Famous Blogger Arrested in Bahrain

Internet Censorship, VPN & Security News 2 Comments »

Censorship BahreinThe leader of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, reported that famous blogger Mahmood al-Yousif and Internet activists Sana Abdul-Razzaq Zinedine, trade unionist, and poet Ayat al-Qurmozi have been arrested.

Some years ago, Mahmood Al-Yousif launched an Internet  campaign called “Just Bahraini”. The main goal of this campaign was to fight against Sunni-Shiite sectarianism in Bahrain. The country has a Sunni government, but the majority of residents are Shiites.

In connection with the latest events, protecting internet privacy is of crucial importance for Bahrain internet users. They are afraid that their private communication via e-mail or social networks can become a reason for arrest. That’s why many of them prefer to use VPN services to protect themselves from their government's surveillance.

The United States of America worry that this act of Bahrain government will prevent its national dialogue with Shiite citizens of the country. The US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, claimed: “The Bahraini government needs to engage in that kind of national dialogue, as does the opposition, in order to move this process forward, and arresting bloggers doesn’t help in that respect.”


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VPN for Beginners, Power Users and Corporate Use

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Virtual private networks keep your information secure whilst surfing the Internet. They create a secure “tunnel” across the Internet between your local PC at home or in the office and a VPN service provider. As your Internet traffic is being encrypted, nobody can use your private information from emails, posts or online shopping. Nowadays it’s a hot topic because many easy-to-use programs can easily monitor what you are doing on the Internet.

There are some simple ways to get VPN. The easiest one is to check whether your company, school, organization, or department are using it. If they are, then you can just become a member of a corporative VPN, install the software and launch the VPN application any time before you surf the Web.

If there is no corporative VPN, you can have your personal VPN service. Numerous VPN providers offer their services starting from $15 per month. Remember to check the background of a company you are thinking of choosing. You can read online forum feedbacks, email or call to the company to be sure that real people work in it.

Providing security and privacy, VPNs offer other advantages as well. You can visit websites and use online services blocked for external use. 

Anonymous Web browsing is another benefit provided by some VPN providers. It allows you to surf the Internet without being tracked.

VPNs are a multi-target service. It is available both for individuals and corporate teams: whether you need a secure access to a WI-FI hotspot on the road, or to build a network of remote employees to develop your business securely through the Internet. PC World magazine published a review of different VPN services for beginners, power users and corporate users: http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/223044/get_started_with_a_vpn_for_beginners_power_users_and_it_pros.html


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VPN Crisis in China

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A censorship crisis has started in China after the authorities restricted the use of VPN services in the country. Some VPN services, including free VPN, faced problems in their work process; some have been banned,  and others have been resumed. The Chinese government implemented these measures in fear of the Jasmine Revolution, trying to stop people from accessing outside websites through VPNs.

As Greatfirewall.biz reports, the major VPN service provider to the Chinese market, Witopia, remains inaccessible, as well as a few other VPN services: Hidemyass, CyberGhost VPN, Ultra Reach, Hotspot Shield, TorProject and others. In addition, the IP addresses of the VPN servers owned by these providers have also been blocked. As a result, the companies have to keep shifting their users from one server to another.

Moreover, Email services such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Aol Mail have slowed down in their performance. For example, Gmail has been 45 times slower than QQ. Google has started discussions with the Chinese authorities regarding Gmail being boycotted, but so far it hasn't had much success.


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Incoming Connection Ports (DRPF) Explained

VPN In-depth 1 Comment »

Dummy users do not worry about how the communication is realized during internet connection. They do not know what  "connection port numbers”, “dynamic RPF”, “open and closed ports” are… But if you are going to use a secure internet connection via VPN, you need to know something about incoming connection ports. When connected to a VPN server, this server automatically becomes a firewall between you and the Internet. And the applications you usually use may not work. Why can it happen?, how to resolve this issue? Read this article…

What are incoming connection ports?

