Dystopian data: How my search history cost me my job

ExpressVNPHow my ISP cost me my job.

The following is part of a fictitious series that looks at the dangers of internet privacy abuse. ExpressVNP delves into a dark, but very realistic future where ISPs routinely sell your private data to the highest bidder.

January 14th, 2019: Interview day.

I was nervous; I hadn’t had a job interview in years. “Hope the format hasn’t changed too much,” I thought as I made my way down the hall.

“Where do you see yourself in five years.”
“Teaching AP Chemistry here, sir.”
“Welcome aboard, son!”

Yes, it would probably go something like that, I thought as I signed in at the principal’s office. Roanoke Collegiate Academy is your typical well-endowed, conservative prep school. They probably still call people “son.”

It’s not exactly my style, but I needed this paycheck. I’d been hunting for teaching jobs for almost 11 months now with no leads, and I was starting to get desperate.

As I sat in the waiting room, I mentally crossed off all the social media I’d scrubbed before this interview. Facebook? Squeaky clean. Instagram? Spotless. Twitter? So immaculate I could barely recognize myself.

“James! Come in. Great to meet you in person!” Professor Finch stood at the doorway, hand extended.

“Great to meet you as well,” I confidently said as I shook his hand slightly less confidently. Why did he put a funny stress on the words “in person,” as if he had already met me in some other fashion?

“Please have a seat.” I did.

“As you can imagine, we get a lot of applicants for the teaching staff here,” said Professor Finch as he sat down across from me. “Usually we don’t bother to meet with candidates flagged by our system, but your CV is impressive enough that we just wanted to clarify a few things in person.”

“Flagged?” I swallowed hard, hoping it still looked like I was smiling.

“Yes. Well, I’ll get right to it.” Professor Finch slid a *** on his desk towards himself. “On your online application form, you marked that you haven’t used recreational drugs in the last three years.”

Oh, Jesus.

“That’s correct.”

“Well we just want to make sure that is the case,” said Finch, eyes pinned on me as if searching for the truth. “There are plenty of impressionable young minds here.”

Christ, do they think I’m going to Walter White the chemistry lab?

“Is there reason to distrust my application, Sir?” I added a “Sir” to show deference. Or should I sound indignant? Would that make me more believable, or had I already lost this job?

Finch almost smiled. “Over the years we’ve found most candidates are just telling us what we want to hear. So to avoid unpleasantness down the road, we started buying data from internet service providers to give us a more… complete picture of each candidate.”

I froze. My web browsing history. Had I searched for anything drug-related recently? If I did, I’m sure I used incognito mode. I always do. They can’t see my history if I use incognito mode, right? RIGHT?

Finch seemed to sense my inner turmoil. “James, we have reason to believe you have an abnormal interest in cannabis.”

Medical marijuana. Dammit. Last weekend I did some pretty extensive research into weed treatments for cancer patients. I started reading about it on CNN and just went down the internet rabbit hole.

“Oh, that!” I struck my forehead for effect. “I have an uncle who’s going through chemo, and he thought it would be good for his appetite, but he’s not too good with computers, so I Googled it for him. I’m not interested in drugs myself.”

Finch was silent for what felt like ten whole seconds before turning over one of the ***s on his desk.

“According to our data, on January 12th at 4:13 pm, you searched for marijuana chemicals.”

Shit. “Well, as I said, my uncle wanted to know, so”…

“You then searched, how to synthesize THC.”

“Sir, I did not intend to make any drugs, I was just curious…”

“As I’m sure you’re aware, medical marijuana is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia…”

I could no longer contain my outrage. “Professor Finch, wanting to learn about drugs does not make me a criminal!” I mean, for God’s sake, what kind of science teacher isn’t curious about chemicals, even illegal ones?

“No, James, it doesn’t make you a criminal,” Finch looked down, then back up at me with a grimace.

“But unfortunately, it doesn’t make you fit to be a teacher at this school, either. Neither does lying.”

Finch stood up to open the door. I sat for a moment, speechless, finally realizing it was over before I walked in the building. I stood and walked out, stunned.

“Best of luck in your job search,” said Finch as he closed the door behind me.

