Tag Archives: (VPN)

Little TunnelBear (free) – A Drop Dead Simple VPN Built on Simplicity and Speed

I’m an Internet privacy advocate (regular readers will now pause – laugh – and say – “no kidding!”), and while the fight to rein in Google, and others, might seem unwinnable, privacy advocates have not lost the battle – yet. Which is why, I have a great interest in any tool that will either stop Google and other data accumulators from collecting, storing, and dissecting my private personal information, or inhibit their ability to do so.

As a result, I’ve long made it a practice to camouflage my IP address when searching for sensitive subject matter.  Sensitive subject matter doesn’t always involve porn. Although, ………….   Smile

Take a look at the following free VPN (Virtual Private Network) application – Little TunnelBear (a paid version with enhanced features is available), which allows you to surf the Web while hiding your IP address. Hiding your “real” IP address won’t leave traces of your private surfing activities – protecting you from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, curious family members, and of course – Google.

I’ve been running with TunnelBear, (for 6 months or so), on a daily basis – and I’m impressed – very impressed. This application is “snappy quick” which cannot be said of the majority of the 10 (or more), VPNs I’ve tested here in the last few years.

While the service is not entirely free (500 MB monthly free – an additional 1 GB is available (free) if one “Tweets” the application. Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

At that point, I switch over to the free version of Expat Shield which unfortunately lacks the quickness of TunnelBear, with the additional handicap of being ad supported. Having said that, I’ll emphasize (from a previous review), that Expat Shield is a terrific application and, the developer is certainly entitled to generate revenue.

TunnelBear will get no points for a stylish  user interface …

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…. but I can assure you, that in this case “hot looks” cannot compete with speed, simplicity  and ease of use.  And, TunnelBear has all that – and more.

Simplicity – no need to launch a Browser first. Switch on – choose your preferred locale (the UK or the US) then launch a Browser.

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Please note that occasionally, you may find that instead of the UK, you will be assigned an alternative European IP address. Hungary and Holland come quickly to mind. It would be preferable, in my view, if the GUI reflected that fact.

Boost the freebie – If you have a Twitter account, and should you choose to do so, a quick Tweet is all it takes to bump up free data access to 1.5 GB. A very sweet deal, I think.

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Following which, an email similar to that shown below, will confirm your additional 1 GB of data access.

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I’ll repeat – Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

Significant points:

There are no ads and the application doesn’t have to run in the background, or at startup.

Employs a minimum of  AES 128-bit encryption.

Normal surfing (hopping from site to site), showed no slowdown (none that I could measure in human terms) in connection speed.

Once the application has been started – all applications that communicate with a remote address will do so through TunnelBear.

As with all such applications, a leap of faith is required. While the application does shield you from prying eyes, the developer has full access. You need to consider the implications. In other words – do you trust the developer.

Here’s what the developer has top say on that issue –

“TunnelBear stores the absolute minimum amount of information required to operate our service. This information includes your email, first name, last name, # of times you’ve logged on and the overall amount of data you transferred for the month. We do NOT log any information as to the websites you visit, nor do we store your IP address after you disconnect.”

Having tested my fair share of anonymous surfing applications in the last few years, I’d judge this application to be as good, or better, than most.

Supported systems:

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Download at: Developer’s site (http://www.tunnelbear.com/)

Additional information is available from the developer’s FAQ page here.

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Filed under Android, Apple, downloads, Freeware, Google, Online Privacy, Software, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free Expat Shield – Easily Watch BBC iPlayer From Outside The UK.

My very good friend, Michael F., with whom I share similar views on life, technology, and related issues, often forwards articles/announcements/videos etc., that I’ve managed to miss – but, wished I hadn’t. I can easily say that Michael keeps me on my toes – so, thank you Michael.

A few weeks back though, I had no access* to a particular documentary suggested by Michael – Surviving Progress. Since the documentary “explores how we are repeatedly destroyed by ‘progress traps’ – alluring technologies which serve immediate need but rob us of our long term future”, it was a “must see.”

So then, how to overcome the viewing restrictions imposed by the BBC iPlayer* since this super service can only be viewed in the UK?

