. However, the information they would provide in that case is minimal because they use shared IPs and do not keep logs. Naturally, Private Internet Access complies with DMCA and have a legal team in place for this. They have a range of different payment methods in place, including Bitcoins, which can be used anonymously. The only information they retain is that which makes it possible to give customers refunds.

BTGuard

btguard-logoBTGuard does not keep any logs either. They come under Canadian jurisdiction but cannot share any information because they do not retain any information. There is no communication with any third parties and would only do so under court order. However, in this case, they would only be able to say that no information is available. BTGuard has never been court ordered to provide information yet. They do not use open incoming ports, which means that broadcasting content can never be taken down. The only downside of BTGuard is that they have limited payment options. However, the ones they do use are Bitcoin and PayPal. Furthermore, they intend to start accepting alternative payment methods. The only reason why they haven’t done so yet is because they are committed to not keeping any information on file, which would have to change somewhat if people are able to make credit card payments.

Pseudonymous Data For Debate In Future EU Regulation

The European Union may have standard unified data protection laws by 2014, and the European Commission is currently debating what kind of data falls under their proposed protection scheme.  The potentially far-reaching law, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), aims to update the current EU directive that does not take into account social media data or the complexities of cloud computing.  Where pseudonymous data fits into this new law, however, is subject to heated debate.

Pseudonymous data refers to online information that may not identify an individual directly, but often allows indirect identification rather easily.  This includes anything from Internet user names to IP addresses to user-generated data such as forum posts, search terms, or friend lists on social media.  While some argue that this pseudonymous data does not require the same stringent protection as clearly personal online information, others claim that this data demands the same privacy protection.

In a March 2013 speech in Brussels, Valerie Reding, Vice-President of the EU Commission in charge of GDPR, strongly stated her support for vigilant protection of data, pseudonymous or otherwise.  “Data protection is a fundamental right,” she said, “[and] privacy is an integral part of human dignity and personal freedom.”  She continued to clarify: “Pseudonymous data is personal data . . . [it] must not become a Trojan horse at the heart of the regulation, allowing the non-application of its provisions.”  Reding made clear that she supports data protection including indirect personal data, or any data that allows for eventual accurate identification of an individual.  She ended her address by calling for “robust safeguards” for citizens while also making solutions workable for businesses.

The Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) further clarifies the definition of pseudonymous data and argues for its broad protection.  In a position paper the CDT claims that data should be protected that makes indirect links to an individual or an individual’s device, as device-level information such as IP addresses can be easily linked today to a real name identity.  IP addresses in particular require new and strong protection, the CDT paper explains, because currently companies process and obtain IP addresses simply when a user downloads content from a webpage.  The key to unified privacy regulation like GDPR would be a system where “a data controller cannot readily tie the data to an individual . . .it should not be sufficient that a party has the ability to link but does not intend to.”  The CDT argues that regulations and incentives for companies to follow them will encourage Internet companies to collect data more often in pseudonymous rather than directly personal form, and will give pseudonymous data the protection level it needs.

Online privacy advocates argue that this regulation is explicitly required because business interests will continue to work toward collecting and eventually selling their user data.  As Fredrik Soderblom, owner of the Swedish company Storesafe.com, told the EU Observer: “if you have properly anonymized data it wouldn’t be commercially interesting to buy it because you want it to be able to pinpoint the individual so you can direct the advertising [at them].”  Adopting strict privacy regulation with obligation to protect on the part of industry would curb such misuse of personal and traceable data, advocates hope.

Other privacy provisions that may end up as law under the GDPR include mandatory notification of individual data breaches, required consent for user data collection and a clear statement of the purpose of the collection, and the Right to Be Forgotten, which would require an organization to delete personal data once that consent has been revoked by the user.  European Commission negotiations will continue until 2014, and they will ultimately determine if pseudonymous data fits under the protective umbrella of the GDPR.

HideMyAss Pro VPN Review

With free public WiFi hotspots becoming more prominent, being able to secure your information and identity becomes just as important, especially when hackers can simply connect to the same unsecured network that you’re using and start eavesdropping on your information. This might come easily to networking gurus who already know how to cover their tracks, but the general public is quite clueless about some of the steps they can take to secure their data.

Accessing the internet through a VPN service is just one of the things you can do, but most people don’t even know what it can do for them or even how to set one up. One particular VPN service that tries to make it easier for the average PC, tablet and smartphone user to take advantage of VPN is Hide My Ass Pro VPN. So what sets them apart from the competition aside from the catchy name? Read on to find out in my full review.

Hide My Ass Pro VPN Logo

Understanding How VPN Services Protect Your Privacy

Accessing the internet through a non-secured network is one of the easiest ways to get your information and identity compromised. Hackers connected to the same network can easily listen in, capturing things like your usernames and passwords, which eventually allows them to access your accounts and identity. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, encrypts the information you send and receive over the network while in transit so that even if hackers are listening in, they won’t be able to make anything of it.

