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Private VPN Service - Just How Private Are They?
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Private VPN Service   -   Just How Private Are They?

There are a number of reasons that people look to sign up for a private VPN service. Anonymity from the government, unblocking websites, privacy from advertisers and your ISP are just some of them. But when you use the virtual IP address of a VPN, supplied by a virtual private network service, just how anonymous are you, and is your private data safe?

Unfortunately, anonymity online is often associated with cyber crime. Part of this association is true. When someone decides to do something illegal online, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you should try to hide your IP address, and so they sign up for a VPN or two, and maybe use a couple proxies in an attempt to thwart authorities.

But there are rules in place to catch these guys. Unfortunately, that means that you're not 100% anonymous - something like 99%. Ok, here's what I mean.

A couple years ago in the news there was this group of hackers called Lulzsec. They were hacking government institutions and wreaking havoc in The US, The UK, and Europe. Eventually it was figured out that they were using an anonymous VPN service called Hide My Ass (how appropriate, right?). After a court order was issued, HMA traced the activity through their VPN servers and eventually they caught some of these hackers.

Then the VPN community had a fit. They were cursing HMA for giving up the criminals because it implied that the users of HMA were not truly invisible, and their right to privacy on the internet COULD be violated.

From what I understand of HMA's response is that a VPN is private so long as you don't break the law. HMA is based in The UK, and a UK Court ordered that they find out who these guys were. What did you expect? Of course they had to comply, or get shut down. It would be like me starting a bank robbery business.

HMA and many other VPN services claim to keep 'no server records'. So how did they find the guys if there were no records of their activity? Though there are no records of what sites your visit while signed into a VPN, and there's no one keeping tabs on individual users or IP addresses, there are logs of who logs into what IP at what time. VPN services have to maintain server integrity and get rid of abusive users, as in the case with these hackers.

Think about it, if you got hacked by some guy using a VPN service, and they just threw up their hands and said, "Sorry, that's private", you'd be mad too, right?

So all in all, there are some rules to privacy online. Want to keep you hobbies private? Sure, no problem. Want to unblock Facebook at work? Yeah, the national courts are not going to pursue you in an attempt to keep you on task. Are you trying to do something illegal and not get caught? Sorry, it's going to catch up to you at one point or another.

I think one lesson we can learn from this is that you should not down which country the private VPN service of your choice is based. This is going to affect which laws the VPN service is subject to, and in the end, affect what you can and can't do on their VPN servers.

Street Talk

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