Here’s an example of what you’ll see, should you visit BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. Bummer!

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Still, you can’t keep a good man down – and, I’m a good man – sort of.   Smile So, on the hunt I went for a VPN that would provide me with a UK address – which, as it turns out was very simple exercise.

AnchorFree, the developer’s of the ad-supported VPN service Hotspot Shield, which I’ve reported on a number of times, offers a free additional VPN – Expat Shield (ad-supported) – specifically designed to provide users with a UK IP address.

Following an easy straightforward install, Expat Shield was quick to launch and showed little or no degradation in connection speed – more on this in a moment.

Once the application is up and running, you’ll find a new icon in the Windows System Tray. Clicking on the icon provides access to a selection of input commands, as shown in the following screen captures.

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Having viewed the Surviving Progress documentary earlier, for this review, I watched the full length feature film, The Four Feathers –

“England, 1884. When British officer Harry Faversham resigns right before his regiment is sent to fight in Sudan, three friends and his fiancee each award him with a white feather to symbolize his cowardice. Disowned by his father, renounced by his fiancee and disgraced in society, Harry is determined to prove his bravery. Thrilling adventure based on the classic novel.”

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What an enjoyable experience! The film streamed perfectly – no stuttering or slowdown of any description.

Since the BBC is by far and away my favorite TV network, I’ve made good use of Expat Shield. If you’re a British expat and you miss the BBC, then consider adding Expat Shield to your system. I think you’ll be very pleased with this free solution.

Fast facts:

Get a UK IP address.
Secure your web session, data, online shopping, and personal information online with HTTPS encryption.
Protect yourself from identity theft online.
Hide your IP address for your privacy online.
Access all content privately without censorship; bypass firewalls.
Protect yourself from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Win 7.

Download at: ExpatShield

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Online Privacy, Software

Time For Tor? – An Open Source Anonymous Surfing Application

imageOver the years, I’ve posted more than a few articles on anonymous surfing and the applications, generally free, which makes that possible.

I’ve noted, over that time, that the majority of readers of these article have a Middle East IP – particularly Iran. Little wonder, when one considers the human rights violations committed by this regime. Remaining anonymous online in Iran, could literally be the difference between life and death.

A typical email from an Iranian reader:

Dear Bill

I live in Iran – I need to know news about my hometown, but in Iran we are faced with filtering…very hard filtering. It makes me depressed, but one of my friends introduced your website to me and told me you can help me.

If you think that the crazies who rule Iran, and Syria – just 2 of these Middle East dysfunctional societies), where Internet usage is scrutinized on an individual basis – are the only unhinged and delusional nutters Internet users have to deal with – you’re wrong.

The erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to surf the Internet without government oversight, seems to be happening at an ever increasing pace – everywhere.

In a previous article on anonymous Internet surfing tools (October, 2010), I wrote – “Thankfully, I live in a part of the world where Government censorship of my Internet activities is a non-issue; the Canadian government does not restrict my access to any part of the Internet.

I wish I could go on to say, that I live in a part of the world where the Government has NO interest in my Internet activities, But that, unfortunately, would be like wishing on a star – and, equally as effective.

While I have no faith whatsoever, that those in power will continue to use the gathered information in a restricted, and appropriate fashion – it’s not something that I dwell on. After all, there is nothing I can do about it – so, I’m forced to slot it into my comfort zone.

In the past week however, I’ve been ripped out of my comfort zone, as have most other Canadians, who have revolted against legislation proposed by the quasi-fascist Conservative Party of Canada – the current political party in power (a government elected by only 26% of eligible Canadian voters) – led by Stephen Harper, a fundamentalist Christian, and his minion Vic Toews – another fundamentalist Christian .

In 2008, Toews was divorced by his wife of 30 years, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with a younger woman – who may have been his child’s babysitter. Just one more example of the “moral right” practicing its favorite pastime – hypocrisy.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.<br /><br />
” width=”500″ height=”281″ /> <span style=Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation would create  a mandatory surveillance regime. Simply put – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

The backlash against this perverted legislation was both immediate, and overwhelming. Canadians have made it clear – they will not allow themselves to be figuratively handcuffed. Frankly, I’ve never seen a political backlash remotely like it. The typically mild mannered and polite Canadian is angry, disgusted, and hell-bent on ensuring this abomination of a legislative bill – never sees the light of day.

