Do you use a VPN?

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Tenesmus83
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Do you use a VPN?

Post by Tenesmus83 »

I've never used one but it appears to have some utility. I'm curious why others use a VPN.
123
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by 123 »

I've been considering one as well. I'd like to know what problems in day-to-day activity users have. Do you ever get the sense that websites are still able to identify you by other means, like browser fingerprinting?
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Marseille07
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Marseille07 »

Some financial institutions restrict access outside of the US. When one's traveling abroad, a VPN could be handy.
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Cheez-It Guy
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Cheez-It Guy »

Not currently, but I have in the past (when I had a free subscription).
bob60014
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by bob60014 »

I use one. One issue is that some financial and other services will reject the usual login and will send a text or email to verify my identity. In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor inconvenience.
Dakotah
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Dakotah »

It depends on your reason for using one. If you're hoping to increase your security/privacy while surfing and doing your day-to-day internet activities...the benefit is questionable at best. You are simply exchanging one current threat (your ISP/threats on your network) for a different threat (your VPN provider). The ubiquitous nature of HTTPS nowadays makes VPN usage even less necessary than in years past.

If you are hoping to bypass geographic restrictions in order to access a service/website...it may be of use, or it may not...it just depends on how diligent the target service is at blocking known VPN endpoints.

The primary usage for VPN nowadays is to remotely and securely access a private network. Your employers network or resources on your home's network, for example.
sandan
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by sandan »

Primarily to watch sporting events.
Yarlonkol12
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Yarlonkol12 »

My devices are setup to VPN into my home network when I am away outside of my house, the main reason I do this is so that I don't need to be concerned about using unsecured WiFi networks while I am traveling. Secondary reasons: I like being able to use my pihole at home for DNS + sometimes I need to be able to access devices on my home lan

However I would never use a paid VPN service offered by a third party, I would never trust such a service. Exceptions being places of employment, or other known entities you have a reason to trust.

In the past I have used public cloud providers to self-host my own VPN service, I would feel better doing that then using a 3rd party managed solution
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TECHCON
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by TECHCON »

sandan wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:53 am Primarily to watch sporting events.
+2 For watching sporting events
gtd98765
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by gtd98765 »

NYT wrote about this issue last fall: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/06/tech ... Position=4
The reality is that web security has improved so much in the last few years that VPN services, which charge monthly subscription fees that cost as much as Netflix, offer superfluous protection for most people concerned about privacy, some security researchers said.
Church Lady
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Church Lady »

The Opera browser provides a free VPN, so I use it.
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YoungSisyphus
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by YoungSisyphus »

Yes.

I really love Proton (both as a VPN service and suite of privacy focused applications). Their annual fee is incredibly reasonable, you get a great VPN, great encrypted email service with customizable domain name, and new features - like encrypted calendar and Dropbox alternative.

I’ve liked their CEO’s vision and changes over the last couple months.
hoofaman
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by hoofaman »

For those who use a VPN while at home to access the internet, why do you do this?
hoofaman
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by hoofaman »

Church Lady wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:56 pm The Opera browser provides a free VPN, so I use it.
I'm not familiar with that offering, but if it's just the browser, what is the benefit to you? I am assuming all of your DNS queries are still sent out clear
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by YoungSisyphus »

hoofaman wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:13 pm For those who use a VPN while at home to access the internet, why do you do this?
Because I prefer to route my traffic through a VPN vs my ISP seeing everything I do.

Also because many times privacy focused addons break your internet experience, where I haven’t had as much problems on a VPN.

Because changing geographies can be advantageous depending on where I browse. I often use a German VPN and websites tend to give me more privacy options on cookies than if I browse directly from the US - I am a fan of GDPR. Product offers and availability can be limited depending on where you are (pricing and streaming services).

I’d prefer to keep the profile of ‘me’ less defined than every single company online that is trying to get their hooks into my online patterns - browser or otherwise.

It’s also at times fun to see what different countries are targeted for from an advertising perspective.

