Greetings Dock Flock, hope you’ve all been well!
If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 of our You & Your Data series. It’s about Full Disk Encryption and is definitely worth the time.
It’s our sincere hope at Dock that you will follow our advice and become a data power user!
We also hope you’ll spread awareness of the purpose behind You & Your Data, which is to:
Take action TODAY so you can control your data TOMORROW.
Let’s make sure we keep moving towards that decentralized future everyone is so excited about!
~ The Dock Team, #tdytmrw
You & Your Data: Virtual Private Networks
For this post I want to cover Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. This will be Part 2 of our You & Your Data series. I’m focusing on VPNs because these networks are a great tool for improving the security of your data.
What Is It?
A Virtual Private Network is a technology that safely encrypts your connection to the internet. A VPN provides a secure “tunnel” for your data to flow through while it travels, and greatly decreases the risk of a third party seeing what’s inside.
A VPN provides a secure “tunnel” for your data to flow through while it travels.
For a simple understanding, put on your tin foil hat and picture the following scenario:
Every time you leave your home, aliens are watching you. You can’t see them, but you know they’re out there, in an invisible ship somewhere in the sky. You can feel them reading your deepest thoughts and it gives you the creeps!
You finally reach a breaking point and decide to take action, so you hop in your car and begin driving towards the mountains. You’ve heard of a special tunnel the aliens can’t see into, and at this point you’re desperate enough to try anything.
When you finally arrive at the tunnel entrance, a friendly guard waves you through. Immediately you feel a sense of relief, and can tell that your thoughts are now safe and the aliens have no idea where you are.
You happily drive along, listening to music without a care in the world. Eventually you pop out on the other side of the tunnel and continue on your way, free from the “eye in the sky” that you’ve been dealing with for way too long!
From the user’s perspective, a VPN provides encrypted protection for your data before it ever leaves your machine, and then ensures it travels in gobbledy-gook form until it is decrypted and used normally.
Relating this to the above scenario, think of it like having an “alien-proof tunnel” entrance inside your garage! You just drive straight into it and are protected until you arrive at your destination.
Upsides & When You Should Use It
Using a VPN is very important in scenarios where malicious actors may be watching for your data. Coffee shops, airports, & hotels come to mind, but in reality, any time you access the internet, using a VPN is a good idea.
Any time you access the internet, using a VPN is a good idea.
VPNs can prevent your Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) from seeing your browsing history as well, although you may need to physically install a router if you currently use one provided by your ISP. This has become very relevant for Americans as a recent bill allows your ISP to sell your browsing history.
To sum up, VPNs provide privacy for your browsing, and will help you feel better about your data once it leaves your computer and travels throughout the web. It’s a good idea to use a VPN all of the time, as this will give you the best data security and limit some of the downsides.
If you access a non-HTTPS website, the tunnel can end before you reach your destination. Look at the URL in your address bar, if you see an S you’re Safe… httpS://medium.com/dock.
Non-HTTPS is a minor downside though, if you’re in a very public setting the tunnel will still ensure you’re “out of the city” before becoming vulnerable. This is relevant as aliens are generally found near large concentrations of humans.
A more relevant downside is the fact that a VPN cannot prevent the party on the receiving end of your data from misusing it.
If you’re serious about controlling your digital footprint, try to use websites, apps, email clients, etc that make an effort to ethically use and store your interactions with them.
A VPN may also slow your internet connection down. If you’re an avid gamer you may notice this, but for regular web browsing it’s a non-issue.
How To Do It
There are many choices when it comes to VPNs, and when choosing yours, remember that maintaining a VPN costs money. VPN providers must have a way to make money or they wouldn’t be in business.
Free VPNs will either give you ads, sell your anonymized data, provide a lower security “tunnel” for your data, provide slow speeds, or all 4. I’ll still recommend a good free option as I realize some will not be able to afford a subscription. The best VPNs though are going to be the paid ones.
To begin using a VPN, visit one of the following links. You’ll be asked to sign up for an account, pay if its required, and then download a browser extension or program.
- MullVad ~ $6/month ~ Top notch security & dedicated to your privacy!
- ExpressVPN ~ $13/month ~ Easy to use & faster than Mullvad.
- ProtonVPN ~ Free/month ~ Slower speed but no limit on data! Good security too.
- NordVPN ~ $12/month ~ Fast and currently having a deal, $3/mo for 3 years.
Once you’ve chosen a VPN that fits your needs, turn that bad boy (or girl) ON!
Most VPNs will have an option to freeze your internet connection if the tunnel stops working. If you’re very paranoid about aliens this should be a setting you enable.
Another good idea is to set your VPN to start with your system. This way, when you turn your computer on you won’t forget to enable the VPN.
P.S. If you’ve followed my recommendation and are currently browsing through a VPN, you may now remove your tin foil hat.
That’s all for this edition! Please @ us on Twitter or hop in our Telegram and let us know you‘re safe from aliens!
Stay tuned for our next series topic, Part 3: Unused Accounts!
To learn about Dock and connect with us, visit Dock.io