Archive for NordVPN

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses If It Is Still Possible To Protect One’s Online Privacy?

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 24, 2017 by itnerd

Data has recently become the most valuable commodity in the world, the same way as oil was a century ago, and concerns are similar: most of the world’s data is in the hands of a few giants, namely Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

As their reach keeps expanding and profits keep rising (their collective profit was over $25bn in the first quarter of 2017), experts are calling for the need to break up their dominance or to create another platform that would provide a more private method of browsing. For example, German companies are planning to curb the data industry dominance by creating a joint platform that will allow customers to determine whether and how their personal data can be used by third parties.

In the meanwhile, the data dominance by industry giants results in personal users’ data being tracked, collected and sold to third parties.

Facebook knows a user’s friends, all interactions, sites visited (if they have a Facebook page), purchases, devices a person uses to access Facebook, and much more. Google collects a users’ name, email address, telephone number, credit card (if entered), one’s interaction with other websites, device used, search queries and so on. Google also stores information in a local browser as “cookies.”

When faced with such data control by a few large companies, people still have some power in their own hands to protect their privacy than they often can imagine. In fact, there are some simple steps for everyone to take that would significantly reduce intrusive behavior by Internet companies and protect one’s privacy.

Here are some simple rules:

  1. Facebook. Use Facebook’s Download Your Information tool to find out what kind of personal information is collected. Make sure to visit privacy settings and select who can see which information. And certainly, be careful what kind of information you share with Facebook. Some people, for example, choose not to use their real names, location and other personal data.
  2. Google. The first step is to use Google’s Privacy Checkup to see how much information you might be voluntarily sharing. Secondly, see how private are your apps. Google’s Privacy Policy actually allows to turn off tracking, voice searches, and other features, to view and edit one’s preferences or to adjust one’s public profile. Also, make sure you use 2-step verification.
  3. Overall Internet privacy. VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the most common and secure tool used to stay private online. NordVPN, for example, offers military grade encryption for those looking to keep their information for themselves. A VPN encrypts data between a user’s computer and VPN server and routes it through a secure tunnel, so all online activity becomes invisible to trackers, data collectors and any kinds of data spies. For example, only a VPN can help bypass new increased ISP data collection in the U.S., as well as the potential removal of net neutrality.

 

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Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses The Recent Ransomware Attacks

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 16, 2017 by itnerd

Last Friday morning, a ransomware attack started spreading across the globe, infecting tens of thousands of computers. Those affected included over 40 health service trusts and FedEx’s offices in the United Kingdom, a telecom in Spain, and the Russian Interior Ministry.

The malicious software, transferred over email and stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA), exposed vulnerabilities in computer systems in almost 100 countries in total, constituting one of the largest ransomware attacks on record.

The attack was in fact largely preventable, if only more Windows users had installed the critical security patch that Microsoft released for it two months ago and followed a few other security rules.

“Criminals took advantage of the fact that most people still don’t do enough to protect their computers,” said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network). “We at NordVPN strive to raise public awareness about what each person could do to protect their data.”

How to protect oneself from ransomware

  1. Don’t forget to install latest security updates. Security updates often contain patches for latest vulnerabilities, which hackers are looking to exploit.
  2. Don’t open anything suspicious you get through email. Delete dubious emails from your bank, ISP, credit card company, etc. Never click on any links or attachments in emails you’re not expecting. Never give your personal details if asked via email.
  3. Back up all data. Back up your data in an alternate device and keep it unplugged and stored away. Backing up data regularly is the best way to protect yourself from ransomware because only unique information is valuable.
  4. Use a VPN for additional safety. Using a VPN when browsing can protect you against malware that targets online access points. That’s especially relevant when using a public hotspot. However, keep in mind that a VPN cannot protect you from downloading malware. While a VPN encrypts your activity online, you should be careful when downloading and opening certain files or links.
  5. Close pop-up windows safely. Ransomware developers often use pop-up windows that warn you of some kind of malware. Don’t click on the window – instead, close it with a keyboard command or by clicking on your taskbar.
  6. Use strong passwords and a password manager. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords, and choosing different passwords for different accounts. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into an account. A strong password has a minimum of 12 characters, and includes a strong mix of letters, numbers and characters. It’s not easy to remember strong passwords for each site, so it’s recommended to use a password manager, such as truekey.com, LastPass and 1Password.
  7. Use anti-virus programs. Make sure you have installed one of the latest reputable anti-virus programs to make sure you are fully protected.

