The Importance of a VPN
Why you should use one to encrypt your web-traffic data.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short, is a tool that helps hide your data online. This can prevent hackers from looking at data you connect to online, like your passwords and browsing history. This can also protect you from snooping from your government, or your network provider.
A VPN works by encrypting your web traffic. This scrambles your data, so even if someone was trying to look at your web traffic, they would have no idea what you were looking at,.
Then, your web traffic goes to a node in your VPN. A node is a computer that is part of the Virtual Private Network that connects to the internet or other computers on the network. This web traffic travels to many nodes, before finally routing your web traffic to the internet.
This is done because if someone wants to track your web traffic back to your location, they need to do a lengthy tracing process that is very hard to bring back to your computer.
If you connect to a VPN from your computer in a coffee shop, even if they traced your traffic back to your location, it would be impossible to know who connected to the internet, because of how frequently devices go on and off a public wifi-network.
Without protection from a VPN, a public wifi-network could be dangerous. Infected computers could remotely spread viruses to your computer, or hackers could read your passwords.
A VPN protects you from almost all of these threats, and keeps you safe while on the go.
In addition to all of these features, a VPN does so much more!
VPNs can prevent “monkey-in-the-middle” attacks, or “ARP Spoofing”. This is when a hacker sees what website you’re about to go on, like your bank website for example, and connects you to another website that pretends to be your bank. From there, a hacker can harvest your data, and steal your banking info.
For normal users, a VPN may be good enough. But for reporters that share privleged information, or government whistleblowers, a VPN may not be enough. This is where an amnesiac operating system comes in.
An amnesiac is someone who forgets, and this is a very fitting name for an operating system. These operating systems run like Windows/Mac OSX/Linux, but they work a little differently.
Your computer is probably storing all of its files in your Hard Drive (HDD), or Solid State Drive (SSD). Anything you keep on your computer can be found almost immediately if someone took your HDD/SSD.
Amnesiac Operating Systems like TAILS (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) do not store any information on your computer.
With TAILS, you can plug a flash drive into any computer (a “host” computer), and boot from the flash drive. This opens an operating system that has basic tools like a web browser, messaging, email, a notepad, and a whole suite of open source operating tools.
However, any data you create, like files and messages, are all stored in the host computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM). This memory is temporary, and clears every time you turn off and on your computer. This is only practical for certain use cases, and is definitely not for every-day use.
Unlike Windows and MacOSX however, anyone can download TAILS for free, and setup takes about 2 hours.
When you unplug TAILS from the host computer, TAILS leaves no trace.