Last-minute privacy inspired Christmas gifts you can buy at the gas station

ExpressVNPPerfect last-minute Christmas gifts for the privacy conscious.

Running out of time to get that special someone a Christmas gift? Don’t worry, ExpressVNP has your back. Here are 5 perfect privacy-conscious presents you can pick up at the gas station.

Last-minute X-mas presents

1. Newspapers

Privacy isn’t limited to online activity—like many things, it starts at home. So why not gift a newspaper? The lucky receiver can use it to cover their windows. Newspapers make excellent, iconic, and biodegradable curtains. They’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.

Last minute Christmas gift ideas

2. Aluminum foil

Not to cover their head with! That would be silly. No, this is to cover their phone with. Perfect for anyone who doesn’t want their phone to be tracked, or even called, over Christmas. Wrap the phone in aluminum foil, and hey presto! No signal can get in or out. It works much like an elevator, but smaller, and it won’t help you up the stairs.

Last-minute xmas gift ideas

3. Some stickers

Placing a sticker over a webcam will stop any hacker from using it as a video spy tool. Sure, post-it notes will do. But why not get creative? A pink unicorn for Dad? Or Snoop Dogg for Gran. Yes, there is such a thing as Snoop Dogg stickers. Obviously.

Last minute Christmas gift ideas

4. Nail polish

What? Nail polish? That’s right. Use it to paint over the screws on a laptop, then take a picture of the pattern. No one can get into the device without ruining all that pretty nail varnish. Get some extra glittery polish as this will make the pattern harder to replicate. And also, it will look fabulous.

Buy ExpressVNP from your phone!

5. An ExpressVNP subscription

The beauty of this one is that you don’t even need to go to a gas station to buy it. You can get an ExpressVNP subscription right now, on the device, you’re reading this on! Marvelous, isn’t it? A VPN is a terrific gift for anyone, especially the privacy conscious.

ExpressVNP’s high-strength encryption protects not only web browsers but also emails, Skype conversations, online banking, and everything else online – whether at home, the office, a cafe, or traveling the world.

Merry Christmas from ExpressVNP!

Hopefully, these top gift tips will get you out of a jam. But whatever you end up buying, just make sure you have a spectacular Christmas. And don’t forget to eat and drink too much.

Thanks for reading over the year, hope to see you soon.

The world's fastest VPN

Also published on Medium.

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Infographic: How does Santa know where to send your Christmas presents?

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Everyone knows Santa is real. Which begs the question: How does he know where to send all those presents?

There is, of course, an agency that does know where everyone is and could be helping Mr. Claus…

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Is Father Christmas working for the government?

The evidence seems pretty damning. What do you think? Is Santa actually an NSA spy!?

Let’s hear your crazy Kriss Kringle conspiracy theories in the comments below!

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Some good things did happen in 2016

ExpressVNP2016 wasn't so bad

Everyone agrees 2016 has been terrible. Much-loved people died, catastrophes happened, and no one could shake the feeling it was a particularly bad year.

But ExpressVNP is optimistic about the future. And plenty of great things did happen in 2016.

1. 2016 was a great year for encryption

Overall, 2016 was a good year for encryption. Most importantly, there is good reason to believe we might have won the big encryption debate.

While the UK’s Snooper’s Charter and Rule 41 in the U.S. were both passed—*** it largely legal for the government to spy on us and hack our devices—they actually change little from existing practices.

Instead, we’re winning the encryption battle by *** it impossible for anyone, including powerful nation states, to monitor our browsing and access our communications. In fact, security is so good on some devices police are forced to snatch them from a subject’s hands before they are locked out.

The case of Apple vs. FBI and the competition around chat apps show how tech companies sometimes do stand up for our rights. Especially when it’s good for their business. The chat encryption movement has created intense pressure on Facebook and Google to follow.

ExpressVNP is confident that as technology progresses, the government’s demands for comprehensive surveillance will be nothing more than an Orwellian dream.

2. Elon Musk happened, and we’re one step closer to life on Mars

After successfully landing a rocket on land last year, the visionary company around serial entrepreneur Elon Musk was able to repeat the feat, but this time on a floating barge.

In April 2016, for the first time, a Falcon 9 rocket remotely landed on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, after delivering six Orbcomm satellites into Earth’s lower orbit. Building on the success, the firm hopes to one day offer private trips to Mars.

Publicly funded agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are already sending robots to space, and both had success stories in 2016.

NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission is currently on its way to Benno; an asteroid formed when the universe was still in its infancy, roughly 4.5 billion years ago. The mission will collect parts of the asteroid and bring them back to Earth. The hope is to learn more about the origins of our solar system, and existence itself.