 

Guest Post: NordVPN Has 5 Simple Rules to Stay Safe on Any WiFi Hotspot

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 11, 2017 by itnerd

The travel season is almost here. Free Wi-Fi at cafes, airports, restaurants and city streets is used by almost everyone who’s traveling – but how many people take an extra step to make sure their browsing is not only convenient, but also safe?

Last year, NordVPN (Virtual Private Network) released safety tips for public Wi-Fi, but the number of public Wi-Fi scams only seems to be increasing, showing that people still don’t treat their online security seriously. According to privatewifi.com study, 79% of respondents still don’t use a VPN when they go on public Wi-Fi. According to NordVPN’s recent survey,  almost 35% of respondents still didn’t know such obvious rules that, for example, it was dangerous to shop online on a public network.

Most common ways that a hacker can take advantage of an unprotected Wi-Fi spot:

  1. Honeypot Wi-Fi. The most common threat is still a hacker positioning himself as a Wi-Fi hotspot – the so-called honeypot Wi-Fi. When that happens, a Wi-Fi user will be sending their information to a hacker instead to a legitimate Wi-Fi spot – and that could include credit card information, private emails, and any other sensitive information. This technique is very easy for hackers, as Wi-Fi spots rarely require authentication to establish a connection.
  2. Wireless sniffers. Hackers can be using sniffers, a software designed to intercept and decode data when it is transmitted over a network. Wireless sniffers are specifically created for capturing data on wireless networks, but are normally used by IT specialists to monitor the health of a network and diagnose problems. When a sniffer falls into a hacker’s hands, it can be easily used to monitor and decode another person’s private data.
  3. Shoulder surfing. When an Internet user finds themselves in a crowded coffee shop or an airport, there might be data thieves lurking around, who will watch over a shoulder to memorize passwords or credit card information that one enters into their device. Just as it’s important to be careful when entering a PIN number into an ATM machine, it’s important to make sure no one is looking over a shoulder when going online at a public Wi-Fi spot.

How can an Internet user protect themselves when they go online at a public hotspot?

Actually, it’s really simple – just a few easy rules need to be followed – and they will be safe on any public network.

  1. Use a VPN. The best and most effective way for any traveler to protect their data is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN service encrypts all the traffic flow between the Internet and a device thus hiding user’s IP address. Recently, VPNs have become a mainstream tool and quite a few have been remodeled to be very user-friendly. For example, with NordVPN users only have to turn to ON button, and they will be connected. The app (for Windows, Android, Mac or iOS) will then choose the fastest server to connect to. It’s also important to be aware of free VPNs that typically rely on third party advertisers to cover the costs. In addition to protecting one’s online activities, a VPN will also help access banned sites in a different country (such as Facebook in Vietnam or Wikipedia in Turkey).
  2. Use a firewall. It’s important to make sure firewall is turned on before going online, especially on a public Wi-Fi spot.
  3. Disallow automatic wireless network connection. Make sure automatic wireless connection are not turned on, and Wi-Fi is turned off when it’s not being used – this will prevent hackers from automatically connecting to one’s device.
  4. Sharing settings should NOT be Public. To prevent anyone from finding and accessing one’s device, it’s important to make sure System’s Settings are not set to Public sharing.
  5. Be vigilant. It’s always important to know who’s around to avoid shoulder surfing or any other suspicious activities.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses The Fact That Internet Users Are Unaware of Email Privacy Issues

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 4, 2017 by itnerd

NordVPN’s recent survey has shown that people mostly trust big-name email providers, such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo. It is believed that these are privacy-focused services, and most people are not able to tell which of the providers actually care about one’s privacy and security, such as ProtonMail.

