Home » Writing Tools » Free VPN Services to Stay Anonymous

Free VPN Services to Stay Anonymous

PG came across an item about VPN (Virtual Private Network) services during some of his online technology meanderings. He was about to move on when he thought about authors using restaurants, libraries or other places with public wifi for their writing locations.

The same concerns for those sorts of settings would also apply to those who live in apartment buildings or complexes and use wifi there. Those who use wifi in single-family homes in a traditional US neighborhood will likely be able to locate a few of their neighbors’ wifi nodes as well.

If you can “see” others’ wifi router names, they can likely “see” yours as well.

First, some VPN basics from Learning Hub:

Over the past three years, a record 73 percent of all U.S. businesses have had [their] data breached – 67 percent globally.

Some of these breaches – like Equifax, Target, PlayStation Network, and others – have exposed the data of hundreds of millions of customers.

Even more unfortunate is that an estimated 93 percent of these breaches could have been avoided by putting data security fundamentals at the forefront, according to an analysis by Online Trust Alliance (OTA).

. . . .

One of the easiest and most popular ways to secure both you and your customers’ data is through something called a virtual private network, or a VPN.

. . . .

A VPN masks your IP address to prevent outside parties from obtaining your physical location and identifying your internet provider. They can be used in personal browsers, business endpoints, and any other device you can think of.

VPNs protect business users anywhere – even in coffee shops and other locations that are renowned for having unsecured internet connections. A VPN can also facilitate the secure transfer of information across networks, both public and private.

. . . .

For an internet connection to work, there needs to be a mutual transfer of information from your device, to an internet service provider, to the internet itself, and back. This process is constantly in motion.

Users without a VPN run the risk of having personal data exploited by hackers, internet service providers, and even government surveillance agencies. This risk is multiplied when placing trust in unsecured internet connections.

. . . .

Link to the rest at Learning Hub

The Learning Hub lists Ten Free VPN providers with descriptions of each.

Here are a few ways you can use a VPN that you might not have thought about from ReadWrite:

 

2. Access better deals on travel.

Travel sites don’t treat all traffic equally. You could see different prices on your smartphone, your tablet, and your computer for the same flights and hotel rooms. The game of travel savings gets frustrating quickly, but through a VPN, you can mask your intentions from travel sites and gain access to unbiased pricing.

Use your VPN to spoof different locations and see how prices change. The same flight from Dallas to New York might cost far less if the airline website believes the person searching lives in Australia. Over time, VPN travel searches could save your business thousands.

. . . .

4. Protect devices on public Wi-Fi.

Hackers sit on public Wi-Fi to scour data from unsuspecting users. Business users regularly access strange Wi-Fi locations to do their work, which makes them common targets for information thieves. If you want to keep your company’s information safe, don’t let employees use public Wi-Fi without protection.

Make it easy for your employees to use a VPN to create a more secure connection before using public Wi-Fi. Even if hackers manage to view their activity, they won’t be able to learn anything of value or steal passwords. With a VPN on your side, your employees won’t have to wait until they get back to the hotel to finish working.

. . . .

6. Prevent websites from gathering your information.

Do you spend a lot of time on your competitors’ pages? Are you worried that websites are collecting your data and selling it to third parties?

No matter where you browse, a VPN can mask your location from websites and prevent outside parties from collecting data that identifies you or your company. Personal VPN users lean on this function to prevent sites like Amazon and Facebook from tracking them across the web. By hiding behind a VPN, you can spy on your competition as much as you want, and no one will ever know.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

Typically, when you sign up for a VPN, it will provide you an app or a browser link to access the VPN.

PG has a VPN app sitting on his computer’s desktop. Just like any other app or program, when PG wants to turn on his VPN, he clicks on the link and is connected within a few seconds.

PG uses Nord VPN (but has no relationship with the company other than as a plain-vanilla customer). He has a paid account at the company’s lowest-cost level.

When he clicks a desktop icon to start the VPN, it opens and automatically connects to one of thousands of Nord nodes in the US (if PG is in the US) after quickly locating the one that’s providing the best speeds when PG signs on.

If PG wants to connect through a VPN note located in a different country, the Nord app lets him pick from a list or click on a map to choose. PG just clicked on Mexico and was connected to a VPN server in that country in less than 10 seconds.

Writing Tools

18 Comments to “Free VPN Services to Stay Anonymous”

  1. I agree with PG that VPNs are useful for securing your network traffic, but be cautious. Read the Terms Of Service and check on the VPN provider’s reputation. Nord, for example, has a good reputation. A VPN provider has more access to your network communications than anyone other than your network service provider (like Comcast) or the network service provider for the wireless site you happen to be using.

    Be especially cautious of free VPNs. Free services have to be paid for some way and VPNs are in a great position to sell you to anyone they care to.

    If you decide not to go the VPN route, be careful that your home wireless is locked down with a strong password and your router itself also has a strong password. When not at home and connected to an open wireless site, only access sites that use https, which most browsers now indicate with a locked symbol in the address bar. Https on a public site is not as secure as a good VPN, but it is usually rather difficult to hack into an https stream. Unlocked http is ridiculously easy to snoop when it is not protected by a VPN.

