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Here’s Why You Need A VPN — And Which One To Choose

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Whether you are a tin foil hat wearing cyber security aficionado or not, it’s a sad but true fact that our privacy is in danger. Even when surfing the web, data is collected in droves by big brands people used to trust. Add to this the internet blocks being introduced even in western nations, and people are realizing the need to actively protect their own privacy.

Last week, when the UK government announced porn users would have to enter their details to be age verified from 15 July this year – signalling a potential privacy disaster – people all over the nation started showing more interest in virtual private networks (VPNs).

A VPN works by allowing you to browse privately and securely, encrypting your data and hiding your location. But not all VPNs are built the same. You need, for example, to be wary when a service is free and of course a VPN that logs your data is a definite no.

Set against a backdrop of increasing internet surveillance, data breaches and insecure public Wi-Fi, VPNs are an essential tool. Here is a useful guide including what to look out for and what to avoid when choosing a VPN, with some options to consider.

Some VPNs log data

VPNs that log data defeat the point of having one at all.

“One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a VPN is security,” Ariel Hochstadt, co-founder of vpnMentor tells me. “A VPN that logs your data is not safe to use. You need to ensure you’re picking a reliable no-log VPN so that your data won’t be susceptible to leaks and attacks.”

And most of the data logged is totally uncalled for: Free VPNs such as Hola know the websites you visit; how much time you spend on those pages; and timestamps. Meanwhile, they might sell your data to their partners.

Trust and security

Trust is important. “Generally, you have to trust your VPN provider with your traffic more than you trust your network,” says Jerry Gamblin, principal security engineer at Kenna Security.  

He thinks large commercial VPN providers, such as NordVPN or Private Internet Access (PIA), are best, because they are “invested in making sure that your traffic is delivered safely and quickly”.

“I have used PIA in the past, but due to some sites filtering those IP addresses, I have moved to building my own VPN server.”

Can VPNs be hacked? Yes, but it’s not easy: VPN Base says it’s best to avoid PPTP or L2TP/IPSec protocols; instead use only the latest versions of the OpenVPN protocol, which is considered to be extremely secure. “In terms of encryption, make sure your VPN provider offers 2048-bit or 256-bit encryption as they are harder to crack,” the site reads. “Rest assured, if anyone ever tries to hack you, these protocols and encryptions will be a real nightmare.”

Speed

VPNs by their nature can be slow, because they work by encrypting your data and sending it to another server. To avoid this, Hochstadt recommends choosing a server in your own country: of course, the further your data has to travel, the slower the connection will be. Other features such as server network size, encryption, censorship, and torrenting should also be taken into account, he says.

The fastest VPNs are ExpressVPN, Surfshark, NordVPN and CyberGhost, according Hochstadt, who has tested 300 VPNs.

Government surveillance

Some VPNs will be located in countries with governments that allow their surveillance agencies to spy. For the highest level of anonymity, it’s a good idea to use a provider located outside of the “14-eyes” jurisdiction.

14-eyes is a list of countries that allow surveillance agencies to spy on people. Members include the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Where you can use them                 

Some people find their VPN is blocked in airports or hotels. At the same time, nations such as China ban or control VPN use. However, VPNs are made to bypass restrictions and make your connection anonymousis, so a good product should work anywhere.

Five VPNs to consider 

Here are five highly rated VPNs that don’t log your data:

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN, which comes highly rated by users and reviewers, works on devices including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux and routers. Based in the British Virgin Islands, it costs around $6.67 a month if you take out a 12-month plan. With a network of more than 2,000 servers in 94 countries, Express offers top notch coverage in Europe and the US. It also works pretty well in Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. It uses its own DNS servers and employs high end encryption tech to ensure your security and privacy.

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN offers a truly free VPN but there are sacrifices to make if you don’t want to pay: The free version only allows you to connect one device at a time and speeds are slower. But there are paid for versions starting at $4 per month going up to $24 for 10 connected devices. Proton is also a trustworthy brand: most of you will be familiar with the highly-secure ProtonMail used by journalists and activists. Developed by CERN and MIT scientists, Proton doesn’t log your data so it’s never revealed to third parties.

Surfshark

A newcomer to the VPN market, Surfshark is quickly gaining popularity. It’s easy to see why. With over 500 servers in 50 countries, the VPN claims it is fast; it doesn’t collect logs and it allows you to connect as many devices as you like. Costing $11.95 a month and with discounts for multiple months, Surfshark offers Windows, Mac, iOS and Android apps and there’s 24/7 support if things go wrong.

Private Internet Access (PIA)

With over 3,300 servers in 32 countries PIA offers apps for Mac, Android, Windows, iOS and Linux, and browser extensions for Firefox, Opera and Chrome. Costing $9.95 a month, PIA blocks ads, trackers and malicious websites. It uses OpenVPN on desktop and mobile devices, making it a highly secure and trustworthy option whatever you want it for.

NordVPN

Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN is a big provider. Available on Windows, MacOS and Linux – and with apps for iOS, Android, and Android TV and encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox – NordVPN allows you to connect up to six devices. It’s also fast, with 5,100 servers in 60 countries and a one month plan for around $12.

Three more to consider

The following come highly rated by users:

Cyberghost VPNFreedome by FSecureand IPVanish.

Which one should you choose?

Making a final decision will depend on your technical expertise, what you want to use a VPN for and where you want to use it. Personally, I use ExpressVPN but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Proton is super-trustworthy and PIA also comes very highly-regarded. There are of course, VPNs to avoid, but hopefully by using this article plus a little research, you will feel confident in making the decision.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2019/04/19/heres-why-you-need-a-vpn-and-which-one-to-choose/#6b9808623c9d

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Security

Bluetooth Flaw Lets Hackers Track Windows, macOS and iOS Devices

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Bluetooth is found in nearly every modern gadget, which is why a newly discovered flaw in the communication protocol should be taken very seriously.