Out of over 2,000 respondents, 36 percent said they thought Gmail was the most privacy-focusedemail provider, followed by Outlook (22%) and Yahoo (14%). The majority – 43 percent – did not know how to answer the question.

The same respondents were not able to identify email providers that are actually privacy-focused – such as Countermail (4.5%), ProtonMail (6.3%) and Tutanota (3.56%).

Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo are amongst the most popular email service providers, no matter that each one of them have experienced numerous hacks, data breaches or pose a general threat to one’s privacy.

Recently, the news came out about over a million of Gmail and Yahoo accounts being sold online for bitcoins. The account data included usernames, emails and passwords.

One of the largest online incidents involves around 500 million Yahoo emails stolen in 2014. In the most recent attack, 32 million Yahoo emails were affected.

In 2016, over a million of Microsoft Office clients (which includes Outlook) were hit with a ransomware attack, and it took Microsoft more than 24 hours to respond and to start blocking the infected attachment.

Some of the data leaks happen to email providers that are not able to protect users’ data, such as Yahoo. Others, such as Gmail, haven’t experienced direct leaks (only when users’ credentials have been stolen from other platforms, such as MySpace), but Gmail is known to be as one of the most intrusive into users’ privacy with the requirements for personal information.

On the other hand, there are email service providers that offer encryption, privacy and security from data breaches – such as ProtonMail, Tutanota and Countermail. However, they are much less popular, and unknown by most survey respondents.

“The scale of the breaches regularly experienced by popular email providers raise concerns about how big companies protect their data,” says Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network). “We at NordVPN try to remind people to put their online security into their own hands: to use strong passwords, encrypted email providers, and VPNs.”

Here’s what Internet users can do protect their online safety:

  1. Switch to an encrypted email provider, such as ProtonMail. ProtonMail is a free encrypted email service provider, offering end-to-end encryption – meaning even the provider itself cannot decrypt and read subscribers’ emails. No personal information is required to create accounts, and the basic account service is offered free of charge. Other secure email providers include Tutanota and Countermail.
  1. Use strong passwords and a password manager. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords, and choosing different passwords for different accounts. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into an account. A strong password has a minimum of 12 characters, and includes a strong mix of letters, numbers and characters. It’s not easy to remember strong passwords for each site, so it’s recommended to use a password manager, though some – such as LastPass – have also experienced security breaches. In any case, password managers are still recommended for safety and security – such as truekey.com, LastPass and 1Password.
  1. Turn on multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication is a security system that will a user to access their online account after they log in with their username and password, and then require the second-step authentication: either through a fingerprint scan or by sending a code via text. Most sites, including email providers, already offer multi-factor authentication as an option.
  1. Use a VPN. VPNs encrypt all traffic between a user’s computer and a VPN server, providing complete privacy and security in Internet browsing experience. The only information visible to any intruder or hacker is the connection to a VPN server and nothing else. All other information is private as it is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocol. NordVPN is determined to secure users’ data with features like automatic kill switch and a strict no logs policy.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Self-Censoring Because of Surveillance & Data Collection

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 28, 2017 by itnerd

The existence of surveillance state breeds fear and conformity, and doesn’t allow free expression, found an Oxford study, conducted last year. Four years have now passed since Edward Snowden’s revelations about global mass surveillance, which is led by American NSA, in coordination with intelligence agencies from the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – or the “Five Eyes” alliance.

This month, the Council of Europe has announced that 28 out of 47 member states do not sufficiently protect journalists against violence and threats, resulting in self-censorship amongst journalists from the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus. More than half the journalists surveyed said they had been subjected to intimidation by government, while four out of ten reported being threatened with physical violence. One in four said they had been belittled and humiliated by their management, and more than one in five said they had been arrested, investigated, prosecuted or threatened with prosecution.