And probably most simply: because I think privacy is important.
tibbitts
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by tibbitts »

Tenesmus83 wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:19 am I've never used one but it appears to have some utility. I'm curious why others use a VPN.
What "utility" are you referring to that you believe a VPN would provide? I've used one provided by work, for work, but haven't seen a use for one otherwise. However I haven't accessed any sites recently from outside the U.S. or Canada so that might be a consideration, depending on how the VPN is implemented. And I'm not very privacy-oriented.
heywhoathere
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by heywhoathere »

As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.

So no, I don't use one.
typical.investor
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by typical.investor »

Marseille07 wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:31 am Some financial institutions restrict access outside of the US. When one's traveling abroad, a VPN could be handy.
And grocery stores, the ObamaCare marketplace, steaming content providers, and various local govt. sites related to voting or even information on things like State protection when an insurer fails (annuity protection). Some educational services like proxy tests providers or test prep occasionally have location detection too.

Live TV (Hulu Google TV etc) always can tell where you are as they require location services in your browser. Maybe sports watchers set it up locally and they switch. I was never able to get anything working from overseas. Well I did get Google TV for a while but can’t anymore.

I learned this living overseas while a dependent minor was in the States.

Many places such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are good at detecting VPNs. It’s cat and mouse if your VPN actively pursued a work around to detection.

I prefer not to use VPN as it’s another layer that can fail and you have to diagnose it (or just routinely reset your VPN connection if internet fails. If it’s automatically trying to connect to a server that is down, you might get hung- it happens … not a big deal but how savy are your family members). But for us it’s a must have and use on multiple computers everyday.

You can simlify it but putting the VPN on a router but that isn’t the easiest if you need to toggle countries.

I pay for NORDVPN and found their customer service to be good.
Marseille07
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Marseille07 »

typical.investor wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:07 pm
Marseille07 wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:31 am Some financial institutions restrict access outside of the US. When one's traveling abroad, a VPN could be handy.
And grocery stores, the ObamaCare marketplace, steaming content providers, and various local govt. sites related to voting or even information on things like State protection when an insurer fails (annuity protection). Some educational services like proxy tests providers or test prep occasionally have location detection too.

Live TV (Hulu Google TV etc) always can tell where you are as they require location services in your browser. Maybe sports watchers set it up locally and they switch. I was never able to get anything working from overseas. Well I did get Google TV for a while but can’t anymore.

I learned this living overseas while a dependent minor was in the States.

Many places such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are good at detecting VPNs. It’s cat and mouse if your VPN actively pursued a work around to detection.

I prefer not to use VPN as it’s another layer that can fail and you have to diagnose it (or just routinely reset your VPN connection if internet fails. If it’s automatically trying to connect to a server that is down, you might get hung- it happens … not a big deal but how savy are your family members). But for us it’s a must have and use on multiple computers everyday.

You can simlify it but putting the VPN on a router but that isn’t the easiest if you need to toggle countries.

I pay for NORDVPN and found their customer service to be good.
Right. I never fully understood the use case for watching sports. I watch European soccer but I just pay $6/mo for CBS Paramount+; the quality is good and I don't need to jump through hoops.

I haven't tried Netflix / ObamaCare etc etc from abroad, good to know that I might have to use VPN though :beer
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roamingzebra
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

typical.investor wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:07 pm
I prefer not to use VPN as it’s another layer that can fail and you have to diagnose it (or just routinely reset your VPN connection if internet fails. If it’s automatically trying to connect to a server that is down, you might get hung- it happens … not a big deal but how savy are your family members). But for us it’s a must have and use on multiple computers everyday.
I don't think there is a technical reason for the following, but before I started using a VPN, my internet service would go down multiple times a year. Since using a VPN exclusively (for four or five years), there has not been a single day where I have not had internet service. Sometimes a particular VPN server will get flaky and I just go to another one, but I always have VPN service.

As I understand it, if my primary internet service went down, so would the VPNs, so this unbroken run of good internet service is just coincidental with my use of a VPN. But it's an interesting coincidence anyway.
oldlongbeard
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by oldlongbeard »

YoungSisyphus wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:00 pm Yes.

