Internet privacy is important

Written by Abhishek Puri | Updated: Jun 27 2013, 06:33am hrs
In this age of internet surveillance, two new open source-based services promise to make sure your online privacy is not compromised. They are robust and secure, and are backed by great customer service

Virtual private networks (VPN) have gone up in usage by leaps and bounds. They have virtual point-to-point connectivity and extend the private network as its integral own. Technically, it is a wide area network (WAN). VPNs have grown in popularity in recent times because internet service providers tend to block ports through which torrents for file sharing operates. Further, VPNs make a compelling case to avoid persistent tracking cookies to label your IP address and track you across the interwebs. Business users who wish to access their company intranets from remote locations also use VPNs.

There are multiple service providers across the internet and most of them have used very aggressive search engine optimisation techniques to rank high on search engines. This author had to wade through a trove of spam

before he landed on the right service. It is important that VPNs dont keep any logs of the user

activity or tie up the user to a particular IP address. VPNs operate through different geographies and they are all subject to local laws regarding user activities. Generally, it is assumed that European laws are stricter in that regard, as far as user privacy is concerned. Yet, this rules out most of the service providers from US and Britain since they have been implicated in cross fire from different users. Most of the service providers now accept bitcoins that makes the users harder to track.

For this author, the most important aspect of any service, is the customer service. You need to access someone on the email who is knowledgeable and is able to troubleshoot your issues. VPN access should be possible without using proprietary clients, which makes it impossible for ordinary users as to how the clients interact with the operating system and what backdoor channels they open up to communicate with the servers. Most of the companies provide no information about divulging the information to third party.

Hence, most VPNs with shady practices, no information on the website about how they handle the logs, those offering only proprietary clients and those who refuse to divulge their privacy policies clearly are ruled out. This author, prior to the write up, had mailed to a couple of service providers and only two of them had responded after a reasonable wait for over two weeks. This author is partial towards open source technologies because they are more secure and robust. A company that is sure of its infrastructure would advertise it. Based on these simple criteria, this author can recommend two services; both used at different times.

Tunnelr deploys BSD architecture that is the most secure operating system. Its USP is that the data connection is truly unlimited. For every sign up, there is a free 25 MB account in order to check whether the services work. Payment is through the client portal through the use of validated credit card. You have the option of using different nodes; for each node your IP address would be reflected for that country. For example, using the US-based nodes allows you to watch Netflix free from the geographical restrictions. In general, a good working broadband with minimal latency is required at your end.

Another recommended service is iVPN.net. This is again a relatively unknown company based in Europe. iVPN advertises itself as a privacy service and expressly forbids Torrent sharing. This is a reasonable restriction because torrents overwhelm the existing architecture. Most service providers usually distribute the available bandwidth. This results in slow load and access times. Instead iVPN offers you unrestricted access for accessing internet. Their service is again based on scalable open source standards with multiple gateways.

Both Tunnelr and iVPN have flexible pricing; iVPN is pricier perhaps because they offer dedicated bandwidth and very fast servers. This author hardly ever waited while VPN connected; the connection was stable on most

occasions. Customer service was prompt and detailed in both services, but one has to give them some time due to time zone differences. Tunnelr alone offers month end pricing while iVPN has tiered pricing but both come back with money back guarantees.

It is highly recommended that users opt for only open VPNs being offered. Other protocols are liable to be hacked or are significantly insecure compared to Open VPN. The only problem faced while accessing iVPN was with the credit card payments being handled by a third party authorised for Europe, Payza; somewhat a clone of Paypal. It did not honour the authors VISA card. When this issue was raised in the email, the administrators offered the author a rebate for a month. This speaks volumes about their customer service.

Either of the services is highly recommended but this authors preference is for iVPN. Happy surfing!

The writer is a practicing doctor with keen interest in technology