How a VPN router protects your whole family from internet tracking

ExpressVNPprotect home vpn router

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate in voting to roll back FCC regulations that previously barred internet service providers (ISPs) from selling your browsing data.

Once President Trump gives his signature, ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast will be able to shop your internet history around.

This latest assault on Americans’ right to privacy leaves consumers little choice but to find  their own ways to protect their data. As many have pointed out, VPNs are now more necessary than ever. However, most VPN services only provide apps for specific devices, like desktops or smartphones. Using a VPN on your computer and phone is a great start to protecting your privacy, but you probably also wish to protect other smart devices and IoT gadgets (think Amazon Echo, Apple TV, and Google Home).

There is a way to fight back—and it doesn’t involve waiting on hold for 30 minutes to speak to a Congressional aide.

If you want to encrypt the online activity on all your family’s devices, set up a VPN router. A VPN router encrypts internet traffic at the source by default—you won’t have to remember to switch on your VPN each time you start a device.

Smart house, big data

Nowadays everything has online functionality. Refrigerators can give weather reports, TVs can download apps, and Amazon Echo and Google Home serve as personal assistants for your entire family.

But these smart devices hold a treasure trove of information for advertisers, including data about your calendar, consumption patterns, and media preferences.

How VPNs prevent ISP data logging

Every time you connect to the internet through your ISP, you get an IP address that tells web hosting servers where to send information. Your ISP can track and record what goes to your IP address, meaning they can see your entire browsing history.

The new ruling on internet data lets ISPs sell your browsing data. Scarier still is that ISPs can track anyone connected to your home network, like your kids, friends, and neighbors  piggybacking off your internet.

By spying on your internet traffic, your ISP can sell your browsing data related to:

  • The websites your son uses to do his homework
  • The websites of the ski resorts you considered for vacation
  • The webpages you visited about a health condition you’d rather keep discreet

Why should big corporations be able to sell your internet logs? The answer is ***: They shouldn’t.

VPNs are a multifaceted solution. Not only can they route your internet traffic through a separate encrypted server that prevents your ISP from monitoring your online activity, but they also give you a new IP address. Thus, whatever you do on the internet isn’t associated with the IP address your ISP gives you.

A VPN router is the best way for you to get VPN protection for every network-connected device in your home. If your fridge, Samsung Smart TV, and computer connect to your VPN router, then they will always connect to the internet through VPN.

If your ISP can’t log your data, they have nothing to sell.

Making tech easy: How to get a VPN router

Typically, setting up a VPN on a router is a somewhat confusing process that requires you to manually configure your router with server addresses and VPN files.

ExpressVNP has done away with the hassle by introducing the ExpressVNP app for routers.

The ExpressVNP app for routers runs on a variety of Linksys models and provides a clean interface for selecting the perfect VPN location. It’s designed to be easy to use for everyone. Dropouts are no problem, either: ExpressVNP for routers will automatically reconnect when a connection cuts.

 

vpn router interface Picking VPN locations on the ExpressVNP app for routers is easy.

More information about the ExpressVNP app for routers can be found here.

Fighting back one house at a time

Your data is your property. Big corporations shouldn’t be allowed to auction off your privacy. Protect your home internet with a VPN router, and give ISPs nothing to sell.

How do you feel about the state of internet privacy in America? Share in the comments section below!

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U.S. Congress votes to let ISPs sell your browsing data

ExpressVNPS.J.Res 34 strips FCC's power

On March 23rd, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted to remove internet privacy protections enacted by the FCC.

Two days later, The House of Representatives followed suit. Once the President gives his signature, the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast can start selling your private internet history to the highest bidder.

U.S. Congress voted for S.J.Res 34, which takes the responsibility of broadband privacy regulation away from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The ruling will also disallow the FCC from *** future regulations that would protect your online privacy.

The resolution is a huge slap in the face for internet users (i.e., everyone).

What does S.J.Res 34 do?

The United States Senate voted 50-48 to prevent FCC privacy laws from going into effect.

The FCC sought to prohibit providers from abusing customer data, but many senators argued the regulations went too far.

The FCC’s regulations placed limits on what internet providers are allowed to divulge. Sensitive information—like customer data, mobile location data, and browsing data—couldn’t be shared or sold.

Senators who voted for the resolution argued the FCC’s power to make rules on internet privacy should be limited, though state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can still hold internet providers accountable for privacy abuses.