I really love Proton (both as a VPN service and suite of privacy focused applications). Their annual fee is incredibly reasonable, you get a great VPN, great encrypted email service with customizable domain name, and new features - like encrypted calendar and Dropbox alternative.

I’ve liked their CEO’s vision and changes over the last couple months.
I concur.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by LadyGeek »

Discussions of dishonest behavior or bypassing the law is totally unacceptable. I removed a post which used a VPN to bypass the terms of service for viewing out-of-market sporting events.
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gips
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by gips »

heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.

So no, I don't use one.
I was a CTO so have more than a basic understanding of networking and security but I'm not a cybersecurity expert. I thought the reason to use a vpn was to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks?

best,
heywhoathere
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by heywhoathere »

roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:42 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
Does a VPN provider not fit your definition of a "corporation"? They see the same exact information that your ISP would see if you turned your VPN off. They can claim in their terms of service that they don't collect or sell your data, but you don't really know if that's true do you? If you don't trust your ISP with your information, why would you trust a VPN provider instead?

What specific risks are you trying to mitigate? How does using a VPN mitigate those risks?
gips wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:17 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.

So no, I don't use one.
I was a CTO so have more than a basic understanding of networking and security but I'm not a cybersecurity expert. I thought the reason to use a vpn was to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks?

best,
All modern browsers will redirect you to a big warning page if a possible man in the middle attack is detected due to the would-be attackers TLS certificate being invalid/untrusted. In order for that kind of attack to work, the attacker needs to have access to your device in order to install their certificate into your trusted CA store. And if someone has that kind of access to your device you're done for anyway.

Now if someone wants to click through the warning page and continue on with their business, that's their decision. I've certainly seen end-user do crazier things :)
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by gips »

heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:27 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:42 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
Does a VPN provider not fit your definition of a "corporation"? They see the same exact information that your ISP would see if you turned your VPN off. They can claim in their terms of service that they don't collect or sell your data, but you don't really know if that's true do you? If you don't trust your ISP with your information, why would you trust a VPN provider instead?

What specific risks are you trying to mitigate? How does using a VPN mitigate those risks?
gips wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:17 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.

So no, I don't use one.
I was a CTO so have more than a basic understanding of networking and security but I'm not a cybersecurity expert. I thought the reason to use a vpn was to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks?

best,
All modern browsers will redirect you to a big warning page if a possible man in the middle attack is detected due to the would-be attackers TLS certificate being invalid/untrusted. In order for that kind of attack to work, the attacker needs to have access to your device in order to install their certificate into your trusted CA store. And if someone has that kind of access to your device you're done for anyway.

Now if someone wants to click through the warning page and continue on with their business, that's their decision. I've certainly seen end-user do crazier things :)
thanks, I thought the use case was I'm sitting in a coffee shop and the ssid of their router is "blackcowcoffee", hacker sets up a nearby router with an ssid of "blackcowcoffee2", I connect to the hacker's router, can't they see all my unencrypted traffic? haven't there been cases where encrypted traffic has been hacked?
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rob
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by rob »

roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:42 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
I think you should be careful of unrealistic expectations... Any VPN is not doing what you expect based on this discussion.... Might also want to look at what browser history is about also.....
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Church Lady
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Church Lady »

hoofaman wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:15 pm
Church Lady wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:56 pm The Opera browser provides a free VPN, so I use it.
I'm not familiar with that offering, but if it's just the browser, what is the benefit to you? I am assuming all of your DNS queries are still sent out clear
I assume all my DNS activity, or at least the activity my ISP is interested in tracking and selling, is through the browser and therefore through the VPN. If you know something else, do tell!
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heywhoathere
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by heywhoathere »