How an application installed on your computer knows where to send data to on Internet? In addition to the IP address of a remote machine, the programs must know the port numbers of the receiving application. Imagine a letter which comes to an address – a building with thousands of rooms.  And to what room must the letter be delivered? So, ports are like room numbers or post office boxes – they specify where exactly the message must be delivered.  Port numbers range from 0 to 65536. Numbers from 0 to 1024 are reserved for privileged services and designated as well-known ports. For example: 80 HTTP, 110 POP3, 443 HTTPS, 563 SNEWS, 569 MSN. Higher-level applications that use TCP/IP, such as Web Protocol and Hypertext Transfer Protocol, have ports with pre-assigned numbers.  Other application processes are given port numbers dynamically for each connection.

When a service (server program) is initially started, it is said to bind to its designated port number. As a client program wants to use that server, it must also must to bind to the designated port number. An example for the use of ports is an email client which you use to receive and send emails. Configuring email settings may be different from program to program, but all email programs require the same basic pieces of information. Among them are SMTP and POP3 email servers and their ports. The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) by default listens on TCP port 25 for incoming requests. The Post Office Protocol (POP) used to fetch email messages from the server listens on TCP port number 110. The following screenshot shows an account configuration window in a email application where you need to define POP3 and SMTP ports.

Incoming Ports and VPN Connection

Every VPN connection uses an incoming connection port on the user’s computer. It is like an endpoint to a connection. However, when connected to a VPN server, this server automatically becomes a firewall between you and the Internet. This can be very convenient because it gives you another layer of security and protection. Port scanning is usually associated with malicious cracking attempts. Closed ports prevent anyone from the Internet connecting to your computer. But remember,  connections with  legitimate purposes will be forbidden as well. To resolve this issue, Dynamic Remote Port Forwarding (DRPF) is used. TUVPN.COM has enabled DRPF for both PPTP VPN and OpenVPN service. Basically, this means that every time you connect to a VPN server, it gives you certain ports that will be automatically redirected to your computer. Any Internet connection to one of these server ports will be immediately directed to your computer through the VPN. Forwarding an individual port still requires you to change where your program connects, telling it to use a non-standard port rather than the standard port. Read more in FAQs (http://www.tuvpn.com/faqs.php?ln=en#99).

Scanning Ports

If you are interested in ports issues, you can drill-down into the topic by using a free open source utility for network exploration Nmap ("Network Mapper"). Port scanning is the core function of Nmap. It was designed to rapidly scan large networks, but works fine against single hosts. Nmap runs on all major computer operating systems. The simple command

nmap <target>

scans 1,000 TCP ports on the host <target>. While many port scanners have traditionally ranged all ports into the open or closed status, Nmap range ports into six status: open, closed, filtered, unfiltered, open|filtered, or closed|filtered. The output from Nmap is a list of scanned targets, with supplemental information on each depending on the options used. A provided table lists the port number and protocol, service name, and state.

 

So, now you understand that incoming connection ports are the endpoint for communication via a network. The applications use the default ports until you configure the other ones. During VPN connection the default ports may need to be changed. TUVPN's personal VPN provides you a range of 5 ports to be used by your applications. With Business VPN services you can use as many ports as your working environment requires.


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TUVPN.COM Launches FIRST Server in Germany!

TUVPN News 1 Comment »

We promised it was coming….and now it's here!

 

TUVPN.COM is delighted to announce that it has launched a New VPN Server in Germany.

Server Address: erfurt.tuvpn.com

 

This is the latest addition to TUVPN's global VPN network.

The server comes packed with all the usual features: OpenVPNPPTP, and High Anonymity Proxy.

We also offer Dedicated IP VPN on this server.

All feature enhancements and network options are fully available except P2P support.

 

TUVPN.COM – the serious VPN network, where performance and customer care are the only things that matter. 

 

Team TUVPN.COM


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TUVPN.COM Launches a NEW Server in Amsterdam!

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TUVPN.COM is pleased to announce that it has activated a NEW VPN server in Amsterdam!
 This will be our THIRD server in the Netherlands.

 

TUVPN.COM customers get to enjoy the added CAPACITY and PERFORMANCE at not extra cost and without doing anything (load is automatically distributed between our three Amsterdam servers).