Incognito mode does NOT hide your web browsing history from your ISP. ExpressVNP does. Use it to protect yourself against not-so-distant dystopias like these.

ExpressVNP

How banks or governments could wipe Bitcoin off the face of the planet

ExpressVNPHow much would it cost to make Bitcoin worthless? How banks or governments could wipe Bitcoin off the face of the planet.

Download Lexie’s Bitcoin ebook for free!

Its proponents advertise Bitcoin as a decentralized network that cannot be controlled by anybody. Indeed, the cryptocurrency experiment now valued at more than US$70 billion is close to impossible to shut down—even its users don’t know how to turn it off.

Some obvious things could stop Bitcoin, of course. But they often raise more complications and are themselves highly complicated.

Just want a summary? Tl;dr

What could an organization do to make Bitcoin worthless?

Shut down the internet

How does one turn off the internet? Apart from the high amount of cooperation this would require from private entities and governments, we don’t know how to shut down the internet. The network was in part designed to keep going even after a nuclear strike, and it does not have a kill switch by design. The internet is also itself highly resilient against attacks, and information would just route around each part that we turn off.

Even if significant parts of the internet were shut off or damaged, Bitcoin’s bandwidth requirements (currently 1MB per ten minutes at a minimum) might be small enough to broadcast over radio waves, or the telephone system successfully.

On top of that, would any organization really want to turn the internet off? The internet has many other uses, like sending cat photos. The economic damage from turning the internet off would be gigantic, and it very likely would even cost lives.

Destroy all the nodes and miners

The Bitcoin network is made up of individuals, groups, and organizations that run the Bitcoin software on their laptops, phones, and even Raspberry Pis. Some of these participants also run dedicated computer chips, called Bitcoin miners, to exchange electricity into Bitcoins. In a kind of digital lottery, those who make the network more secure by participating in it might get some Bitcoins.

While some of these Bitcoin miners and node operators are highly visible, they’re not going to be interested in shutting down their systems voluntarily. It might be possible to seize or destroy some miners or node operators, but this will only make mining more profitable for those who operate secretly.

As a response, Bitcoin mining will go underground, and nodes will hide behind VPNs and the Tor Network. As long as there is money to be made in Bitcoin mining, people will risk their freedom to take part. For example, Bitcoin mining remains attractive in Venezuela, where Bitcoin is illegal.

Make Bitcoin illegal

If a state were to make Bitcoin illegal, it would become much harder for people to buy Bitcoin miners, exchange Bitcoins into *** money, or accept it as payments in a store.

But as in the world of online drug markets (which are also, to some degree, driven by Bitcoin), people are very much willing to break the law for some profits, and the pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin will make it hard to track down its traders, owners, and users.

Mine empty Bitcoin blocks

The only guaranteed way to bring Bitcoin to a halt, and make it worthless is to participate in the network yourself and disrupt it from within.

It’s part of Bitcoin’s anarchist nature that anybody can take part in the system anonymously, as long as they conform to the rules laid out in the Bitcoin software. For example, no rule states that blocks have to be filled with transactions to be valid, so a miner could theoretically just mine empty blocks.

If all blocks were empty, nobody could transact on the Bitcoin Blockchain, and without the ability to send money, it would become worthless.

With just 10% of the global Bitcoin computing power, an organization could significantly slow down the Bitcoin network. As the evil operation expands, it will eventually reach 50% of the total hashing power, allowing them to keep ALL the blocks empty.

Bitcoin nodes accept the longest valid blockchain as valid, so if a group has more than 50% of the total hashing power, they can eventually create a chain longer than the other, honest miners, who would prefer to fill up their blocks with transactions.

Bitcoin’s founder, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, explains:

“The race between the honest chain and an attacker chain can be characterized as a Binomial Random Walk. The success event is the honest chain being extended by one block, increasing its lead by +1, and the failure event is the attacker’s chain being extended by one block, reducing the gap by -1.”

With all that in mind, here’s how to destroy Bitcoin:

Step 1: Buy lots of Bitcoin miners

Currently, the Bitcoin network has a total hashing power of about 5,7 Exahash per second. That’s 5.7 x 10^18 Hashes every second. The latest model of a modern Bitcoin miner, like the Antminer S9, produces about 14 Terrahash per second, or 14 x 10^12.