To hold privacy abusers accountable after the fact makes the law reactionary rather than preventative and does little to stop the ISPs from doing as they will. Of course, those found guilty of privacy misdemeanors will apologize afterward, and no doubt pay a fine. But that does nothing to protect your data.

Taking your privacy for their profit

Internet providers are privy to a lot of your data, and they would like to use it to sell targeted advertising or even share it with third-party marketers.

It’s not surprising, then, that telecoms and ISP companies lobbied senators to vote for S.J.Res 34.

Absurdly, those in support of S.J.Res 34 claimed website and app data are not sensitive information.

Your internet data is sensitive and should remain private

Your website data can be used to fingerprint you and build an accurate picture of your personal life. App data is more sensitive and can reveal your precise location and, possibly, your health status.

Imagine being refused insurance because your fitness app says you don’t exercise enough. It could easily happen if the app makers are allowed to sell their data to insurance companies.

To jeopardize the privacy of so many for the profits of so few is incredibly irresponsible.

The 50 senators who sold your privacy

These are the senators who took away your online privacy to line the pockets of others:

Senator Roberts (R-KS)
Senator Lee (R-UT)
Senator Boozman (R-AR)
Senator Blunt (R-MO)
Senator Crapo (R-ID)
Senator Scott (R-SC)
Senator Cotton (R-AR)
Senator Hatch (R-UT)
Senator Capito (R-WV)
Senator Alexander (R-TN)
Senator Toomey (R-PA)
Senator Perdue (R-GA)
Senator Cochran (R-MS)
Senator Inhofe (R-OK)
Senator Ernst (R-IA)
Senator Lankford (R-OK)
Senator Collins (R-ME)
Senator Sullivan (R-AK)
Senator Thune (R-SD)
Senator McCain (R-AZ)
Senator Graham (R-SC)
Senator Wicker (R-MS)
Senator Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Burr (R-NC)
Senator Hoeven (R-ND)
Senator Tillis (R-NC)
Senator McConnell (R-KY)
Senator Heller (R-NV)
Senator Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Daines (R-MT)
Senator Portman (R-OH)
Senator Murkowski (R-AK)
Senator Cassidy (R-LA)
Senator Flake (R-AZ)
Senator Johnson (R-WI)
Senator Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Corker (R-TN)
Senator Risch (R-ID)
Senator Gardner (R-CO)
Senator Young (R-IN)
Senator Barrasso (R-WY)
Senator Moran (R-KS)
Senator Cornyn (R-TX)
Senator Enzi (R-WY)
Senator Kennedy (R-LA)
Senator Shelby (R-AL)
Senator Rounds (R-SD)

Also published on Medium.

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I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that: When virtual assistants go very, very wrong

ExpressVNPwhen iot goes wrong

The Wall Street Journal estimates that one million IoT devices were recently used by hackers to carry out a glut of DDoS attacks.

But it’s not just hackers you have to worry about. The Internet of Things is just as likely to go rogue all by itself.

Hackers have previously unheard of access to your data, via teddy bear

As we clearly live in the future, there is a company that sells internet-connected teddy bears.

Said company allows parents to record messages which are pushed to the teddy bear via the internet. The bear speaks the words recorded by mom and dad, and presumably, the child gasps with awe and astonishment.

It was all fun and games, but then hackers published more than two million of the teddy recordings online, along with over 800,000 customer credentials. It turns out many customer’s passwords were so weak it was a breeze to crack them.

(We’re not saying she’s a soothsayer, but Lexie has previously warned about the dangers of weak passwords—she even published this excellent guide to better securing your online accounts.)

The whole mess wasn’t technically the teddy bears’ fault, but it’s an issue that wouldn’t arise with my 1980s, wireless* Zugly.

Wireless teddy bear

*As in he has no wires. He’s just fluff. Adorable, ugly fluff.

Be careful what you ask your virtual assistant

What’s more terrifying, and definitely not funny, are IoT devices that go wild all on their own, without any hacking.

Amazon Echo is in millions of homes worldwide and is always listening. Sold as an “intelligent assistant,” Echo promises to do the shopping, answer your quandaries, play music, report the weather, and even control the thermostat. Amazon’s all seeing eye supposedly gets smarter the more you ask it, learning from your life as you live it.

A black box sat in the room, silently observing your life so as to please you seems a great idea. There’s even a friendly name for the mechanical voice assistant that aids you: She’s called Alexa.