As a result, more than 30 percent of the journalists said they had toned down sensitive stories, and 15 percent confirmed they completely abandoned these stories. One in five journalists said they shaped their reporting to suit their company’s political or business interests.

From self-censorship of people on social media to journalists abandoning their stories – this is everyday reality of living in surveillance states from North America and EU to Australia and New Zealand.

“Online surveillance by government and data collection by ISPs in many countries result in self-censorship online that brings about the biggest threat to online freedom and free speech,” says Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network). “Therefore, we see a steady rise of people using VPNs around the globe. When governments pass strict surveillance laws, such as the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK, or give ISPs the right to collect and sell user data without permission, as in the U.S., we see sharp spikes in user inquiries. People are starting to realize that they need to take action to protect their online privacy, and a VPN is the best tool for that.”

A VPN encrypts user’s data and reroutes it through a secure tunnel before accessing the Internet – this protects any sensitive information by hiding an IP address. The only information visible to an ISP is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing else. All other information is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocol.

Bloggers and journalists in authoritarian countries and all Internet users around the world can stay private in all of their online activities simply by turning an ON button on their VPN software.

NordVPN hides and secure users’ data with features like double encryption and a strict no logs policy. From the moment a user turns on NordVPN, their Internet data becomes encrypted. It becomes invisible to governments, ISPs, third party snoopers and even NordVPN.

 

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses The Difference Between A VPN & A Proxy

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 13, 2017 by itnerd

There has been lots of increased interest in staying private online due to the new developments in privacy and security. For example, Investigatory Powers Bill was launched in the UK last November, which allows the government to hack into people’s computers; Australian government tightened the rules of accessing many websites, and most recently, the U.S. gave Internet Service Providers the right to collect and sell user data without their consent.

People around the world started getting concerned about privacy, and researching tools that help them stay private – such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and proxies. NordVPN, a VPN service provider, has noticed their user inquiries triple after the latest development in the U.S., which gave ISPs the right to freely sell user data. Overall, Google searches for VPN increased by quarter after US Congress decided to cast away ISP privacy rules. Similar trend was noticed after each change in privacy rules around the world: for example, when Australia strengthened copyright infringement rules, VPNs saw a 500% surge in subscriptions.

While most people realize that they need to protect their privacy online, they often wonder which privacy tool they should choose – a VPN or a proxy – and whether it will be easy enough to use.

VPN vs. Proxy

What is the difference between a VPN and a proxy, and how to choose the best option?

Both VPNs and proxies are similar in one major feature: they hide one’s IP address and make it seem that a user is connecting from another location. However, the main difference is that proxies do not encrypt Internet traffic, while encryption is what makes VPNs security and privacy oriented.

Proxies are great for streaming geo-blocked content, as they do not slow Internet traffic – or for by-passing content filters. However, any entity – such as ISP, government, or a hacker who can snoop on anyone using Wi-Fi in a coffee shop – can access your data despite the proxy. In addition, certain Flash or JavaScript elements in a user’s browser can easily reveal their identity. Moreover, a proxy is only configured for a certain application, such as a web browser, but is not installed computer-wide. Those who are not concerned about keeping their Internet traffic safe, and only want to stream a movie, can use proxies. However, they should be looking at one of the paid options, as free proxies are sometimes known to steal user data themselves.

VPNs. VPNs are a main tool for those desiring to protect their online privacy and security. VPNs are set up computer-wide and protect the traffic of each application used -each Internet browser, email app or online game. How does a VPN work? A user’s Internet traffic gets encrypted and routed through a secure tunnel between two points: the computer and a remote VPN server. This way, no one can access the data that passes through the tunnel – it becomes completely invisible to ISPs, government snoopers, advertisers, identity thieves and hackers. When a user installs a VPN and goes online on an unprotected Wi-Fi = at a hotel, restaurant or airport – their data will also be automatically encrypted, and they can even proceed with their online banking or shopping.

