Virtual Private Networking

After years of using VPN through my company’s servers while on the road for work, I finally tested a few services so I could enjoy this kind of security at home and when mobile but not on company business.

Virtual Private Networking encrypts your traffic between your PC and the VPN server so that you can safely transmit sensitive information, even when on unsecured wi-fi. In addition, if your ISP snoops on your traffic, they can’t read it either. This can be huge, if, for instance, you are stranded in the Vegas airport and trying to book a room on with your credit card using whatever wireless connection is available. Best of all, the IP address that is assigned to you by your ISP, visible to everyone on the internet, and directly traceable to YOU, is completely hidden and replaced by an IP address assigned to the company providing the Virtual Private Network.

I would like to rave about Private Internet Access. They have an easily downloaded, easily installed VPN client so you don’t need a software engineering degree to get started. I have 18 different servers to choose from and half of them are outside the U.S. You get to pick and choose. Right now, I am posting from Switzerland.

For the geeks, PIA offers OpenVPN, PPTP and IPSEC/L2TP VPN Tunnels and a proxy server as part of the package. PIA does not keep any logs of who gets assigned what IP address. I have speed-tested both the VPN and the proxy and the bandwidth limitation seems to be the speed I’m paying for at my local ISP (unless I’m logged in to a server on the other side of the planet). I had an initial snag with my outgoing email SMTP server wanting a user/password authentication to send mail since I did not appear to be logged in to my ISP’s server (it has always required this to retrieve mail, duh). PIA answered my questions in less than a day and pointed out the obvious for me: set up your email client to pass a username and password to your Outgoing mail server, too.

All this anonymity and security for less than 40 USD per year, yes YEAR.
Try it. You get three installs for that price so you can use it on your home desktop, your traveling laptop and your nifty tablet, Apple or Android.:clap:

Handy :wink:

The big thing to consider with any personal use VPN is bandwidth. A lot of them throttle bandwith a great amount to the point downloading large files and/or video streaming is very slow. I suggest buying just one month of service and seeing if this isn’t an issue before buying a year’s worth of service. I did this before deciding on a VPN service and am very glad I did so. The first two I tried had terrible bandwidth throttling and they were highly rated. The one I ended up with has bandwidth capacity that is nearly the same as using no VPN at all.

You need to trust your VPN service operator the same way as your ISP.
In case I need a VPN, I simply establish a VPN to my router at home which has a built-in VPN endpoint.


Before using any public VPN, be very careful which websites or services you use while connected to the VPN, especially discussion forums. I have encountered comments before on TorrentFreak VPN-related articles about users being permanently banned from their favourite forum or website for using a proxy. One such example is, which I’ve heard will ban any account that logs in with an IP that belongs to a hosting company (which pretty much all public VPNs use).

Generally most websites that restrict web-access do so either when trying to register a new account (e.g. this forum Myce) or block access temporarily until you access the website without the VPN. If you use a VPN, a good example which you can test yourself is

Left: No VPN connected - Right: Connected to HMA VPN

I use the HideMyAss VPN like a Region changing tool, very handy for getting around region restrictions on certain websites, such as iPlayer in the UK or listening to country-restricted radio stations. For the small amount of BitTorrent I do, I also use the VPN as it doesn’t slow my Internet connection as bad as when directly connected such as when browsing on a second PC not connected, as everything goes over the single VPN connection instead of lots of individual incoming & outgoing connections.

As for my experience with HMA, it has its positives and negatives:

HMA Positive points:

[li]Dedicated proxy IP - the proxy IP they assign is not shared with anyone else for the duration of the VPN connection.
[/li][li]Incoming ports unblocked - Essential for BitTorrent and most P2P services. Also useful to unblock incoming connections such as when mobile tethering or using public Wi-Fi.
[/li][li]Wide range of countries - If I want to watch RTÉ while abroad, I connect to an Irish server, which most VPN providers don’t have.
[/li][li]Good bandwidth - For most EU servers, it’s like I’m not using a VPN.

HMA Negative points:

[li]They log IP addresses - While they do hide your IP address, they can reveal it if subject to a court order, such as this example.
[/li][li]Susceptible to take down requests - While I haven’t heard of anyone getting sued for P2P file sharing on HMA, I have seen reports on their forum of people getting DMCA take-down notices HMA passed on from anti-piracy organisations. A work around is to connect to a country that is considered safe for BitTorrent.
[/li][li]Quite expensive - $11.52/month or $78.66/year.

So far I haven’t heard of any anti-piracy organisation or copyright troll targeting P2P users apart from issuing DMCA notices to VPNs that do log IP addresses. The main reason for this is that even if they got the VPN provider to reveal the hidden IP addresses through a court order, they would need another court order to reveal the customers for the IP addresses that were revealed. For customers who connect to servers abroad, the copyright troll would need to go through a court in another country, which would be a lot more hassle and time consuming than just going after the “easy pickings” who don’t go through a VPN.

[QUOTE=debro;2675928]Handy ;)[/QUOTE]

Yep. :wink:

For anyone looking for a decent free VPN with servers across the globe, the University of Tsukuda, Japan is running an Academic Experiment - VPN Gate where volunteers run their VPN servers. Many of the servers offer a variety of connection methods including SSL-VPN, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN and MS-SSTP. For example, with L2TP and MS-SSTP, you can use Windows built-in VPN client using the server IP address and login detalis shown.

Unlike most public proxies, these seem reasonably quick and ad-free (unlike Hotspot Shield), but then again if you install the SoftEther client which makes it easy to connect to any server, it asks if you would like to become a relay. This is optional, but just something to watch out for if you don’t want to become a proxy.

Quick speed test using a US VPN: