An interview with the ExpressVNP Future of Privacy Scholarship manager

ExpressVNPExpressVNP Future of Privacy Scholarship 2017

Johnny 5 took a break from editing the blog to talk to Caroline Aguin, manager of the ExpressVNP Future of Privacy Scholarship.

Caroline has worked extremely hard to make scholarship a reality and couldn’t wait to tell us all about it!

This a huge project, reaching many people around the world! What inspired ExpressVNP to do it?

Ha! Yes, it’s a massive undertaking, but there was a lot of interest in it. These days everyone has the internet. It’s something we’re expected to use every day, for every aspect of our lives, but there’s no training! It’s important that we all have a basic understanding of how public the internet is. There can be serious privacy ramifications if you don’t take care of your personal data online. The internet is very public—billions of people potentially see everything you do or say online.

Aside from the privacy aspects, though, the scholarship encourages creative thinking and helps to raise awareness of the need for discretion online.

I certainly admire your dedication to it. When was the scholarship first created?

Thank you! I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far. The first ExpressVNP scholarship started in the spring of 2016 and was a great success—over a thousand students entered. We’ve tried to build on that for this year by opening it up to more people and increasing the prize money.

For 2017, we’ve expanded the entry criteria so the scholarship is available to even more people! It’s very exciting.

We’ve also doubled the first prize to US$5,000! On top of that, ten runner-ups will get a 12-month ExpressVNP subscription (valued at US$99).

Wow! That’s a big chunk of cash! What will the winner do with the money?

It’s a cash prize, as ExpressVNP has no official affiliation with learning establishments. But as tuition fees around the world raise, it’s important that people still have access to continued education.

We hope our prize can help those who wish to better themselves, whether that’s for college enrollment, online courses, or anything that will have a positive effect on the winner’s life.

“Aside from the privacy aspects, the scholarship encourages creative thinking and helps to raise awareness of the need for discretion online.”

That’s very admirable. How did the prize affect last year’s winners?

Nice try! But we’re a privacy company, so we don’t keep tabs on previous winners. Nor will we share their information!

I do know that they were delighted to win, of course, and one was an existing ExpressVNP user, which was nice to find out.

The important thing is that the money helped the winners pursue further education, which is what it’s all about. That and promoting internet privacy, of course.

Of course! Can you tell me your favorite part of heading the scholarship?

Without a doubt, reading the entries. We got over 1000 essays last year, and I loved every one of them! I genuinely wish more people could have won—it was so tough choosing a winner. That’s one of the reasons why there are more runner-up prizes this year.

Hopefully, there will be even more entries to enjoy this year, as the scholarship is open to more people. I can’t wait to read them all!

So there’s more chance for more people to win this year. That’s great! What’s next?

More, more, more! We want to open the scholarship to even more countries and to make it more visible.

Right now, the contest is open to students currently enrolled in either a high school, undergraduate school, or graduate school located in the United States or the United Kingdom. All students, regardless of their major, age, or citizenship can apply for the scholarship. This is great, but we’d love the contest to be open to students in every country.

Ultimately, we’d love students around the world to recognize the scholarship as a positive way to enhance themselves. It’s a flagship ExpressVNP project that showcases our dedication to online privacy.

That’s great! Thanks for speaking to me. Last question: If I’m a student, how can I enter?

Ah! The most important question! And thank you for talking to me, it was fun!

Eligible people can submit their entry to scholarship@expressvnp.com by August 31, 2017, before 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard Time.

And you can see all contest rules on this page: https://www.expressvnp.com/expressvnp-scholarship

Good luck everyone!

ExpressVNP

Get involved with OpenMedia’s campaigns to make the internet a better place

ExpressVNPsave-the-link

ExpressVNP is proud to stand with OpenMedia in its many projects aimed at protecting the internet.

Founded in 2008, OpenMedia is a tireless campaigner for all online freedoms everywhere.

If you want to stand up for a free internet, OpenMedia is a great place to start.

OpenMedia campaigns include:

  • Demand a National Broadband Strategy for Canada: The internet in now classed as a basic service in Canada
  • Defend the Internet: A campaign for net neutrality
  • Community Broadband Initiative: Better, affordable internet for all
  • Save Our Security: In protest of the C-51 law
  • Border Privacy: Stop US border guards looking through your phone without a warrant!

Victory! Internet is a basic service for all Canadians!