That means that there is roughly the equivalent of 400,000 Antminer S9s currently in operation in the entire market, which at US$1099 each would cost about US$447 million.

To gain 50% of the total computing power, you would need to add the total of the world’s computing power to the network. As more miners join the network, it becomes more difficult for everyone to mine. If the price of Bitcoin does not rise, it will become unprofitable for others to mine, and you wouldn’t have to try as hard to take over 50% of the total network. You might also be able to build miners for cheaper than what they sell for online, but margins aren’t huge.

An organization should expect to invest around US$350-400 million to get the attack started.

Step 2: Run all the miners

An Antminer S9 consumes 1372 W, so 400,000 Antminers will consume 548,800 kW. Per hour, that’s 548,800 kWh (4,800 GWh per year). For perspective, the largest nuclear power station in the world, the Bruce Nuclear Power Station in Ontario, Canada, generates about 47,000 GWh in a single year.

Bitcoin’s power consumption of 550 MW is about 1/10th of that of a city like San Francisco. So Bitcoin is still small enough that a group could source electricity for the Bitcoin attack on the open market.

Assuming the attacker chose the cheapest power supply available, it would cost around US$0.04-0.06 per kWh, which means ~US$22,000-33,000 per hour for electricity, or roughly US$192 million per year—just to keep Bitcoin blocks empty.

When will the ongoing power costs stop?

As the other miners slowly disappear, the daily electricity consumption can decrease bit by bit. It’s unclear how long others would be willing to hold out—maybe a month is enough, but it could take a year or longer. In a further increase to expenditures, the attacker might even have to buy more miners and spend more on electricity to keep an attack going.

An attacker would hope other miners would quickly slide into insolvency. It would be difficult to recoup money on the miners, though, as they can only mine Bitcoin (and Bitcoin is now dead), and will, therefore, have no resale value.

Who could finance a Bitcoin attack?

Bitcoin is a US$70 billion asset, with close to US$1 billion of trades worldwide in a single day. An organization could try to recoup some of the investments by shorting Bitcoin at the right moment, as it will inevitably lose much of its value in the first weeks of an attack.

Big banks have a market cap of around US$340 billion (JP Morgan Chase), US$95 billion (Mitsubishi UFJ) or US$145 billion (HSBC). Between them, they might be able to raise enough money to finance a Bitcoin attack, although half a billion would be hard for them to swallow (and justify to their shareholders).

However, if a government or party of governments wish to take down Bitcoin, it would likely be relatively easy for them to claim the funds from the taxpayer. And the total amount needed would probably be comparable to just a thousandth of the annual U.S. defense budget.

How could a Bitcoin attack be stopped?

There are a few things the Bitcoin community could do to stop an attack, and rescue Bitcoin. At first, they could require miners to include transactions in every block, to which an attacker could respond by adding meaningless transactions between their Bitcoins.

Eventually, Bitcoin developers would change the proof-of-work algorithm of Bitcoin, and make attackers (and everyone else’s) Bitcoin miners worthless. Other miners would quickly take their place, and more investment would be needed to keep the attack going.

Tl;dr

The best way to make Bitcoin useless is to mine empty blocks and make it impossible for anybody to make transfers, which would make Bitcoins worthless.

It would cost about US$350-400 million upfront to produce enough Bitcoin miners, and about 16 million per month to make Bitcoin useless. An attacker might be able to make some of that back by shorting the market, but even for a large bank, this will be difficult to raise.

The community would have a few tricks up their sleeves to render an attack useless, which would require further investment to keep it going.

Also published on Medium.

ExpressVNP

ExpressVNP 6.4.4 for Android is here, and it’s glorious

ExpressVNPAndroid VPN app

For older versions of ExpressVNP for Android click here.

ExpressVNP is excited to announce the release of ExpressVNP 6.4.4 for Android.

A bunch of new features and options have been added this time around, and it’s the most secure ExpressVNP Android app to date. Is it a stretch to say this is the best Android VPN app on the market today? ExpressVNP doesn’t think so.

Let’s take a look at what’s new under the hood.