At TUVPN.COM we don't like complicated pricing schemes. Rather, we believe "One Size Fits All"

The Amsterdam servers come packed with all the usual features: OpenVPN, PPTP, and High Anonymity Proxy.

 

Later this week we will be launching our first server in Germany!

 

 

 

This will bring the TUVPN.COM Global Network of servers to 13 in 10 countries.

 

 

TUVPN.COM – the serious VPN network, where performance and customer care are the only things that matter.

 

Team TUVPN.COM


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Can VPNs provide better online security than Antivirus?

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Antivirus software provides limited protection of data. When data leaves from a users machine, it goes through numerous networks on the way to its final destination. This leaves the data completely vulnerable to theft, and could lead to man-in-the-middle attacks.

Often Antivirus software claims that it provides for the protection of data against online threats, but in reality once the data leaves from your computer to the open internet, it could be exposed to potential threats and attacks. It can easily be seen by third parties, stolen, collected, altered, stored or made to vanish by the use of sniffers, or any other intelligent techniques or software. Antivirus software provides no protection against such threats, with many complaints reported where user IDs are stolen, and bank accounts have been compromised despite the use of a good Antivirus solution.

The use of a reliable VPN service, along with the antivirus software installed on VPN servers, appears to provide much better results against online threats. A VPN service provides the additional layer of security which not only provides the secure tunnel between user and end destination over open internet, but it also transmits data in an encrypted format (128 or 256 bit encrytion methods). Further, the use of firewalls at a VPN server adds even more security for end-users by not only blocking many threats but also by hiding a users IP address. This makes it much more difficult for known threats to locate specific  machines, and provides protection from malware as malware cannot specifically target a known IP address.

In summary, it is clear that the use of a properly encrypted VPN service provides complete protection against online data threats. Your data is effectively protected from third parties who try to scan, sniff or steal your data packets.


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Why hot-spot security matters: A tale of a Money-Mule

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Not long ago, one of our team members attended a security conference in Amsterdam. He absorbed a lot of information, but was particularly impressed by a presentation about how money flows from stolen credit cards, bank accounts etc to criminal groups in Eastern Europe. This 'flow' seems to be in many directions and in large volumes we think!

We have been quite busy and couldn't give enough time to this tale, but finally and deservedly, here you have it.

 

Some time ago, we wrote a post about protecting public wireless connections using a VPN service :

http://blog.tuvpn.com/2010/01/why-do-i-need-a-vpn-3-protection-for-wifi-connections-hotels-airports/

 

As we already pointed out there, public wireless access to the Internet is becoming more and more ubiquitous and people is getting more and more used to being always connected whilst in airports, hotels, bars and a multitude of other public places. As already mentioned too, these new habits come with new risks. We no longer know about the networks that we are connecting to as these change all the time, are of different types over different technologies, and with different levels of security. This opens the door to new ways of  gathering and stealing information, as we clearly  pointed out in the aforementioned post (ref: fake access points).

 

All these new threats come from new, very specialised, organisations/entities that focus on gathering private financial information (bank account access details, credit cards etc) and using those to steal money. According to the security presentation, these criminal bodies are hierarchic, very well structured and professional organisations that operate throughout Europe, and possibly extend their reach worldwide.

 

We are not at all scaremongering but relaying very 'real world' facts about crimninal organisations and their modus operandi.

We will focus here on the sofisticated operations of one of these groups and how they managed to move very considerable amounts of money from Western Europe to Eastern Europe by using money mules, and simple yet very efficient procedures.

 

 

Obviously, the first step is to get the financial details from as many individuals as possible. This was outsourced to other global networks such as trojan creators, botnet sheperds, phishing masters, hot-spot crackers etc. These groups of self-employed techies have the technical resources to deploy their weapons, but not to monetize them, to convert this private sensitive information into real money. So in most cases, they package this information and resell it to other more specialised networks, like the one we are talking about in this example, who have the structure and resources to make good money out of it.

 

But how do they do it ?