gips wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:38 pm
thanks, I thought the use case was I'm sitting in a coffee shop and the ssid of their router is "blackcowcoffee", hacker sets up a nearby router with an ssid of "blackcowcoffee2", I connect to the hacker's router, can't they see all my unencrypted traffic?
Sure, but that's with the assumption that any of your traffic is unencrypted in the first place. I would wager a large sum of money that every website you visit on a day-to-day basis supports HTTPS, and in fact immediately redirects you to HTTPS if you try and connect over HTTP.
gips wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:38 pm
haven't there been cases where encrypted traffic has been hacked?
As with any protocol, TLS has had vulnerabilities disclosed over the years and fixed (Heartbleed being the one most people have probably heard of). In general, the entire internet is relying on the assumption that TLS hasn't been broken, so I don't think it's really something that people need to worry about. If someone actually "breaks" TLS, they're probably a nation-state equivalent group and aren't going to waste that on Joe Schmoe in a coffee shop.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by kramer »

I live abroad and I am not sure it's worth it. I pay about $100 per year and I was just thinking about it because my subscription will renew this week.

I use VPN for my US subscription Netflix so that I can access the US version of the films they offer. I have used the Mexico VPN to access a free movie site there to complete a class assignment. And I recall using another country VPN to access my bank account there.

There are lots of small things I use it for, like accessing certain YouTube videos and other small things (certain articles) that are for some reason not accessible in my current country location (you probably don't notice this when you are in the US).

I also use it sometimes for logging in to my US financial accounts, but I have noticed that when you use a VPN, they are way stricter on the 2 factor authentication, they often don't recognize that you are accessing from the same machine as before (even though you are using the same VPN city site).
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Cunobelinus »

For consideration:
1) A self-hosted VPN (perhaps on home network via a RasperryPi or via VPS) that runs pihole, which reduces the advertisements served to your devices. This reduces the amount of bandwidth a mobile device uses, as well as results in objectively faster pageloads while on said mobile device. I started doing this so that I also had access to home network resources from my phone or computer when I was outside my home network. This was purely for convenience, but I really liked that mobile apps had ads and junkware stripped out via pihole.

2) A router-based firewall (e.g., pfSense) with filtering to again reduce the junk (advertisements AND malware) inherent in internet-connected software these days, either via mobile apps or web-based apps. Provides services to all devices on your home LAN, if you wish. You have to start with minimal filtering and slowly add more filters in, so that things like the Amazon Echos still work.

3) A commercial VPN that does this filtering for you which can provide a turnkey solution for both cases above. I'm familiar with ProtonVPN for this.

I have been using various combinations of all three for a few years, both while based in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. I'd like to think that my banks have recognized that I use a particular VPN for connecting and have a history of it, so they're less suspicious when I attempt to login from a VPN connection. I've never had an issue using a VPN with banking websites or e-mail. I use 2FA whenever possible.

Using a VPN with an appearance of being from the U.S. did permit me to use GoogleFi overseas for an extended period of time. I don't know how strict they are about monitoring that, so my experience may not be unique.

I started my VPN journey from a hobbyist perspective, looking at ways to reduce or obfuscate my digital footprint. Using a VPS to self-host a VPN just redirects all traffic to that location, and doesn't really change much from a security/privacy perspective (my opinion) -- maybe there's some value in a linux-based firewall on a VPS dropping malicious connection requests. Using a DNS-level blocker, like pihole, makes using the internet substantially better though -- there's less junk displayed on webpages and thus they load faster.

Disclaimer -- my default setting is to keep javascript disabled for all websites on my computers. That's the kind of person I am. Most websites that I care to visit work just fine without javascript enabled (including this website). I'll turn it on for specific websites as needed.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

rob wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 7:41 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:42 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
I think you should be careful of unrealistic expectations... Any VPN is not doing what you expect based on this discussion.... Might also want to look at what browser history is about also.....
I think my VPN is doing exactly what I expect.

There are some things that one needs to tweak, however, depending on the VPN provider.

For example, for awhile I was experiencing some DNS leakage. (Many if not most VPNs provide a way of testing that.) I found what the issue was and corrected it.