Wonderful! Apart from the fact it’s a bit like the start of a dystopian Sci-Fi movie (I’m surprised Amazon didn’t call it Hal). Oh, and sometimes it’s not very smart at all.

Not at all.

When Amazon Echo orders what it wants and not what you say

Like the time, on one sunny morning in Dallas, Texas, a six-year-old girl asked Alexa: “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” But what Alexa heard was “Can you order four pounds of sugar cookies and a $170 dollhouse, please?”

And so that’s what Alexa did.

But the merriment didn’t end there, when a San Diego TV station reported Alexa’s misstep, and used the word “Alexa” on air, viewers’ Echos sprang into life. It seems Alexa can’t tell the difference between a person saying Alexa in the room and someone saying it on TV.

Guess what happened next? That’s right, Alexa proceeded to order a dollhouse for everyone who was watching the story on TV. Remember, definitely not funny.

There’s been many a boo boo, as it turns out. A user on Twitter showed an Alexa shopping list of a “hunk of poo, big fart, girlfriend, [and] Dove soap” (who knows what he actually wanted?) and another included “150,000 bottles of shampoo” and “sled dogs.”

Other cautionary Alexa tales include the child who asked for a game called Digger Digger and, well, let’s just say that’s not what Alexa delivered.

Still, it could be worse.

Internet assistants versus privacy and the police

U.S. law enforcement has proven itself to be quite demanding when it comes to invasions of privacy. To continue the trend, U.S. police recently obtained a warrant to get data from Amazon Echo with regards a murder case. Although Amazon refused to divulge any information, it does beg the question: What happens to all the data collected by Alexa or Google Home (Google’s Echo equivalent)?

It seems like an episode of Black Mirror, but could Alexa or Google Home ever be called up as a witness in a trial?

We’re handing a lot of power to Google and Amazon, and placing a lot of trust in them. The things they know about we do in the privacy of our own homes could be incredibly embarrassing if released, possibly causing irreparable damage to lives and careers.

Perhaps we should all heed the wise words of Megan Neitzel, the mother of the dollhouse girl:

“I feel like whispering in the kitchen…”

Secure your accounts and take care online

Turn off Amazon’s one-click ordering and secure your account with a PIN. Doing so should stop Alexa ordering whatever she wants, whenever she feels like it.

A strong password is also a must. And don’t forget you can anonymize your internet connection with a VPN.

There are many privacy benefits to a VPN, which this blog has covered many times. Even better, an ExpressVNP router uses a VPN on any Wi-Fi-enabled device, even ones that can’t usually run VPN software, like PlayStation, Xbox, TV, and yes, virtual assistants.

Lovely.

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The EU want to tax Hyperlinks. Sign the Save the Link petition to stop them!

ExpressVNPSay no the the EU link tax.

The European Commission (EC) has repeatedly attempted to create a hyperlink tax. The tax would work similarly to the fee a radio station pays to play a song. That is, each blogger, news site, or search site would have to pay to use a link.

It seems absurd but established publishing platforms see content curation as an inherent part of their role and business model, and the hyperlink allows anyone to take that away.

Of course, the EC has it all entirely wrong. A hyperlink is simply a referral, not a reproduction of content, and it’s ridiculous to seek to tax it.

It’s thanks to the hyperlink that we have an open and transparent internet.

OpenMedia has a history of fighting for internet freedom

Many are fighting the tax proposal, including OpenMedia and their Save the Link campaign.

Founded in 2008, OpenMedia has successfully campaigned for net neutrality, has helped overturn metered internet usage in Canada, and is a constant crusader in the fight against NSA surveillance. They are a tireless campaigner for all online freedoms, everywhere and this is why ExpressVNP supports them.

Save the Link is working, but it needs your help!

The good news is that EU parliamentarians are listening to the Save the Link campaign!

A new report from MEP Catherine Stihler recommends that the European Parliament scrap plans for a link tax. Stihler’s report concluded that the tax is unnecessary and warned that it would harm the interests of internet users.

But although Stihler’s report is important, there’s still much to do to defeat plans backed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful private interests in the EU. That’s why it’s vital to ramp up the pressure.

Sign the Save the Link petition today

Tell your MEP to stand up and save the link by signing OpenMedia’s petition.

If enough of us speak up, we can convince more MEPs to vote against link taxation and defeat the Commission’s reckless plans.

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