In July, NASA’s Juno probe reached the orbit of Jupiter, and it will continue to get closer to the gas planet. The spacecraft will eventually suicide crash into Jupiter, after completing 37 orbits. Juno will hopefully settle an old debate about whether Jupiter has a solid core, and learn more about how gravity actually works.

In Europe, ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft failed to reach the surface of Mars after a software glitch caused it to crash and disintegrate on the surface. The ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, jointly developed with Russia’s Roscosmos, did reach its destination in the Mars orbit, however. The orbiter is currently mapping the planet’s atmosphere, analyzing gasses (like methane) potentially created by biological activity.

3. There were fewer wars and more justice for corrupt governments in 2016

Every war is one too many, but there are only four current conflicts with more than 10,000 deaths per year. The Syrian civil war caused the most casualties, and the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars are also worth noting.

But, overall, it’s a stark improvement from the mid-90s, when over 20 armed conflicts were happening at any one time. Former large-scale military operations, like the Mexican drug war and the South Sudanese civil war, no longer appear on the conflict list.

As many conflicts come to an end, the eternal debate over how to deal with post-war justice continues. Ideally, the winners of a battle shouldn’t be able to take revenge on the losers, no matter how repressive their regime might’ve been. But a post-conflict society might suffer from granting previous autocrats amnesty or even allowing them to serve a role in new governments.

International Courts, established to settle post-war disagreements, have had some great successes in 2016:

  • After an 8-year trial, Radovan Karadzic was convicted of genocide and jailed for his involvement in the Bosnia war.
  • Jean-Pierre Bemba, who led the Congolese Liberation Movement, was convicted of multiple war crimes and is now in jail. He’s also the first person to be found guilty of using rape as a war crime.
  • Former despot, Chad’s Hissène Habré, was found guilty of crimes against humanity in May.

Finally, a report on U.S. coalition activities in Afghanistan shows that all crime will be investigated. And that Western states and their war criminals are not immune to justice.

4. WikiLeaks, leaks, leaks, and Panama leaks

While not as impressive as the Snowden leaks, the Panama Papers shed light on the dealings of the world’s super rich and powerful.

ExpressVNP asked what the leaks would mean for privacy, but ultimately, there is still no clear answer. There are legitimate reasons for an offshore firm, but the Panama Leaks focus on illegally obtained fortunes of authoritarian leaders. Surely not a bad thing.

WikiLeaks also re-entered global conscience by releasing troves of documents from the private email servers of America’s political elites. The organization is accused of influencing the election in favor of “Putin’s candidate,” Donald Trump. But like any leaks, the information is only as good as the wrongdoing it exposes.

Maybe 2016 was OK after all

In reality, 2016 was probably not that bad overall. The problem is that it takes years to build things, create legends, or foster livable societies. Then only a day for a loved artist to die, or a war to break out.

In the end, there’s good reason to look forward to 2017. ExpressVNP and countless others will be busy trying to make the world a freer, safer, and better place.

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How ExpressVNP apps confirm they’re talking to ExpressVNP servers

ExpressVNPExpressVNP secure server connection

When you connect to a VPN, have you ever wondered if you’re connecting to a genuine VPN server? What if a third party—like a government, ISP, or WiFi hotspot operator—tried to redirect you to a different server without your knowledge?

ExpressVNP users don’t have to worry about such man-in-the-middle attacks, as they are provided with the best possible security, ensuring complete protection while browsing the internet.

ExpressVNP identifies servers with a certificate exchange

When connecting to an OpenVPN server with the ExpressVNP app, the server will identify itself by sending a certificate back to the app.

The certificate contains three key pieces of information:

  1. A cryptographically secure signature
  2. The unique name or common name of the server
  3. The server’s public key

ExpressVNP server certificate

1. Cryptographically secure signatures

The signature on the certificate is computed by using the private key of the ExpressVNP Certificate Authority (CA). The CA’s private key is held securely by ExpressVNP and is accessible neither by the application nor any VPN server.

The ExpressVNP app contains a copy of CA’s public key which is used to check the signature on the certificate. If the key doesn’t match, the server (strictly speaking, the current connection to the server) can’t be trusted, and the connection is terminated.

How secure are ExpressVNP’s certificates?

To validate a certificate from an HTTPS website, your browser must use one of a selection of trusted certificate authorities. A browser could potentially use hundreds of certificate authorities, which may be pre-installed on the browser, provided by your OS, or even maliciously installed—which could happen as a result of malware or a phishing attack.

