Keeping Safe Online - Part 1 - Choosing a VPN

At Rvoke, we care deeply about privacy, information security and data protection.

We don’t just want our customers (you!) to use Rvoke to exercise your data protection rights, and your employer to be compliant with data protection legislation (including GDPR and CCPA) we also want you to be adopting best practices to keep you safe online.

Our CEO Aonghus Fraser was recently invited to speak about Data Breaches at a Cybersecurity event; a number of recommendations were presented, with numerous questions from members of the audience, including “how do I choose a VPN?”.

This blog series will answer this question and others in detail, covering relevant topics to help you be safer online.

Choosing a VPN

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network – a way of adding a privacy layer or tunnel such that the internet traffic from your device (i.e. your mobile, laptop or PC) is always encrypted and hidden from prying eyes. This mitigates the risk of the WiFi network you are connecting to capturing all the information you are transmitting (including usernames, passwords, emails) and using this to steal your identity.

If you connect to public WiFi, it is strongly recommended to use a VPN at all times!

It’s also important to check whether the public WiFi is legitimate and not a masquerading Pineapple – it’s not always easy to tell; we’ll save that for a future post!

For IT professionals, a recommended approach is to setup a VPN at home and connect to one’s own home router. However, this can be a bit complicated to setup and secure. Therefore, it is usually safer and easier to use a 3rd party service. The problem is that there are hundreds of providers. The question that arose from the Cybersecurity event was:

How do I choose a VPN? How can I trust them?

There is a fantastic and trustworthy resource at That One Privacy Site (TOPS) that has done a lot of the hard work for you; 185 VPNs reviewed at the time of writing, with varying factors such as Pricing, Ethics, Logging, Jurisdiction rated. However, there is so much data even in the “Simple” comparison that this requires a bit of explanation if it is not clear (no judgement here! The aim of this series is to educate and help you to be safer!). Be careful who you trust… not all VPN review sites are the same… the vast majority are affiliates making money out of referrals… TOPS does not, and, in our opinion can be trusted. The Latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “Who guards the guards?” applies here… if you are delegating trust to another entity (e.g. TOPS or Rvoke) it is strongly advised to do your own due diligence!

Ratings are typically subjective so it’s important to do one’s own due diligence on a potential supplier, whether as an individual or organisation. However, distilling down from hundreds by using the ratings on factors that are important to you will present you with a better starting point and more efficient selection process.

There are various reasons one might have for choosing a VPN; also, reasons for NOT choosing one – some claim to be secure and ethical but may not be!

Rather than regurgitate the detailed information from That One Privacy Site in its entirety (it is VERY good… but also very long!) here is a summary of providers that, in our opinion, are good options and should provide you with a balance of security, privacy, cost and functionality from a reputable provider that is likely to meet your needs.

Selection Criteria

The primary factors used in whittling down this list were;

  • Jurisdiction
    • Excluded “5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes” countries
    • Note: If you are not concerned by national intelligence agencies snooping on your activities there are significantly more options
  • Logging
    • Excluded services with logging (Traffic, DNS, Timestamps, IP Addresses)
  • Security
    • Excluded services that didn’t publish security details

Summary

As always, please conduct your own due diligence; the following service providers simply allege to meet the above criteria!

Look out for further updates to help keep you safer online; follow us on Twitter for regular updates!

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