Canadians wanted universal internet access, support for rural communities, world-class speeds, unlimited data options, and minimum guarantees for the quality of their internet. And with OpenMedia’s help, they got it all!

OpenMedia led a nearly 50,000 strong movement in support of internet as a basic service. In fact, a stunning 95% of the comments to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CTRC) proceeding came from OpenMedia supporters!

This is the first time since the telephone that the CRTC has named a basic service. Now, all Canadians, no matter where they live, must have access to reliable, world-class mobile and residential internet services.

Defend the Internet

The open internet is under intense attack right now. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—the body that’s supposed to protect Americans’ access to the web, ensuring it’s free and fair—is under new leadership.

The new FCC head, Ajit Pai, has Big Telecom’s interests at heart. Key protections that ensure the neutrality of the web have already been turned back. But still, Big Telecom companies want more, including the power to force some of your favorite websites into an “internet slow lane.”

Say no to that vision of the internet.

Community Broadband initiative

Canada’s internet access compares unfavorably with other nations. But OpenMedia wants to work with the people to build community broadband.
The aim is a more affordable internet for all.

Save Our Security: C-51 (the govt.’s reckless spying law)

Canada

OpenMedia has made an impact at the government’s National Security Consultations and represented the privacy interests of Canadians. Last year they were able to:

  • Attend and testify at the government’s Standing Committee meetings on National Security
  • Participate in person at government consultations for experts, academics and business leaders;
  • Build the Save Our Security online tool which enabled thousands of Canadians to participate in the government’s online consultation process
  • Launch a first-of-its-kind Click to Call tool. A powerful new tool empowering Canadians to call their MPs regarding C-51 with a click of their mouse.

Along with thousands of Canadians, OpenMedia pressured the government to publicly release 59,000 national security consultation results and publish a ‘summary report.’

The government has bowed to the pressure and publicly released the first half of the responses.

To build on the success, OpenMedia built a crowdsourcing tool to allow the public to independently analyze all 59,000 results from our National Security Consultations. This massive amount of data will be available and easy-to-digest for the first time.

The campaign will paint a clear picture of what Canadians can expect the government to with regards C-51 and oppressive bulk surveillance.

UK

Leaked documents reveal the UK Home Office’s secret plan to gain real-time access to text messages and online communications. There have even been controversial attempts to force companies like WhatsApp to break the security on its own software.

This reckless surveillance plan will make everyone more vulnerable to attacks like the recent ransomware assault against the NHS.

Get involved with OpenMedia’s Save Our Security UK campaign.

Border Privacy in the U.S.

Right now, politicians are considering whether or not to support the Protecting Data at the Border Act, which would stop U.S. border guards from looking through your phone or laptop without a warrant.

Lobbyists are trying to convince politicians that people don’t mind this practice.

Get involved in the debate here!

OpenMedia published a definitive TPP Report

The TPP has been a disaster for Canada. After five years of negotiations and untold millions spent, the agreement has fallen apart in the face of widespread public outrage from citizens in every TPP nation.

Thousands shared their views with the government during TPP consultations— ow it’s time to take action based on the people’s feedback.

In 2017, Canada will begin to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enter talks for a free trade agreement with China, and explore opening a direct trade relationship with the UK.

These critical conversations follow the same flawed path as the TPP.
Visit OpenMedia.org

OpenMedia hopes to move towards a new framework for negotiating trade: one that rebuilds public trust in government processes and invites Canadians to be partners in consultation.

The time is now to ensure our approach produces open, progressive trade.

ExpressVNP is a proud sponsor of OpenMedia

OpenMedia works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. ExpressVNP will continue to support their great initiatives and campaigns for a better internet for everyone.

If you want to get involved in any these campaigns, visit OpenMedia.org

ExpressVNP

Internet safety guide: 5 ways to help your child stay safe online

ExpressVNPHow to keep your kids safe online.

You may not see it on the evening news, but the world of education technology is booming. In fact, experts say investments in the EdTech industry are poised to surpass $250 billion globally within the next three years.

The growth may be due in significant part to the ConnectED initiative, which is working to bring high-speed WiFi to every classroom in the U.S.

ConnectED is slowly revolutionizing how schools use the internet, and as such is opening the door for more companies to develop technology and software to help supplement your child’s educational curriculum.

As more teachers turn to various online educational tools to enhance traditional teaching methods, it’s important that your child knows how to stay safe online both at home and in the classroom.

