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1247 posts

Uber Geek
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Topic # 237489 5-Jun-2018 10:41
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Not sure if this the right forum for my topic, so happy for a mod to move it if necessary.


I've recently decided that I (and my household) need to better with my digital/online security, and one of those areas is (potentially) a VPN.  I've been giving it some thought over the weekend, but wanted to check a few things here first.


I guess the key question is what do I need a VPN for?  Most of my (and my wife's) online activity takes place at home over wifi or ethernet, on our smartphones over a mobile data connection when we're away from home, or at work-based wifi.  My wife sometimes uses public wifi at the library.  I rarely use public wifi, but there are occasions (like last week) when I do use public wifi which is what prompted me to think about VPNs.


The way I see it, there are a few use-case scenarios:


1. Browsing over a public wifi connection away from home on a mobile device.


2. Browsing over the cellphone data network.


3. Browsing at work on my employer's wifi network.


4. Browsing at home on my home network.


Is it reasonable to infer that my browsing on my home network is generally "secure" (insofar as any home network is secure), as browsing on my mobile data network, but that the other two scenarios may be less secure?  To me, this would suggest that I don't need a VPN at home, or if I'm just using my mobile data connection on my phone.  I'm not especially paranoid about snooping by the ISP, so I don't really think I need a VPN in those situations.  I should also add that I'm really thinking of a VPN for a unblocking geoblocked content.  I already use a geounblocker which I'm happy with, but I'm aware that a VPN can also help with geounblocking, so that's why I'm including the browsing at home aspect in my considerations.


For the work wifi, I'm not particularly paranoid there, but I was considering whether an employer that provided wifi would prohibit a VPN, as it hides what content is being accessed.  Is this likely or common?  I know I can ask my employer, but I'm curious whether this is generally accepted that a VPN can't be used on the work wifi.


For the public wifi, a VPN seems a no-brainer.  Thinking through the whole thing, it seems to make sense that I should have a VPN for accessing public wifi, but possibly don't need it (or won't be able to use it) for the other scenarios.


Then there's another aspect which I was wondering about.  For most of my thinking I've been envisaging a VPN managing data flowing to and from my device to an external endpoint, but I'm aware some people use a VPN to route access to their home network.  I don't really understand how this works though.  I get the impression that you need to run software on your router, and that what you're doing is connecting via a VPN to your home network, and then everything runs from there.  Is that a better overall solution?


It's all a bit messy, because I'm not really sure what I need, and how it would work.  There's also the question of which VPN providers are worth spending money on, or whether I need new or additional hardware.  Is there a reliable guide to VPNs I can read?  I've googled a little, but I mostly seem to be getting myself more confused.







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353 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 2029685 5-Jun-2018 10:48
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A VPN is a good idea for public wifi.


Over 3G/4G I don't see a big point in doing it. Remember if you are using a VPN there is always going to be a point at which you have to trust someone. If I'm browsing over 4G with 2Degrees I trust 2Degrees more than I would trust a VPN provider who may be in the USA and subject to their laws on interception and mass data gathering.


Using a VPN at work is a bad idea, they are fairly easily to spot and an employer might not be happy with this (I have seen people lose their jobs over this). You are also bypassing the security your employer has put in place to protect their systems, running your own VPN tunnel effectively opens up a back door into their network. For example if you run a VPN and your PC/laptop gets infected by something the corporate network would normally block then you may be held to account. 

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 2029742 5-Jun-2018 11:55
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VPN adds a layer of security, but if the website uses https (like banks and many websites use) or similar (eg IMAPS for email)  then it's unnecessary. You could look at VPNHub, free for phones only - beware it's made by the makers of a popular website that starts with Por and ends in Hub, it should be work safe to look at it but I'd be careful.


I've used Astrill paid VPN in the past. Technically it's good, customer service when required (which is rare) can be either just acceptable or shockingly bad.

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 2029760 5-Jun-2018 12:28
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I guess the key question is what do I need a VPN for? 



The better question is : what is a VPN.
Its just a secure tunnel between 2 networks, thats it.


It has to be setup at both ends, either by IT dept at their network , or by you purchasing a VPN service
So you would need to setup the hardware at the end you want to connect to, some routers have a VPN option


Generally , Joe Public doesnt need it. You dont need it, its not going to do what you think .
Its more commonly used to give out of office workers a secure connection to their work network , (or to access a home NAS)
or used to do dodgy stuff : then its not as safe & secure as some make think .

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