 

We have to introduce here our friend the money mule. A money mule would typically be a low income individual with financial needs to cover and not many options to do it. Most importantly, he/she possesses a bank account.

 

In our example the money mule will be Jack.  A friend of Jack´s, or a friend of a friend of Jack ´s, or a friend of a friend of a friend of Jack´s has come to know a very easy way of making some good money through a reasonably low risk process.

Here it is:

 

  • Our money mule's shepherd does a large number (let's say a thousand) of transfers from stolen bank accounts to our Jacks´ bank accounts. Transfer amounts are never really big, so as not to create serious trouble for Jack (let's say €1000). So that would be €1 million  worth of transfers if we were to have a thousand Jacks.
  • Immediately after receiving the transfer, our 'Jacks' in Western Europe do a thousand transfers to some thousand Johns in Eastern Europe each for 950€. So our Jacks have made €50 just for doing a transfer to some John they have been told about. Not too bad.
  • Obviously, no sooner our Johns have got the money in their accounts, they all take the 950€ out of the account and the money mules shepherd happily collects €900 from each of them… giving away €50 more to the Johns.

 

So, all in all, €900,000 have made their way to our happy sheperd and it will be extremely difficult for the police to grab anyone related to it as they have two thousand low profile individuals that have received and processed small amounts of money while the real final target is unknown to all of them.

 

We would like to insist that this is a completely real world example that would be sharing  'the landscape' with, we assume, plenty of others.

 

It is in this context and environment that we insist on the importance of correctly protecting your communications from EVERYWHERE. Particularly when we rely on quasi permanent internet access through all types of wireless networks to do all kinds of operations  e.g buying stuff, checking bank accounts, reading corporate mail etc, and using a plethora of devices (laptops, netbooks, mobile phones, iPads …).

 

It is here where, as already explained, a VPN connection to a good VPN provider can show itself to be worth the few bucks we have spent on it. We don't have to worry any more about the security of the network we are connecting to. We are bringing in the security (in the form of encrypted communications) with us!!

 

We hope this has been helpful.


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Dedicated vs Shared IP VPN Services

VPN Types 7 Comments »

In this blog post we will examine another feature that differentiates VPN Servicesthe type of IP that you are assigned (dedicated or shared) and the advantages / disadvantages of each option.

 

What does a 'Dedicated IP VPN Service' mean? This type of service will map to your VPN account a dedicated IP address, that is, an IP address that is reserved just for you and your activities.

 

Now, what is a 'Shared IP VPN Service'? Here you are sharing the same IP (or a small set of IPs) with all the other VPN users of the VPN server your are connected to. So all the activities of all users seems to come from the same IP.
 

The biggest advantage of having a Dedicated IP (as the name implies) is that the IP will be used just by you. And now you would say, what are the advantages of this ? :

  • There is no risk of your IP being banned/blocked/blacklisted by any Internet service as some times can happen with Shared IP services.

  • All the ports are open to the Dedicated IP that you have been assigned. There is no need for Remote Port Forwarding as in Shared IP environments. Because you have one IP for yourself, all the connections to all the ports will be open for that Dedicated IP, so you can run any service that you want in that IP (a web server, remote access to your computer etc …).

  • Further, it is interesting if you want to offer a service as if it was provided from a given country but you have your server somewhere else e.g. you have a server in the USA and want to offer some Internet service as if your server was in Spain. You just get a VPN Dedicated IP Spanish service, set it up in your server and that's all.

 

So, why I would like to use a Shared service then? Well, there are also answers to this question :

  • Generally with a Dedicated IP service you just get access to a given VPN server in a given country i.e. if you buy an American Dedicated VPN Service, then you can just connect to a given American VPN server that will provide you with your assigned Dedicated IP. On the other hand, with a Shared IP VPN service (in general) you have access to a wider set of VPN servers worldwide that you can use. So if there is an issue with a particular server you can just move to the next.

  • Further, and very importantly, you get much much more anonymity using a Shared IP VPN Service. As your activities are mixed with the activities of hundreds or thousands of other users, then of course you become much more anonymous. So if you are concerned about privacy and anonymity online, a Shared IP VPN Service is a better option.