Still, until Harper and his gang of throwbacks to the Cro-Magnon era, are thrown out on their asses in the next general election, you might consider adding an anonymous surfing application to your toolbox.

The use of anonymous surfing applications is not restricted to breaking through obstructive Internet barriers of course. There are more obvious reasons, you may have for anonymous surfing, including – surfing in internet cafes, public terminals in libraries, or hotel business centers.

In fact, you may want to surf anonymously on any PC where you don’t want to leave traces of your private surfing activities to ensure protection from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, rogue police services, or curious family members.

One of the most popular anonymous surfing applications  (with good reason), is TOR – a VPN (a virtual private network) that encrypts via an SSH tunnel, in order to safeguard your Internet connection and, protect your anonymity properly.

In this post I won’t review Tor, since I’ve done so a number of times previously. Instead I’ll direct you to the following.

From the site:

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

Overview 

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members’ online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers.

Tor is suitable for installation on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, Unix, and Android.

For more information and download, visit the Tor Home Page.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Personal Perspective, Surveillance

Hulu For You – No Matter Where You Live!

Update June 25, 2009: Hulu is now blocking all proxies, so the following information is now out of date.

In order to enjoy the benefits of Hulu, the free website that offers commercial-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies from NBC, Fox and other networks and studios, your computer must be located, or appear to be located, in the United States.

Hulu

But why do you have to live in the U.S. in order to enjoy the benefits of Hulu? At least in Canada, where I live, it all comes down to licensing issues with Canada’s major television networks.

There’s not much point in ranting and raving about the fact that the Canadian government supports a non-competitive environment that restricts MY free choice. I’m curious though, as to how a government can support a “dead” business model, still being pushed on Canadian consumers by mainstream media corporations.

I finally got fed up with messages such as this, “We’re sorry, but the video you selected isn’t available from your location”, when attempting to watch a video offered by Hulu and other similar sites, and went on an Internet hunt to find a tech solution to this aggravating problem.

Surprisingly it took only minutes to find a free solution offered by AnchorFree, the developers of Hotspot Shield, an application whose main purpose is to protect your security, privacy and anonymity while surfing the Internet by:

Securing your web session with HTTPS encryption

Hiding your IP address for your privacy online

Securing your connection at both your home Internet network and public Internet networks (both wired and wireless)

Allowing you to access all content privately without censorship

Protecting you from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices and ISP hubs

According to the developers “Hotspot Shield creates a virtual private network (VPN) between your laptop or iPhone, and our Internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers, ISP’s, from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network”.

Now for the good news: If you are in a country that restricts your access to Hulu, not only does Hotspot Shield perform all of the functions listed earlier, but most importantly, for accessing Hulu, it makes your computer appear to be located in the United States.

Hotspot Shield isn’t something you’d want to leave running all the time, since this is an ad supported application and it puts banner ads on every web page that you view, but as a Hulu access solution, it works well and is easily turned on/off via the system tray icon.

Incidentally, Hotspot Shield was named as one of the best free applications of 2008 by PC Magazine.

I have heard good news about a similar application UltraSurf – a program developed to bypass the Great Firewall of China, but to this point I haven’t had a chance to test drive this one.

Some forum comments on Hotspot Shield:

Works good, greetings from Mexico City

Works perfectly in Tokyo, Japan on Mac OS X Leopard. And fast!

Tip – to everyone outside the states watching Hulu through Hotspot shield, connect to Hotspot, start watching the movie, and then disconnect, it should work just fine.

One caveat: I don’t have the ability to test this application in all countries so it may be, that it may not work in all locations.

I have to tell you though, I’m having a terrific time watching Hi-Def movies, videos and TV shows on a 22 inch wide screen monitor – finally!

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, Mac OS X (10.5 Leopard), (10.4 Tiger)

Download at: Anchorfree

12 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hulu, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet TV, Living Life, Software, Windows Tips and Tools