Hundreds of methods exist for the protection of private data, ranging from software and hardware firewalls, proxy servers, encryption protocols and many others, but precious few of these techniques effectively preserve the anonymity of a user whilst online. Major search engines and the corporations backing them have found ways of bypassing the efficacy of these measures, effectively rendering them useless for the purposes of anonymity. IP addresses can be tracked, cookies used to cache form inputs, search results linked to IP addresses and personal information collected and sold for any number of reasons to any number of buyers. The software enables this with little difficulty given the browsing habits typical of even internet weary individuals, and this practice is widespread, especially amongst the most popular search engines.
In most cases, this tracking is dismissed as harmless, leading only to directed advertisement and the occasional spam email. Problems abound, however, when this information falls into the wrong hands or confidential, potentially embarrassing, or secure information is made available invisibly to the user.
Avoiding these tracking mechanisms is extraordinarily difficult, leaving any user connected directly to the internet with little or no recourse. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) function well in alleviating this difficulty. An Anonymous VPN will mask the user’s IP address, throwing off the tracking software much in the same way that using a different computer or proxy would, but offers a subtle, additional layer of security in that the protocols responsible for internet communication cannot be coaxed into revealing the user’s true IP address, as the IP address is one issued by the VPN service, essentially a worthless address to trace.
VPN’s are also highly useful for other contexts besides evading this software. From allowing an unknown individual’s software to connect to their computer without revealing their IP address to providing a static IP to a user seeking to establish a server with access only to a dynamic IP, VPN’s have a wide variety of uses. Creating a secure network space for computers in vastly different locations becomes readily possible through the application of a VPN, and without direct access, it is extraordinarily difficult to penetrate these networks.
Finding a free Anonymous VPN is relatively easy, but these free services are rarely if ever ideal for the purposes of long term security or anonymity. With severe limitations on bandwidth and time coupled with little to no assurance of continued service or stability, these free VPN’s rarely last long and rarely meet the needs of a user with frequent internet usage. By stark contrast, a paid VPN service will most often come with a terms of service that protects its users, a staff or team dedicated to maintaining the stability and integrity of the service, and a profitable business plan that allows the service to remain in operation essentially indefinitely. Reliance upon a free VPN is rarely rewarding and can lead to frequent disappointment, frustration and difficulty. Paid services rarely charge excessively and provide a faster, more secure service that has the insurance of longevity.
This post was contributed by Mark Hannsen, a technology writer and network design engineer at iVPN.net.