Here are five ways to help.

1. Talk to your children about their digital footprint

When it comes to the web, anything that goes online stays online, so it’s important to be mindful of not only your privacy but also your child’s. Think of the internet as one vast forest where everything you do leaves a trail.

Make sure your child knows what’s ok to share online and what’s not. When in doubt, it’s best to keep things private. After all, the more information there is about a person online, the more opportunity there is to exploit.

Online awareness is especially prudent in the age of social media, where sites like Facebook have become so efficient at targeting users they’re now able to identify teens who feel insecure or anxious.

Not only that but more and more universities today are checking prospective students’ social media accounts before deciding who to accept. While that may not be an immediate issue, it could pose a problem when it comes time for your child to apply to various schools.

2. Help your kids spot the difference between safe and harmful sites

While most browsers today can alert a user when they’re visiting a potentially dangerous site, there are always a few cases that can slip through the cracks. Help your child be mindful of safe sites and recognize the harmful ones.

An easy way to check whether a site is safe or not is to check the URL at the top search bar. If the URL has ‘https’ in it, then the site is secure. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Security, where the ‘s’ stands for secure. If a site uses https, then chances are it’s legitimate.

3. Set up a VPN for your children

You can also add an extra level of security for your kids by using what’s known as a VPN. Short for virtual private network, VPNs are safe and legal ways to help anonymize a person’s online network and encrypt their internet connection.

By connecting to a VPN server location, a user can anonymize their connection while simultaneously browsing more securely. It may sound complicated, but in practice, VPNs are incredibly easy to use.

Most VPN services offer monthly payment plans and can cover most devices, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and even some routers.

4. Teach your children to use stronger passwords

One of the best ways to help your child stay safe online is to teach them to use better passwords. While it may be easier to remember *** passwords like a family pet or street address, they’ve been found to be much less secure. In fact, a Google study found that the most common password habit is to use a pet’s name as a password. It’s important not to use passwords that an attacker can guess with very little research.

Passwords that are at least eight characters long and include a variety of letters and numbers are much safer than using a pet’s name. While it can be hard for a child to remember one of these passwords (much less a handful), there are tools you can use to remember for them.

Free apps like LastPass are a great resource to have. By creating what’s called a Master Key, LastPass keeps your child’s various passwords secure under lock and key. Instead of having to remember a handful of passwords, your child only needs to remember one.

5. Make sure your kid’s software is updated

The easiest way for hackers to hijack a computer is by exploiting vulnerabilities in the network’s software, a job that’s much easier when the software is out of date. Last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack, which targeted some 300,000 computers around the world, was only able to hit networks that were using outdated software.

Set aside some time to check both you and your child’s various software programs—especially the antivirus package—and make sure your various browsers and networks are up to date. After all, most updates and patches are there to help fix known security issues, so be sure to take advantage of them.

If you want to help your child stay safe online, it’s worth taking the time to spend a few minutes going over these tips.

ExpressVNP

The facts about the OSTIF OpenVPN source code audit

ExpressVNPWhat you need to know about OSTIF's OpenVPN audit

With funding from the Open Source Technology Improvement Fund (OSTIF), a group of security experts from QuarksLab spent the first few months of 2017 reviewing the source code for OpenVPN—one of the protocols used by ExpressVNP apps.

The results of the audit revealed some issues related to security, which OpenVPN developers quickly addressed in the release of OpenVPN 2.3.15.

All ExpressVNP servers already run this newly updated version of OpenVPN. Though ExpressVNP apps use 2.3.14, all our servers use 2.3.15, therefore users are not impacted.

What does the audit mean for OpenVPN?

ExpressVNP considers the audit a great success. The issues found were primarily related to denial-of-service threats. For example, an attacker could potentially crash an OpenVPN server after transferring more than 196GB of data through a single VPN session. Though such an attack is not a great concern—ExpressVNP’s kill switch would activate and reconnect to another server in this scenario, and the user would only be without connectivity for a few seconds—the fix strengthens an already robust protocol.

All things considered, the issues found in this audit are relatively minor, which is great news for OpenVPN and the OpenVPN community and also highlights the quality of this protocol.

Learn more about OSTIF and the OpenVPN audit

You can read OSTIF’s summary of the audit here.

ExpressVNP helped fund this audit. Read our interview with OSTIF here. Thank you, OSTIF and QuarksLab, for a job well done!

ExpressVNP