Also, as you are mentioning browser history, I imagine you are speaking of the evolution of http to https. Yes, that was a big jump forward in privacy, but some domain names still are giveaways in terms of what they're about. With the VPN, neither my ISP nor VPN provider know what sites/domains I visit. The latter is because I purchase my VPN via cash or more specifically a gift card paid for with cash. [EDIT: For clarity, I mean to say although the VPN provider knows what sites I am visiting, it doesn't know who I am. ]

So again, I find I get great privacy bang for the buck.

Obviously, this is not the end-all be-all for privacy. But for online privacy on the web, it's one of the most obvious steps to take.
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Cosmo
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Cosmo »

Dakotah wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:48 am It depends on your reason for using one. If you're hoping to increase your security/privacy while surfing and doing your day-to-day internet activities...the benefit is questionable at best. You are simply exchanging one current threat (your ISP/threats on your network) for a different threat (your VPN provider). The ubiquitous nature of HTTPS nowadays makes VPN usage even less necessary than in years past.

If you are hoping to bypass geographic restrictions in order to access a service/website...it may be of use, or it may not...it just depends on how diligent the target service is at blocking known VPN endpoints.

The primary usage for VPN nowadays is to remotely and securely access a private network. Your employers network or resources on your home's network, for example.
^This
Cunobelinus
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Cunobelinus »

Security and privacy, like ogres, are like onions. Using a VPN can make you a slightly harder target. It can provide you a little bit more security. But one should not rely on one thing to provide complete protection. Just because you’re a very safe driver doesn’t mean you won’t get crashed into by someone else.

I recall we were able to use our Netflix subscription via VPN while overseas. That isn’t a primary concern for me, but my partner appreciated it. They didn’t see a reason for a VPN till then.

Some countries don’t have the same standards of security and privacy as your home country. A VPN can help there. I wouldnt access certain personal websites from certain other countries, as I’m certain all traffic may be monitored.
OnTrack
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by OnTrack »

In 2017, a US federal law was passed preventing privacy rules that were passed in 2016 from coming into effect which prevented internet providers from selling their browsing data.

See the document: A Look at What ISPs Know About You: A must-read report from the FTC
https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/b ... report-ftc

Some info from the study:
- First, many of the ISPs in our study have access to 100% of consumers’ unencrypted internet traffic. ... even with encryption, many ISPs in our study continue to store the IP addresses that their customers access and thereby collect the domain names of the websites they visit.
- Second, several of the ISPs in our study are able to verify and know the identity of their subscribers. At least two of the ISPs in our study associated consumers’ account information with information about their web browsing history, app usage, information about other ISP products and services, characteristics, behaviors, habits, and/or location. This gives some of the ISPs in our study and their affiliates certainty about their subscribers.
- Third, a significant number of the ISPs in our study can track consumers persistently across websites and geographic locations.
- The findings from our report show that many of the ISPs in our study amass large pools of sensitive data, and that their uses of such data could lead to significant harms ...
- Finally, in terms of breadth and scope, as noted above, several ISPs in our study have the capability to combine the browsing and viewing history that they obtain from their subscribers with the large amounts of information they obtain from the broad range of vertically integrated products, services, and features that they offer.
NYCaviator
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by NYCaviator »

Most websites (this one included) have encryption now, so the traffic between your computer and the website are encrypted. Apple products with iCloud also have a built in VPN like service that masks your IP. It helps prevent tracking. Unless you were trying to get around geographical barriers (like trying to access the Internet when traveling in China), VPNs offer little utility.

The claims about enhancing security and privacy are pretty overblown.
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sperry8
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by sperry8 »

Marseille07 wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 10:31 am Some financial institutions restrict access outside of the US. When one's traveling abroad, a VPN could be handy.
Exactly why I use it. And Vanguard is one of those institutions. When attempting to log on from a holiday in Thailand VG blocked me. VPN allowed me to get in
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OnTrack
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by OnTrack »

A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.

