Who do you trust ! That is of course the main question in most of the topics of this weeks “Privacy Week” on our blog. When you connect to the internet on your tablet or mobile phone, you have a choice between different networks and carriers. You can go directly via your mobile phone’s dataplan (if you have one) or connect via Wifi. In both cases “somebody” is going to connect you to your internet. For your cell connection that will be your Telco, for your Wifi connection that will be your ISP or the kind person/company who set up the wifi hotspot you are using. The question is : Do you trust them ? As we told you in our first post : Sniffing unencrypted traffic is very very easy on a network. So when it comes to those open networks in a coffee shop, you never know who is watching. So why not “tunnel” your mobile traffic too.
Hotspot Shield VPN is my FREE application of choice. It allows you to tunnel all your traffic through their VPN tunnel and lets it emerge somewhere in the US. So anyone who wants to sniff you (either your telco, your local ISP or the dingy kid in the corner with his laptop running Wireshark) won’t be able to make out what you are doing. But because you “exit” to the internet on AnchorFree’s network (they make the app) , THEY will.
Hotspot shield VPN is free and easy to use. Its not always fast and it comes with adds. Opinions about this service might be mixed, but I regularly use it when I take my IOS or Android mobile device onto an open wifi network that I do not trust. Hotspot Shield also comes with a paid plan with “Monthly and Annual subscriptions available for faster connection, better cost savings and enhanced security. All subscriptions provide unlimited VPN bandwidth and NO ADS” So you can even pay if you want to. Keep stuff safe in a simple way, but remember that every connection (no matter if its through your ISP, the hotspot or these guys) requires ‘trust’ in whoever is carrying your data.
The TOR network, better known as “The Onion Router” network is mesh of “endpoints” all over the world, interconnected by a encrypted connections. Much like a network of Wormholes, traffic can go in on one end and leave the TOR network in a completely different (and random location) to “go on the internet.” I know some of you might be wondering what this is for, so , imagine being in China and wanting to watch something on Youtube. The Chinese government does not only block a lot of “Western” websites, it also keeps track of the traffic its citizens generate. Enter the TOR network. Using this network our Chinese Youtube enthousiasts sends his traffic through the TOR network. The actual request “emerges” onto the internet in some random country (where Youtube is not blocked) AND its encrypted along the way. So he gets to watch his favourite catvideo AND the government does not have a clue what he is doing.
So how can this work for you ? Whenever you are on a public hotspot or on a network you do not trust, you can use the TOR browser. Your browsing behaviour will not only be completely opaque to whoever is trying to watch your movement on that network , it ALSO will circumvent URL and content restrictions.. because if they look at your traffic .. they will only see an encrypted tunnel between you and whatever TOR endpoint you are connected to. Nobody can sniff you, Nobody can block you. Eat that Starbucks Script-kiddy !
The TOR browser is a “mutated version of Firefox” that lets you surf DIRECTLY on the TOR network. It is available for Windows, Linux and the Mac and is COMPLETELY PORTABLE (you don’t even have to install it). So carry it around with you on your USB stick and be absolutely sure that, next time you are logging in on that Wifi network in the Hotel Lobby .. nobody can “follow along”.