 

So in short, you need to be clear about which are your needs and priorities for a VPN service and then you will be able to easily decide on either of these two options.

 

We hope this has been helpful.


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Internet Censorship – The Creeping Threat

Internet Censorship No Comments »

The Internet has revolutionised the way we live, and with the passing of time we grow more and more dependant on its very existence. That it could spring up independently of governments and big business lead many to believe that the Internet could bring the world a new type of freedom. Now we have reason to think again……..

We send emails, blog, chat, do our banking, organise our travel, engage in social networks, enjoy numerous forms of entertainment…..the list is endless.

While we go about our lives on the Internet, we need to be conscious of the threats that exist, and take steps to protect among other things our identity, privacy and communications. VPN service providers play an important role in helping you protect your life on the Internet. We have discussed this in previous blog articles.

Beyond the sinister threat from individuals with criminal intent, we would like to explore in greater detail the growing threat to our Internet freedoms from government sponsored initiatives. Traditionally we have thought of countries such as China and Iran as examples of countries looking to block Internet freedoms from their citizens. But there is a creeping menace that is developing in so called liberal democracies.

There is clearly a role for responsible governments to play in protecting its citizens from harm. But we see a disturbing trend in how this mandate is being used to restrict individual freedoms on the Internet. And the main issue we see is not what is necessarily being targeted now by 'Internet filtering' systems, but how they will morph and be applied into the future……..who will hold the keys? what will be done with information gathered? where will it be stored? how secure is the storage?

 

In the United Kingdom, the Digital Economy Bill was rushed through parliament in the evening of the 10th of April 2010. Is remains only to be approved by the House of Lords. In short, it gives the government the power to force ISPs to block access to any sites its deems necessary, and block access of individuals to the Internet entirely. Cynically it could be argued that MPs have come under significant pressure from global media companies to push this legislation through. But the wider implications of this bill are frightening.

 

In Australia, the government recently said that it would pass laws to block access to some Websites. The prohibited material includes child pornography, bestiality, incest, graphic "high-impact" images of violence, anything promoting or providing instruction on crime or violence, detailed descriptions of the use of proscribed drugs, and how-to information on suicide by Websites supporting the right to die for the terminally or incurably ill. A poll in the Sydney Morning Herald showed 96% opposed, and 2% in support. This is obviously not a display of support for the list of prohibited sites, but a resounding condemnation of a system that threatens freedom of information and expression into the future.

Wikileaks reported a leaked list of sites supposed to be included in the Australian filtering scheme. They included online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia links etc.

 

In New Zealand, the government has quietly introduced an Internet filter and has been placing pressure on ISPs to implement its use. On the 1st of February 2010, the filter was reportedly turned on. David Zanetti, and spokesman for Tech Liberty made a very valid observation, "It establishes the principle that the government can choose to arbitrarily set up a new censorship scheme and choose which material to block, with no reference to existing law"

 

In the European Union, a Directive on 8 June 2000 about e-commerce revealed the first threat to freedom of expression, by making ISPs responsible for the content of websites they host and requiring them to block any page they consider illegal when informed of its existence. On the 29 of April 2004, the European Parliament approved the IPR Enforcement Directive. The Directive covers remedies available in cases of IPR breaches. Unfortunately, this directive has spawned new laws in member states that pose significant threats to Internet freedoms. As an example, Swedens IPRED law that went into effect on the 1st of April 2009, requires ISPs to store individual users traffic data. While not censorship, it perhaps points to a worrying EU direction on Internet freedoms.

 

The moment systems and laws are put in place to facilitate censorship, they sow the seeds for the eventual erosion of our human rights and individual freedoms. They will always be open to abuse and misapplication.

Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher that lived from 1748 – 1832. He said something that is as true today as the day he uttered these words;

"As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to measure it, for it is impossible to tell where it ends."

 

We would value your thoughts and updates on cases of Internet censorship.

 

TUVPN.COM Team


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