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The Care and Feeding Of Your Virtual Private Networks

By   /  July 26, 2017  /  No Comments

Click to learn more about author David Schlesinger.

The Internet is a marvelous system of connected systems. It is a global phenomenon that we are still learning how to use.  Telephone networks could be said to be an ancestor of the Internet, as could the earlier telegraph systems.

One factor common to all these electronic communication methodologies is that messages can be read or heard by anybody on the line. Telephone wiretaps exploit this, which is why military folks, when using telephones, often using codenames. During World War II, the term “tube alloys” was the codename for the largest military development project ever known. But we are not hiding big secrets are we?

Well, maybe we want to hide the days we will be away from home and it will be empty. And we certainly would not want our personal finances to be published on the Internet, nor our entire Internet search history tracked and put in some government database for future reference and classification. It is even possible you will want to send confidential email to a friend, family member, or close associate on a personal matter.

Certainly, confidential business correspondence should be private, even if you are staying at a hotel in another city. Do you see a pattern here?

Most businesses offer their employees a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to communicate to the company computers. This clever system turns the contents of your Internet communication into encrypted packets of data that are sent inside ordinary packets along the wire up to the VPN server inside the corporate firewall.

All your Internet traffic is thus encrypted on its way to the VPN server. The VPN server recomposes and decodes the original messages and drops them into the corporate network gateway in the clear. Thus, your content is hidden in all the traffic between you and the company’s VPN server because it is encrypted.

Should you work for yourself, or travel, or want your personal VPN service, you are in luck. Many hundreds of thousands of people want one as well, and there are many providers. For about $60 a year, you and your family can have privacy when they surf from coffee shops, airports, or hotels.

A good VPN provider will allow your IP packets to originate from a server in many locations while you can be anywhere else in the world such, as Africa. Actually, when we were in Africa, I chose to have all our email and web searches on a VPN that popped out, unencrypted, in London. There was good connectivity to London. When in the USA, I choose a nearby city and have confidence that the hotel or my ISP is not tracking nor misdirecting my web traffic. This is a form of data security.

A good VPN service will also offer phone clients for your mobile phones and tablets as well.  The software will encrypt all your Internet traffic from your mobile device and send it to the VPN server elsewhere.

A private VPN is an essential tool to protect your information in coffee shops, hotels, trains, and airports. You can try a VPN free by going to Tunnelbear.com and trying their free and limited version.  They are based in Canada and have developed an easy to use front end. There are many other excellent VPNs as well.  A web search will turn up a number of them as well as VPN reviews.

Oh, you want to send really private email? Well, that’s different. Check out Hush mail in Canada or Proton mail in Switzerland. Sorry, when it comes to privacy, email services originating in the USA, Australia, the PRC, Iran, or Great Britain do not qualify, since they are monitored and viewed by various governmental departments and agencies.

As for secure texting, download Signal from Whisper Systems for your mobile device.  WhatsApp also works as a replacement for VOIP clients and even replaces Skype functionality.  Both are free and offer end-to-end encryption with no data left on the servers.

Sometimes you just want to send your spouse or significant other a credit card number, financial information, or discuss your personal travel plans, or talk about something you wish to remain private forever.  Many consider the right to communication privacy a human right.  I think it may say something about this in the US Constitution.

Use a VPN.

About the author

David Schlesinger, CISSP, brings 27 years of experience in information technology and data security management to data security. He is certified in cybersecurity and is a past president of the Phoenix ISSA, a security professional association.  David has authored two US Patents for data governance methods that use Metadata classifications to audit and automate user rights and regulatory compliance. His book on finding hidden security and governance gaps in an enterprise, The Hidden Corporation, is published by Technics Publications.

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