Is it hard to install a VPN? While VPNs were initially a tool used mostly by early adopters, currently many VPNs have updated their user interfaces and are easy to use by anyone who goes online. For example, NordVPN has developed apps (for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac) that starts working simply by turning an ON button. The app can quickly connect you to the desired destination by simply clicking on the country name, as it automatically selects the quickest server available. For those who like to tinker with custom server options, a detailed list is available with load and distance information – change between them with a simple click. The application contains many user-friendly features, including kill switch, detailed server list, access to SmartPlay technology and more.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses 3 Ways How ISPs Can Impact Americans’ Online Security

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 4, 2017 by itnerd

President Trump has just signed the executive order on April 3rd, finalizing the repeal of FCC’s Internet privacy rules that would have stopped intrusive practices of ISPs. Internet Service Providers are now free to collect and share their subscribers’ private data that includes precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history. While ISPs are claiming they won’t sell customer data, now that they are legally allowed to do it, there’s lots of skepticism surrounding this claim.

According to the rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, “privacy and security are two sides of the same coin: privacy is about controlling who has access to information about you, and security is how you maintain that control.”

Here, we review the main ways how ISPs can potentially impact online security, given the new rights:

  1. Storing large amounts of data could attract hackers. The storage securityargument always reappears when discussing the mandatory ISP data retention programs. Security experts and human rights groups usually agree that collecting citizens’ data must be balanced with increased data protection.  To make matters worse, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has recently halted the enforcement of another ISP regulation. It would have required providers to take measures to protect user private data from security breaches. As a result, even if users’ data gets hacked because of lax security, broadband providers will bear no responsibility.
  1. ISPs could use enhanced tracking techniques. According to a 2015 study, at least nine ISPs, including AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone, were found to have been using a “supercookies.” When supercookies are installed, every website a user visits, and every third party embedded in these websites can track them. Even if a user deletes their browser’s cookies or use the Incognito mode, supercookies persist. Also, the effectiveness  of some privacy tools may be weakened because the tracking could be added after the data leaves a device. To prevent trackers from being added on a network level, users would have to use a combination of tools to fully secure their Internet traffic, such as a tracker blocker and a VPN for encryption. Thanks to FCC investigation, ISPs (such as Verizon) were fined and have since agreed to notify users about cookies and give an option to opt in before they can track their data. However, if FCC regulations keep getting struck down, ISPs might revert to using, or invent other enhanced tracking methods.
  1. ISP tactics might weaken web encryption. At the moment, ISPs can only track the portion of user traffic that is not encrypted. Although VPN service encryption is recommended, some people choose to rely on web page encryption offered by HTTPS protocol. Tracking is limited on HTTPS websites secured with SSL (Secure Socket Layer). In such websites, any data that is being sent between a user’s browser and the server is encrypted. As such SSL certificates pose a major problem for ISPs since their goal is to build advertising profiles based on their subscriber data. There have been talks of ISPs implementing  a standard called Explicit Trusted Proxy, which would potentially  allow ISPs to intercept encrypted HTTPS web-page data, decode it, process it, re-encrypt it, and then finally pass the re-encrypted data along to its original destination. Recent studies have shown that many tools used for inspecting HTTPS traffic end up weakening the encryptionand potentially exposing it to various security breaches. If Internet providers get their way and obtain access to HTTPS data, they will reduce the security of the entire web.

NordVPN remains an outspoken supporter of Internet privacy and security. The company has noticed a 200% spike in user inquiries from the U.S. since Congress approved new ISP rights. “We will continue safeguarding Internet user privacy, and providing assistance and consultations on Internet privacy to all our clients. During the times of increasing attacks on Internet privacy, VPNs are starting to play a major part in user protection,” said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) secures and encrypts Internet traffic, helping protect users’ identity and data by hiding their IP address. It scrambles a user’s online data, so an ISP cannot decode and use it for building an advertising profile. It also reroutes Internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, preventing any third parties (including the ISPs) from monitoring your Internet traffic.