  2. My day job is Computer Security

    for most people, your IP address will only narrow you down to a city, not a house (without the cooperation of your ISP)

    Also, a VPN will probably not prevent you from being tracked across websites, that’s done with cookies and browser fingerprints.

    Using https for a website instead of http protects you from the network managers (public wifi, etc) almost as much as a VPN will (they can somewhat tell what website you go to, but not what you do there)

    Using a VPN isn’t harmful, but it’s not the privacy guarantee that the VPN providers make it out to be either.

    • Good points, David.

    • Along those lines, the Brave browser automatically converts http to https. Just offering that to anyone interested. I just started using it and really like the interface. It’s much better than Firefox, and I’m trying to break away from Chrome.

      Brave also blocks ads and trackers and has some nice configuration options. It was also super easy to transfer all my bookmarks, just a couple of clicks.

    • Terrence OBrien

      If you have both my name and IP, can you then map the name to any subsequent use of that IP?

      • Sure, if you have two pieces of data that you know are related, you can always relate them in the future.

        even dynamic IP addresses tend to be fairly static in practice, you may get a new IP every time you restart your router, but how frequently do you do that? changing your IP while you are using it will break all existing connections, so they try really hard to not do that.

  3. From a writer perspective, here’s a computer horror story I heard from an acquaintance who was a name bestseller. She took her computer in to be fixed, and, when she picked it up, the repairman gushed to her how she was his wife’s favorite author and how much she enjoyed her new story which hadn’t been published yet. It was on her computer, and the idiot repair guy had printed off a copy for his wife. She screamed at him for a while, then the lawyer at the publishing company went after him. I doubt he even looked at the contents of a person’s computer after that. This was pre-Internet. Can you imagine what some hacker could do these days?

    • I’ll hope the tech was thoroughly intimidated.

      I have a tendency to encrypt sensitive documents as I store them.

      One of the problems with hackers is that, unlike the tech in your account, you probably won’t be able to find out who they are.

  4. Desmond X. Torres

    Yep, I’m a Nord user too, have had their service for four years or more now with no complaints at all. I used to have one of those freebies (Hide My A**); and upgraded to their pay system and didn’t care for the REALLLY long lag times that happened frequently. (BTW, I’m in Canada; maybe it’s different in the States). Nord’s pretty cheap, and they’re constantly improving their services (more servers added, faster servers). Today, I can’t tell if my VPN’s on or not (that lag time I mentioned no longer exists).

    BUT
    Using a VPN makes Amazon wonky sometimes, esp if you’re trying to access your author account or your own customer account. No biggie.

  5. Thanks to PG for that information. And to the previous commenters for theirs. Much appreciated!

  6. I have to admit that the only reason I use a VPN is to access USA websites that block me rather than put in the effort to comply with the GDPR. I don’t blame them for not wanting the bother of spending money to comply when they were probably not getting any income from Europe.

    As I’m not doing it for security reasons I just switch to the Opera browser when I need access to blocked sites. At the moment I’m pretending to be in Asia as it actually has worked better than the USA setting.

  7. Felix J. Torres

    In case anybody thinks VPN use is paranoia, just check this out:

    https://www.zdnet.com/article/for-two-hours-a-large-chunk-of-european-mobile-traffic-was-rerouted-through-china/?ftag=TRE-03-10aaa6b&bhid=19901053397699750196500774529668

    The headline alone is bad.

    This is worse:

    “For more than two hours on Thursday, June 6, a large chunk of European mobile traffic was rerouted through the infrastructure of China Telecom, China’s third-largest telco and internet service provider (ISP).
    The incident occurred because of a BGP route leak at Swiss data center colocation company Safe Host, which accidentally leaked over 70,000 routes from its internal routing table to the Chinese ISP.
    The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which is used to reroute traffic at the ISP level, has been known to be problematic to work with, and BGP leaks happen all the time.
    However, there are safeguards and safety procedures that providers usually set up to prevent BGP route leaks from influencing each other’s networks.
    But instead of ignoring the BGP leak, China Telecom re-announced Safe Host’s routes as its own, and by doing so, interposed itself as one of the shortest ways to reach Safe Host’s network and other nearby European telcos and ISPs.”

    The Internet requires a modicum of competence and honesty at the chokepoints. It isn’t always there.

    • I’m not sure a VPN would have been any more protection than https against the BGP leak. Essentially, as I understand it, China Telecom became a network service provider for 2 hours for a number of cell subscribers in Germany and The Netherlands. The fault started with the cell services that made mistakes. China Telecom either was unprepared to deal with the mistakes, or intentionally took advantage of them to glom onto a wad of traffic to analyze at their leisure. I’m not sure which is worse. I am under the impression, perhaps delusion, that US cell providers manage BGP better. It’s been years since I worked with BGP so I am not the best source.

      • BGP was not designed to protect against hostile actors, but it’s almost always an accident that re-routes traffic like that (the nework links are not fast enough to support all the traffic in such cases, so there’s a big performance impact immediately)

        as mentioned, a VPN doesn’t give you any more protection than https would in such cases.

Leave a Reply