As far as not needing a VPN because it is included in a browser or a service such as iCloud, then maybe you don't need a separate VPN because you already have one (or the equivalent).
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Chuckles960 »

roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:52 pmI don't think there is a technical reason for the following, but before I started using a VPN, my internet service would go down multiple times a year. Since using a VPN exclusively (for four or five years), there has not been a single day where I have not had internet service...
A possible "technical reason" is that your internet service did not go down but your nameserver did. To connect to the VPN you would not need the nameserver, and once connected you would use a different nameserver.
RetiredAL
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by RetiredAL »

Chuckles960 wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 2:07 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:52 pmI don't think there is a technical reason for the following, but before I started using a VPN, my internet service would go down multiple times a year. Since using a VPN exclusively (for four or five years), there has not been a single day where I have not had internet service...
A possible "technical reason" is that your internet service did not go down but your nameserver did. To connect to the VPN you would not need the nameserver, and once connected you would use a different nameserver.
+1

Years ago, I set my DNS to include a second server due to drop-outs. Neither are my ISP's DNS.

I use FireFox and it now has an internal HTTPS DNS function which means it usually does not use the regular Windows DNS.

Whoever you get your regular DNS from can always see what addresses you are requesting and by that infer who you are connecting to.
roamingzebra
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:48 pm A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.
Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
candb
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by candb »

roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:03 pm
OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:48 pm A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.
Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
So you just decide to give all that information to the VPN provider instead?
roamingzebra
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

candb wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:13 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:03 pm
OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:48 pm A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.
Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
So you just decide to give all that information to the VPN provider instead?
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.

Some VPN providers accept cash through the mail (not something I'd do) and some except cryptocurrency. I know nothing about the latter, but from what I gather, it allows anonymity.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Northern Flicker »

roamingzebra wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 6:42 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:52 pm As someone who has worked in cybersecurity, I've yet to hear any convincing arguments that a personal VPN for internet-browsing has any impact on privacy/security. Obfuscating your geolocation is the only "legitimate" use that I can think of.
One's browsing history contains personal and private information about an individual. Speaking for myself, I don't want any corporation or government (democracy or autocracy) to have information that, at best, is none of their business, at middle, can be used to annoy me with unsolicited solicitations, and at worst, can be used against me. That's kind of the definition of privacy. By using a VPN that I have paid for by cash, I enjoy the feeling of privacy I get.

VPNs are cheap and offer the privacy outlined above so I personally find it a great deal. YMMV.
How do you know that the VPN service is protecting that information?
My postings are my opinion, and never should be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any particular investment.
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Northern Flicker »

roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:21 pm
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.
And connect to the VPN from where? The VPN has the IP address from the machine you use to connect.
My postings are my opinion, and never should be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any particular investment.
roamingzebra
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by roamingzebra »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:24 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:21 pm
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.
And connect to the VPN from where? The VPN has the IP address from the machine you use to connect.
I have a dynamic IP address.

And, I can change it at will by unplugging the computer from power and ethernet and I have a brand new IP address several hours later.

I believe that there are reputable VPN providers out there, but for me, it's no extra effort to make an anonymous purchase. In the event a VPN provider gets greedy and wants to sell their logs, then I'm all set.
Chuckles960
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by Chuckles960 »

RetiredAL wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 2:52 pm +1

Years ago, I set my DNS to include a second server due to drop-outs. Neither are my ISP's DNS.

I use FireFox and it now has an internal HTTPS DNS function which means it usually does not use the regular Windows DNS.

Whoever you get your regular DNS from can always see what addresses you are requesting and by that infer who you are connecting to.
A bit OT, but if using a custom nameserver, one possibility is to get one that blocks ads by not sending links to ad servers to the correct address (but instead to "DNS sinkholes"). This blocks ads at the network level, not just at the browser level like uBlock Origin. Not a big difference on a laptop, but on your phone, ads within apps will also be blocked.

Adguard and Windscribe have free nameservers that block ads. I don't know what they do with the information about our name translation requests; but they certainly do not see any more than that.
heywhoathere
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by heywhoathere »

roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:21 pm
candb wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:13 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:03 pm
OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:48 pm A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.
Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
So you just decide to give all that information to the VPN provider instead?
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.

