VPN services offer protection against hackers and authorities, but they are also popular with fans of US series. The security gap Krack has once again drawn attention to the fact that WLAN networks are not free of security gaps. Especially in the case of foreign hotspots, experts therefore repeatedly recommend the use of a so-called VPN service. In the past, only companies actually used VPN to allow their employees secure access to company data, but now more and more private users are also using this technology.
When should a VPN service be used?
For company users, the use of a VPN service is usually mandatory, as company secrets should be protected. But should one really only call Spiegel Online and Macwelt.de when surfing privately on your iphone (find a good provider at http://www.iphoneVPN.net/) under the protection of a VPN service? We find this exaggerated for everyday use. But if, for example, you depend on the free WLAN of a small café or hotel on your holiday, the additional protection of a VPN can’t do you any harm.
What is VPN
The web technology VPN (Virtual Private Network) is appreciated by office employees, surfers in Internet cafés, film fans and investigative journalists – but for the same reason: VPN tunnels protect your data connections from the rest of the Internet like a protective layer. Instead of connecting directly to a company server or the CBS homepage, a so-called VPN server is connected and the connection is encrypted. Bloggers can communicate undisturbed, TV junkies can watch US series protected by country blocks and company employees can access company data. Whether VPN also protects critical journalists from authorities is a matter of dispute.
This is a basic problem that VPN services want to solve: Every surfer can be identified via his IP and other browser data. The Internet provider can use the IP address to identify the user, and the server operator can find out where the user lives, the operating system and the browser model. Since the connection to the VPN server is encrypted, nothing can be “recorded”.
Warning: There are many provider who save logfiles, find out which one doesn`t store them here: http://www.vpnnologs.com/PT/sem-registos-de-atividade-no-vpn/
More security when surfing
If you frequently surf in open or poorly protected WLAN networks, a VPN service is also interesting. Not all e-mail services or purchases are encrypted using SSL (HTTPS). Theoretically, hackers can record data traffic in an unprotected WiFi network and thus learn credit card data or passwords. Almost every major VPN provider now offers apps for Android and iOS in addition to Mac and PC versions. Online banking or eBay shopping are then no security risk even in an unprotected WLAN café. Tip: Owners of a Fritzbox can also use their home router as a VPN server. Internet access is then made via the router and is reliably secured. Instructions for PC and Android can be found here. There are many reasons to use a VPN on your phone, find out more at infobeat.
VPN services for private users
Strictly speaking, VPN offerings like Okay Freedom or Steganos Online Shield are less programs than server services. They offer encrypted access to their servers, which the providers usually pay a monthly fee for. In addition to protection against hackers and governments, this ensures fewer data traces. Since the Internet accesses take place over another server, the own IP address remains unknown. Film fans have the option of using servers in other countries. A selection menu usually allows you to choose from several countries, for example if you want to see BBC series, you can choose a server in England. For example, the US version of Netflix offers far more movies and series, but is not available to German Netflix subscribers. But even access to German TV stations from the holiday resort is often not possible without a VPN server. However, this is questionable from a copyright point of view. The private access to foreign live streams will not be prosecuted, but the use is legally controversial. Currently, this is not prosecuted under criminal law, but Netflix specifically prohibits the use of VPN servers and known VPN providers are repeatedly blocked.
n practice, fans of US TV or BBC series are obviously the largest user group. Without much consideration for users, many VPN services even advertise quite openly or alternatively offer a cheaper proxy server service without encryption. The principle is very similar with all providers: You install a client on your computer or mobile device and can easily switch a VPN connection on and off. The technical basis is usually OpenVPN, encryption is done via AES 256.
VPN costs at a glance
The old principle “There is no free lunch” applies to VPN services. The operation of a powerful server is expensive for the operator because the resulting traffic has to be paid for. Although there are free services, these are often very slow or limited to low data rates. For example, the Tor network is designed to allow free information exchange in dictatorships – not to stream US series for free. By the way, many VPN services are not usable in China because VPN services are blocked at the national level, which is also known as Great Firewall. In countries like Saudi Arabia, they are also banned.
Some commercial providers offer a freeware version, mostly with limited data rate. Cyberghost, Steganos and PC-Welt-Anonym offer 500 MB free traffic per month for surfing anonymously. For reading blocked blogs or websites the 500 MB are completely sufficient. Cyberghost also offers a selection of free servers that are often overcrowded and inefficient. The free service of Opera or Surfeasy is financed by the evaluation of customer data – for example for advertising providers.
As far as functionality and operation are concerned, the providers are very similar. If it is about data security, one should also pay attention to the company headquarters of the provider – the VPN servers are located in the respective countries, but a central server of the company finally takes over the mediation. US companies and companies in England, for example, are under strong state control, including German providers. It is not without reason that Cyberghost has moved its headquarters from Germany to Romania. The Finnish company F-Secure apparently also attaches great importance to data protection.
- The performance of the servers is important. For example, the download rate of some inexpensive providers on our test connection (VDSL) quickly drops to one-twentieth at the choice of a US VPN server.
- In practice, the reduced latency is also disturbing. Since this often drops to very low values, online games, for example, are hardly possible, but even the operation of websites is sometimes very tough.
- If one chooses a server that is closer to one’s own location, the performance remains approximately the same.
- If you measure the download and upload values with a tool like Internet.io, you have to be prepared for big fluctuations of the measurements – depending on the connected server and distance.