VPN services also allow you to browse the web anonymously. Anonymity is important because it protects your online identity from hackers and network snoops. A VPN can also function to allow you to virtually reside in another country and bypass geographical blocks and censorship laws. Ever try to access your Netflix subscription while vacationing in Asia? If you answer yes then you probably already know what I mean.

You might be confusing VPNs with Web Proxies at this point. They are very different in that a web proxy works within a browser, while a VPN encrypts everything to and from your computer and the internet, regardless of the application. That way, you can send emails via your browser, communicate via your instant messaging client, or simply share files without having to worry that anything will be intercepted on the way.

Pros of Using HideMyAss Pro VPN

HideMyAss Pro  currently gives you access to over 53,000 IP addresses through 442 VPN servers in 110 different locations distributed across a total of 61 countries. And those numbers are growing, as every month, Hide My Ass adds about 15-20 new servers. This aggressive growth helps assure high speeds regardless of where you are connecting to the VPN service from. In fact, HideMyAss has the most number of IP addresses and servers of all the VPN services I’ve tried.

Of course, speed isn’t the main reason people use VPN services. What’s more important is speed, and while HideMyAss automatically gives you a new IP address every time you connect, it also takes it one step further by allowing you to have it changed every so often while you’re connected. You can even change how long that interval is.

There’s also a feature called Secure Bind that makes sure that you can only connect to the internet through a VPN connection. If the software detects that you are no longer protected by a VPN, it will automatically disconnect you. That way, you don’t run the risk of accessing the internet unprotected without knowing.

PC Interface

Another thing I like about this service is that it supports multiple platforms. You can use it on a PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and even configure it directly on your router to make sure that all your devices at home are protected. Other VPN services might be more affordable, but a lot of them stumble when it comes to the number of platforms they support. Hide My Ass Pro VPN doesn’t make that mistake.

Linux is supported, which is nice. The interface is command-based though, but you can request for an Alpha build that comes with a UI. Luckily, I’m not a Linux user so I don’t have to tolerate Alpha software.

One last thing I like is its money-back guarantee. Yeah, it’s not exactly a feature, but being a paid service, there has to be some way that interested customers can try out Hide My Ass Pro without any risk. You can cancel within 30 days, but if you exceed a 10Gb bandwidth cap, you will no longer qualify for a refund.

Cons

To be honest, there aren’t any cons I can think about when it comes to the service. However, trying to get in touch with support is limited to email, live chat and a community forum comprised of Hide My Ass users. It would have been nice to have a phone number to call, but I guess less and less services offer that nowadays.

Pricing and Recommendation

HideMyAss VPN offers three different pricing plans: 1 month, 6 month and 1 year. The 1 month plan is priced at $11.52, which is a bit steep. The 6 month plan is more affordable on a monthly basis, being priced at $49.99 for the entire period, or $8.33 a month. I would recommend going for the 1 year plan, which is $78.66 for an entire year, or the equivalent of $6.55 a month.

Pricing

If you only access the internet through one or two platforms, there are cheaper VPN services out there that focus on PCs, Macs or mobile devices. Hide My Ass isn’t the most affordable VPN service out there, but it offers the widest platform support and most easily configurable software of all the services I’ve used. Heck, the PC and Mac versions of the software allow you to connect with a single button, and the Android and iOS versions require no app at all since they already have built-in VPN settings. If you need a VPN service that doesn’t require any technical knowledge to set up, HideMyAss Pro is an easy choice.

download HideMyAss

PureVPN Is Now Accepting Bitcoin

purevpn_bitcoinPureVPN is a truly professional VPN service provider equipped with the latest technology and software that would guarantee speed and security. It is one of the most recommended service providers, when considering the internet security and privacy of the customer. They are dedicated to preserving the privacy of the customer, which is what a VPN service provider should be doing in the first place.

What Is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is an online payment method that uses digital currency for transactions that are mostly done online. It is done on an anonymous scale and the privacy of the person doing the transaction would be guaranteed. It would set you free from any bank verification procedures and help to complete the transaction with full anonymity. There is, no central bank for the Bitcoin currency system as it does not exist in the physical world. It is operated on a decentralized mode without any centralized control. This concept was originated by the Satoshi Nakamoto company in the year of 2009.

More and more online vendors are beginning to accept Bitcoin payments for their products and services. This trend has entered the VPN services too. Virtual Private Networks exists for the purpose of securing the anonymity of their users. Integrating an anonymous payment method to this, would definitely enhance the security that the customer would expect from a VPN service provider.

Why It Matters

PureVPN has now integrated the Bitcoin payment method to its system. Now you can make all of their payments by using the Bitcoin payment system. This is a positive step in guaranteeing your privacy even further. You would not have to go through the hassle of any bank verifications in order to use the serivce. This would be great news to all customers, who would love to preserve their privacy and internet security.