Some VPN providers accept cash through the mail (not something I'd do) and some except cryptocurrency. I know nothing about the latter, but from what I gather, it allows anonymity.
Paying for a VPN with a gift card doesn't stop the VPN provider from being able to see the domain names you're connecting to.

The specific argument about your ISP seeing domain names makes no sense to me. All of that information is found in the TLS handshake, so it's not like your VPN provider doesn't see the exact same info that your ISP would.

The fundamental question I have is - if you don't trust your ISP with this information, why do you trust a VPN provider with the information?
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by OnTrack »

heywhoathere wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 5:25 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:21 pm
candb wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:13 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:03 pm
OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:48 pm A number of replies state that VPNs are not needed because most websites are now encrypted. However, the ISP can still figure out the domain name of each site their customers visit.
Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
So you just decide to give all that information to the VPN provider instead?
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.

Some VPN providers accept cash through the mail (not something I'd do) and some except cryptocurrency. I know nothing about the latter, but from what I gather, it allows anonymity.
Paying for a VPN with a gift card doesn't stop the VPN provider from being able to see the domain names you're connecting to.

The specific argument about your ISP seeing domain names makes no sense to me. All of that information is found in the TLS handshake, so it's not like your VPN provider doesn't see the exact same info that your ISP would.

The fundamental question I have is - if you don't trust your ISP with this information, why do you trust a VPN provider with the information?
Several articles that I have read say that once the VPN tunnel is set up, everything is sent through the encrypted tunnel so the ISP wouldn't be able to see what sites the user visits.

I certainly don't trust my ISP. Certainly some VPN providers can't be trusted based on who controls and/or owns them and whether they have been shown to violate customer's privacy. Some VPNs have been shown to protect customer's privacy because in some specific cases, even after VPN servers have been seized by a government, the government was unable to access any customer data. Also, some VPN providers allow third party audits of their servers and backend infrastructure. Not a 100% guarantee, but better (in my opinion) than trusting the ISP. There is a reason why countries that want to know and control what their citizens do online make use of VPNs illegal. See the 1/12/22 Wirecutter article The Best VPN Service.
heywhoathere
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Re: Do you use a VPN?

Post by heywhoathere »

OnTrack wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 7:44 pm
heywhoathere wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 5:25 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:21 pm
candb wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:13 pm
roamingzebra wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:03 pm

Exactly.

Many domain names contain clues if not outright identification of the content of the website. Until websites start using domain names like www .random.com, an individual browsing the web is going to be telegraphing their personal interests, political affiliations, vehicle type, health issues, etc.
So you just decide to give all that information to the VPN provider instead?
Absolutely not.

I purchase a gift card with cash, then pay for the VPN with the gift card.

Some VPN providers accept cash through the mail (not something I'd do) and some except cryptocurrency. I know nothing about the latter, but from what I gather, it allows anonymity.
Paying for a VPN with a gift card doesn't stop the VPN provider from being able to see the domain names you're connecting to.

The specific argument about your ISP seeing domain names makes no sense to me. All of that information is found in the TLS handshake, so it's not like your VPN provider doesn't see the exact same info that your ISP would.

The fundamental question I have is - if you don't trust your ISP with this information, why do you trust a VPN provider with the information?
Several articles that I have read say that once the VPN tunnel is set up, everything is sent through the encrypted tunnel so the ISP wouldn't be able to see what sites the user visits.
Correct, although that wasn't my point. My point is that you're shifting the visibility of your traffic from the ISP to the VPN provider. If you trust the VPN provider then that's your decision. I'd argue that you have just as little visibility into what your VPN provider is doing with your data as you do with your ISP, so at that point it's mostly a matter of "faith". Most providers that I've looked at (that actually provide this info) are based in countries with fairly lax cybersecurity laws, so it's not like you have much recourse if you find that they're breaching their terms of service and collecting data that they claim they aren't.
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