As ZDNet first reported, David Starobinski and Johannes Becker of Boston University outlined in a research paper how smartphones, laptops and wearables can be tracked through an exploit in Bluetooth technology.

According to the document, there is a flaw in the constantly changing, randomized MAC addresses that are designed to keep Bluetooth devices safe from tracking. This security approach could play into the hand of a bad actor, allowing them not only to track a device but also to gain information about its identity as well as user activity.

“The address-carryover algorithm exploits the asynchronous nature of address and payload change, and uses unchanged identifying tokens in the payload to trace a new incoming random address back to a known device,” the paper reads. “In doing so, the address-carryover algorithm neutralizes the goal of anonymity in broadcasting channels intended by frequent address randomization.”

Perhaps most frightening is that this algorithm doesn’t do any decrypting and is based completely on public, unencrypted advertising traffic, according to the paper. Also concerning is that the exploit was tested on the Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) specification, which is found in the latest Bluetooth 5 standard.

The exploit supposedly works on Windows 10, iOS and macOS devices, which includes iPhones, Surface devices and MacBooks. Android devices advertise their traffic in a completely different way (by scanning for nearby advertising; there is no active, continuous tracking) and are immune to the vulnerability.

Researchers who discovered the Bluetooth flaw listed several rules that could protect affected devices, the crux of which is to synchronize any changes to tracking information with changes to a device’s MAC address. Switching Bluetooth on and off on iOS and macOS devices (sorry Windows users, this won’t help you) is a temporary workaround, but it’s up to manufacturers to push out a more permanent solution. However, the Bluetooth exploit was first disclosed to Microsoft and Apple in November of 2018, suggesting it’s not a high priority to those companies. 

“As Bluetooth adoption is projected to grow from 4.2 to 5.2 billion devices between 2019 and 2022, with over half a billion amongst them wearables and other data-focused connected devices, establishing tracking-resistant methods, especially on unencrypted communication channels, is of paramount importance,” the paper reads.

Although no known cases were cited, researchers warn that if the BLE vulnerability remains unchecked, adversaries could eventually combine purchase transactions, facial recognition and other sensitive info with tracking data to create a profile of an exposed user. 

Source: https://www.tomsguide.com/news/bluetooth-flaw-lets-hackers-track-windows-macos-and-ios-devices

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Security

25 million Android devices hijacked by ‘Agent Smith’ malware

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Agent Smith has taken over more than 25 million Android devices in newly found malware that is rampant

Some new information has come out of some security researchers, according to the researchers a new form of malware called ‘Agent Smith’ has hijacked over 25 million Android units.     The security firm called Check Point has recently released a new press release that details the malware, saying that once the malware is installed it begins to look for common apps and replace them with malicious versions of them. The apps that are infected by Agent Smith begin to display crooked ads designed for financial manipulation and gain.   According to Check Point’s Head of Mobile Threat Detection Research, Jonathan Shimonovich, “The malware attacks user-installed applications silently, making it challenging for common Android users to combat such threats on their own.” At the moment, most of the infected devices are located in India and surrounding counters, as the malware is distributed through 9Apps which as third-party app store that is popular within those countries.     The origins of the malware have been linked back to China, and according to the security researchers the developers attempted to get some infected apps on the Google Play Store and actually successfully managed to get 11 apps on there. Since the discovery of Agent Smith, Google has removed these apps.   Jonathan Shimonovich gave a statement on the malware, saying “This application was as malicious as they come. Combining advanced threat prevention and threat intelligence while adopting a ‘hygiene first’ approach to safeguard digital assets is the best protection against invasive mobile malware attacks like Agent Smith. In addition, users should only be downloading apps from trusted app stores to mitigate the risk of infection as third-party app stores often lack the security measures required to block adware loaded apps.”

Read more: https://www.tweaktown.com/news/66572/25-million-android-devices-hijacked-agent-smith-malware/index.html

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Security

Microsoft adds new ‘passwordless’ sign-in option with latest Windows 10 20H1 test build

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Microsoft is continuing to roll out new Windows 10 20H1 test builds with incremental new features regularly. On July 10, the company delivered Windows 10 Build 18936 to 20H1 testers in the Fast Ring

Today’s test build adds a new “Make your device passwordless” sign-in option in Settings. By going to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options and turning on the passwordless option, users will switch all Microsoft accounts on that Windows 10 device to use Windows Hello Face, Fingerprint, or PIN only. As Microsoft notes in its post on today’s test build, this feature is rolling out to a “small portion” of Insiders and will go to more within a week. 

Speaking of passwordless, Microsoft also made available today a public preview of FIDO2 security keys support in Azure Active Directory, which means users can try out the ability to deliver at scale FIDO2 security keys authenticating a user on a Windows 10 Azure Active Directory-joined device.  

Today’s build also adds a new option to create a quick event from the Taskbar by clicking on the date in the taskbar. Users will see a calendar flyout so they can pick their desired date and set a time and location more quickly this way. 

Microsoft also is expanding the availability of the phone screen feature in its Your Phone companion app to more PCs. This feature will be available on Surface Laptop and Laptop 2; Surface Pro 4, 5 and 6; Surface Book and Surface Book 2 starting with Build 18936. 

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-adds-new-passwordless-sign-in-option-with-latest-windows-10-20h1-test-build/

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