Why do I need a VPN? 3): “PROTECTION FOR WIFI CONNECTIONS (hotels, airports …)”

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In this post we'll start to see VPN Service applications that are not so well known but no less useful.

From our point of view, one of the most important applications delivered by our VPN service is the protection of communications over wireless networks (WiFi, WLANs, …).

With the proliferation of supply of wireless networks in hotels, airports, bars and countless other public places, and their increasing use by users of mobile devices (laptops, netbooks, PDAs, mobile phones …), the risks associated with use of such networks MUST to be considered.

Let us graphically show the risks associated with using public wireless networks:



Here we see two possible scenarios where our personal communications would be compromised. Let's look at each:


In this scenario, 'Bad Boy', uses a device (can be a simple notebook with the right software or equipment much more sophisticated) to capture our traffic while he is under the wireless antenna (wifi access point).

The degree to which our communication may be compromised in this scenario depends on the configuration of the wireless access point and the wireless protocol supported etc. You can imagine that wireless network security is not the main concern of the owner of a bar, hotel, restaurant etc.

In general we can say that it would not be very difficult for 'Bad Boy' to get passwords for access to our mail services, examine our chats, get passwords for online services


In this case, what has been created is a Fake Wireless Access Point. This attack is much more sophisticated and with much greater potential for harm.

For example; We're in a bar, we check if there is any wifi network and discover that we can connect to the WiFi network called 'TOM_BAR'. We assume that it´s the bar´s network. We access the wireless network and connect to our company´s webmail, our gmail, and to our bank.

With a set up like this, it is relatively easy to capture ALL our communications, even those protected by SSL (ie our bank) through a  man-in-the-middle attack (refer this link for more information on this; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-in-the-middle_attack).

You can easily understand how dangerous a scenario like this is to our privacy, and it is not difficult to implement.



Back to our graphical environment to see how a VPN service such as TUVPN.COM protects us against these scenarios:



As we can see, using a VPN service as we described in the post entitled PRIVACY, ANY traffic between our laptop and the VPN server (in this case Zurich) is encrypted.

This means that although 'Bad Boy' captures all the data he wants, he will not be able to ascertain its contents, because of the encryption offered by the VPN service.

Similarly, in the Fake Wireless Access Point scenario, the 'man-in-the-middle' cannot see anything more than an unintelligible string of zeros and ones because of the existing protections against such attackes within the VPN protocol.

We see that in this way we ensure privacy of your communications from ANY access place from which we connect to the Internet. You don't have to worry about your security, because YOU are providing your own security via use of a VPN service.



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Why do I need a VPN? 2): “PRIVACY”

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PRIVACY is the second key function of a VPN service.

What do we mean by PRIVACY and what are the differences compared with ANONYMITY?

In the previous post, when talking about anonymity, it was said that a VPN service protected our identity. That is, our IP. However, the fact that we are hiding our IP behind the VPN´s server IP DOES NOT in itself GUARANTEE that our communication cannot be intercepted and its contents examined (e.g by our ISP).

When using the real life example of the previous post i.e identity control when entering a building, it would be as if you enter the building and someone signs for you, BUT the guard at the door looks at you and recognizes you. Even if someone has signed for you, you´ve been reviewed and identified and obviously you can be kicked out.

Let´s see how a VPN provides PRIVACY :


As we can see, ALL TRAFFIC (emails, browsing, MSN / IM, Bittorrent / File Sharing, Skype / VoIP, online gaming etc..) we generate is ENCRYPTED between our computer and the VPN node to which we have connected (in this instance the Zurich server).

As an example, if we are John and live in Spain and we are connected to the vpn node of Zurich, because NOBODY BETWEEN SPAIN AND SWITZERLAND can examine our communication, nobody has any idea of its contents. This would make John very happy in the event that he felt his Internet access provider (ISP) was snooping on his communications.

Using the example again of entering a building, it would be as if your friend signed you in, and you were wearing an invisible cloak so the security guard could not see you. You need to use a little imagination now in this example!

We hope you understood. We accept any questions!

Because this post is becoming too long, the pros and cons of TOR compared to a VPN service will be left to the next post! We promise it is going to be very interesting. :D

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Why do I need a VPN? 1): “ANONYMITY”

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One of the two main uses of a VPN service is to provide ANONYMITY. The other is the provision of PRIVACY, which will be discussed in a separate post.

What do we mean by anonymity? Well, basically, to protect your virtual ID, i.e. your IP (Internet Protocol Address).

Everything is identifiable on the Internet through unique IP addresses. A VPN service hides your IP using one or more IPs belonging to the VPN service provider. Let's see it in a graphical way:

As we can see, with normal access to the Internet, most Web sites to which we connect receive a "signed" connection with your personal IP. This would mean in the real world that you would sign up at the entrance of any building you visit, show your ID, date and signature and off you go into the building! Maybe this is not something you want to do permanently, and everywhere!

In contrast, accessing the Internet through a VPN service such as TUVPN.COM, your identity, that is your IP, is hidden by the IP of the VPN server you have connected through (in the graphical example, Zurich the example of the real world, it's like someone signing for you at the door of the building and you get to enter the building.

The innocent question that many people ask is:

If I have nothing to hide why do I want to be anonymous on the Internet?.

The answer is that one does not need to be a criminal (as many people would want us to believe), for wanting to preserve his or her anonymity on the Internet. Some reasons:

  • Anonymous blogging –  understanding that your points of view can compromise you for work, religious, or cultural reasons.
  • Anonymous Instant messaging – for the same reasons.
  • Facilitate freedom of speech.
  • Avoid the risk that web pages we visit collect and trade our profiles and online behaviours.
  • Avoid the risk that web pages we visit gather private information during our connection ( your geographical location, operating system, type of browser, ISP, browser history…).
  • Anonymous email.
  • Geographical restrictions while travelling (content blocked by IP).

Once introduced to the concept of ANONYMITY and how it can be achieved through a VPN service, the more advanced reader will ask themselves the following question:

What is the difference between a VPN and a web proxy service / anonymous proxy?

Basically, and usually, a proxy ONLY anonymizes HTTP traffic (ie navigation). On the other hand a VPN service anonymizes ALL OUR Internet traffic, be it browsing, instant messaging, P2P, emails, IP voice mail etc. That is, a VPN service offers COMPLETE ANONYMITY without having to worry about the kind of traffic we generate on the Internet.

Finally, for expert readers (if any have had the patience to get here!), can ask another question:

Why not use TOR for anonymity and privacy online, which is also free?

This is a very good question to answer thoroughly in our next post on PRIVACY. Do not miss it!

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