The use of VPN services has increased considerably over the last few years, following the information revealed by Edward Snowden regarding surveillance programs that threaten privacy. Seems like everyone around the world is looking for tools to keep their data protected from government organizations and powerful corporations that use technology to have a greater control over people. Privacy and security are important for internet users in general, but for political activists, protecting them is critical. In countries under opressive governments, those who dare to express opinions that are against the regime, face threats, imprisonment and even death. Censorship prevents many internet users from accessing certain information, sharing ideas and connecting with others with similar opinions.
Those who are committed to a cause and who aim to fight for the truth, won’t be stopped by restrictions imposed by the government. With the help of solutions like VPN services, activists can overcome blocks that prevent them from accessing content and applications. A VPN lets you connect to a server outside your country so you won’t be subject to the filters applied in your location. You can also access websites and apps that are only available in specific regions, you just need to connect to a server in a country where the content is supported. In addition, a VPN allows you to protect yourself from online monitoring. When you use a VPN, your entire traffic is encrypted, which prevents your ISP or other parties from seeing what you do when you are using the internet.
Even in countries that are not under oppressive regimes, activists are at risk. ISPs around the world collect data from their customers, willingly or in order to comply with their local laws. The information recorded includes services used, websites visited, content of the emails sent and received, social media activities and more. This data can then be shared with authorities so they can easily find out everything you do online. A VPN is a good solution to enhance your anonymity because when you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address is disguised, making it very difficult for others to trace you. This technology lets you keep your identity protected and it boosts your privacy as the encryption applied, allows you to avoid being monitored.
Does a VPN provide complete protection?
A VPN offers many advantages when it comes to protecting the security and privacy of your internet traffic. However, for political activists, it is important to keep in mind that the level of surveillance implemented by government agencies goes beyond spying on your online activities. Thanks to the information revealed by Edward Snowden and subsequent reports from Wikileaks, we know now that there are backdoors installed on popular web services and even devices that we use at home. Many large companies accept or a are forced to implement these backdoors on their products, to allow government spy agencies to get access to users’ data.
For instance, if you use Gmail, it is very likely that your emails can be read by the government. A VPN can help to mask your identity and it will prevent them from establishing a connection between your IP address and the emails sent from that account. However, if there is information stored in your Google account that could be used to identify you, a VPN won’t be enough to keep you covered. This is why it is crucial that apart from using a VPN, you also use privacy-focused email services and open-source software, which can be independently checked to confirm that there are no backdoors installed. It is also very important that you avoid using Facebook, Twitter, or that at least you don’t share any information that could lead to you, when using these services.
VPN or Tor?
Using a VPN requires some level of trust in the company that you select, which is why it is important to select a reliable provider. Many people wonder if Tor would be a better alternative. Tor also encrypts traffic and it routes it through multiple nodes run by volunteers. The route is changed whenever you access a website, which makes it very difficult for others to trace you. Since Tor is not centralized and the traffic is not regulated, you are not putting your trust on a provider or administrator.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the entry and exit nodes can be identified. Furthermore, when you connect to the network, your ISP and the destination server will know that you are using Tor and this can drive attention to you and even get your name added to a watchlist. In addition, authorities may set up Tor nodes in an attempt to trace users and in some cases, they even prevent traffic to and from Tor exit and entry nodes. Another downside of Tor is that it is very slow and it is not the best option for streaming or downloading content.
Tor can provide anonymity, but it is not a perfect solution. What you can do in order to boost your security and enjoy flexibility is to use a VPN and Tor at the same time. This will allow you to take advantage of the encryption that both technologies offer. In summary, when it comes to security and privacy, political activists need to consider all the possible measures to protect themselves. A VPN is a great start and the below services allow you to enjoy a secure and reliable experience.
NordVPN is based in Panama, where no mandatory data retention laws are applied. This allows the company to offer a zero logs service with a high standard of security. To enhance the protection to your internet traffic, NordVPN supports features like Double VPN and Tor over VPN. They have servers in over 50 countries and accept Bitcoin as method of payment.
AirVPN was created by online freedom activists and privacy advocates and the service shows their commitment to help you to defeat censorship and surveillance. While their network is smaller than what other providers offer, it is highly secure. AirVPN is based in Italy and it doesn’t keep logs. They also accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, gift vouchers and other anonymous payment methods. AirVPN also supports VPN over Tor.
ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, a country known for having some of the strongest privacy laws in the world. ProtonVPN doesn’t keep logs of your online activities, meaning that there is no relevant information to hand over to third-parties, even if they are contacted. ProtonVPN supports Tor over VPN, which allows you to route all your traffic through the Tor network and access Onion sites. Bitcoin is accepted for free existing accounts. If you are a new user and want to pay using Bitcoin, you can contact their support team.
ExpressVPN is a popular option for streaming, downloading and for playing games. However, it is also highly secure and reliable. The company has a good track record protecting the privacy of its customers and it doesn’t keep logs of your activities. They accept Bitcoin and offer advanced technology to bypass restrictions and keep your online traffic protected.