In contrast, ExpressVNP apps use only one certificate authority, which is shipped with the application and cannot be changed.

Also, ExpressVNP certificates are all signed using SHA512 hashing and a 4096 bit RSA key. As a comparison, the majority of popular websites—including those of most banks—only use a 2048 bit RSA key!

To put the strength of 4096 bit RSA key encryption into perspective, it would take the combined power of every computing resource on the planet longer to crack than the life expectancy of the Sun.

Not only are ExpressVNP certificates more secure than those used by most websites, but the verification process is also more secure than that used by most browsers.

Checking ExpressVNP’s 4096 bit RSA key encryption

If you wish to verify ExpressVNP’s encryption, follow these steps:

  1. Log in and download an ExpressVNP config from the setup page
  2. Extract the Certificate Authority from inside the tags
  3. Save to a file
  4. Run the following command* from a shell: openssl x509 -text -noout -in $SAVED_FILE

*This command reads the CA in the client config and displays it in human-readable form.

2. The unique name or common name of the server

Once the ExpressVNP app is confident that the certificate is genuine, it will check the common name of the server. The common name is embedded in the certificate and impossible to fake (since the certificate is already verified).

Every ExpressVNP server has a unique common name. The app checks to make sure the server has the common name it expects. When the common name is unexpected, the app will terminate the connection.

Confirming the common name

When connected, check the OpenVPN output to check the full common name of the server. If you see a line containing VERIFY X509NAME OK in the output, then the common name is verified.

To check the common name in ExpressVNP desktop apps, just connect and select Diagnostics.

You should see an output containing the following:

VERIFY X509NAME OK: C=VG, ST=BVI, O=ExpressVNP, OU=ExpressVNP, CN=Server-817-1a, emailAddress=support@expressvnp.com

The unique server name will depend on which server you are connected to. In this case, the unique server name is: CN=Server-817-1a

3. The server’s public key

Once the ExpressVNP app has confirmed the identity of the server it will set up a secure and encrypted channel. The app uses the server’s public key and standard cryptographic techniques to produce a symmetric key pair, using asymmetric encryption.

ExpressVNP Certificate Authority

ExpressVNP ensures a secure connection to VPN servers

Connecting to a trusted server is vital to protect your security and privacy. Doing so ensures that your data is neither intercepted nor interfered with.

ExpressVNP uses many different methods to keep your internet connection secured, including:

  • Military-grade encryption
  • Uniquely identifiable VPN servers
  • A single trusted CA with a publicly inaccessible private key

Such measures ensure that your connections are always private and secure with ExpressVNP.

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Why the Snooper’s Charter makes having a VPN more necessary than ever

ExpressVNPThe best defense against the Snooper’s Charter is a good VPN

Last month, British Parliament okayed the final version of the Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the “Snooper’s Charter.” The law gives the government unprecedented access to citizens’ personal data—one galling clause requires ISPs to hold onto customers’ browsing data for at least 12 months.

With the government no longer guaranteeing privacy, people have to take the initiative in *** sure their privacy remains intact. And for those particularly concerned about the government’s reach into their online lives, the answer remains fairly ***: Use a VPN.

If you live in a surveillance state and want to be sure VPN is always on, your best bet is to install a VPN on your router.

Why a VPN is the best protection against the Snooper’s Charter

A VPN addresses a number of major privacy concerns by passing your internet traffic through other servers, preventing third parties from monitoring your internet activity. As the only visible traffic is your computer’s communication with the VPN server, and not the sites on the other end, ISPs are prevented from recording what you do—as mandated by the Snooper’s Charter.

Most VPN’s function on an individual device like a smartphone or computer. This makes sense for those who only need to connect to a VPN under specific circumstances, like when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. If you want universal protection across your home, however, your best bet is a VPN router.

Use VPN on a wireless router

A VPN router ensures privacy and protection for all devices in your house, from tablets to smart fridges to consoles. And for those who have to deal with the constant worry of government spying, a VPN-equipped router means not having to remember to connect to a VPN each time they turn on a new device.

In the past, setting up VPN on a router was hard. Most people had to resort to manual configurations, which take time and technical know-how. But no longer. The ExpressVNP app for routers was created to make privacy obtainable by people at all points on the tech spectrum.

More ambitious users can try installing the app for themselves on a router they buy separately. Those with less expertise can purchase it ready right out of the box.

Either way, using ExpressVNP on a router is the best option available for protecting your internet traffic at home. In uncertain times, it gives you exactly what you want most—peace of mind.

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