New features in ExpressVNP 6.4.4 for Android

Streamlined setup

It's easy to setup a VPN for Android with ExpressVNP.

First thing’s first. It’s now easier than ever to set up ExpressVNP for Android. Just follow the straightforward on-screen instructions. Need help? No problem! The blue hints will guide you through it.

Better connection reliability

ExpressVNP has the best VPN connection for Android.

ExpressVNP 6.4.4 for Android works hard to make sure you always get the best possible connection. And, as always, different VPN protocol settings let you customize your Android app the way you want it.

Smart Location is better than ever

ExpressVNP Smart Location for Android is wonderful.

Save time and browse faster with the improved Smart Location feature. Smart Location automatically chooses the most reliable VPN connections for you. That way you can stream without having to worry about less-than-stellar speeds.

Download ExpressVNP 6.4.4 for Android today!

Now you know what’s new, head over to Google Play and download or upgrade your Android app today. If Google Play is not available, you can download the APK version from your setup page.

Once you’ve had a chance to get used to the new layout, let ExpressVNP know what you think! Your feedback is appreciated, so leave your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.

And one more thing! If you’re unable to access the Google Play Store or are having trouble downloading the app, your friendly neighborhood superhero Support Team is available around the clock to help answer all your VPN-related questions.

ExpressVNP

ExpressVNP Android app: Latest updates and software upgrades (6.7)

ExpressVNPAndroid VPN app

For older versions of ExpressVNP for Android click here

It’s fair to say the Android app just keeps getting better and better! ExpressVNP 6.7 now works on Amazon Fire TV Stick and Android TV, *** it the perfect VPN app for Kodi and streaming media.

New: ExpressVNP now supports Amazon Fire TV and Android TV

Secure connections from lots of locations—all the goodness of ExpressVNP on your telly! Find ExpressVNP on the Amazon Appstore and Android TV Google Play (just search for ExpressVNP).

ExpressVNP for Android 6.7 works on your Amazon Fire TV stick, Amazon Fire tablet, and any Android TV device! Lovely.

Of course, you can still use ExpressVNP 6.7 on all your other Android devices too.

How to set up the ExpressVNP app on your Android TV
How to set up ExpressVNP on Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV

Change location while connected

You can change to any of ExpressVNP’s 140+ locations without having to close your existing connection first. It’s super quick and easy to connect to any location you need.

Change VPN location while connected

Dynamic notifications

The dynamic notification system will display your current connection status and let you act on it meaning you can interact directly with notifications. Nice!

VPN app for Android

Streamlined setup

It’s easy to set up ExpressVNP for Android. Just follow the straightforward on-screen instructions. Need help? No problem! The blue hints will guide you through it.

It's easy to set up a VPN for Android with ExpressVNP.

The best connection reliability

ExpressVNP 6.7 for Android works hard to make sure you always get the best possible connection. And, as always, different VPN protocol settings let you customize your Android app the way you want it.

ExpressVNP has the best VPN connection for Android.

Smart Location is as good as ever

Save time and browse faster with the improved Smart Location feature. Smart Location automatically chooses the most reliable VPN connections for you. That way you can stream without having to worry about less-than-stellar speeds.

ExpressVNP Smart Location for Android is wonderful.

Download ExpressVNP 6.7 for Android today!

Now you know what’s new, head over to Google Play or Amazon Appstore and download or upgrade your Android app today. If Google Play is not available, you can download the APK version from your setup page.

Once you’ve had a chance to get used to the new layout, let ExpressVNP know what you think! Your feedback is appreciated, so leave your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.

And one more thing! If you’re unable to access the Google Play Store or are having trouble downloading the app, your friendly neighborhood superhero Support Team is available around the clock to help answer all your VPN-related questions.

Previous Android app updates

ExpressVNP 6.5.5 for Android It’s fair to say the Android app just keeps getting better and better! ExpressVNP 6.5.5 for Android now allows a location change while you’re connected, and, as always, it’s the most secure ExpressVNP Android app to date.

New Feature: Change location while connected

You can now change to any of ExpressVNP’s 100+ locations without having to close your existing connection first. It’s super quick and easy to connect to any location you need.

Change VPN location while connected

Dynamic notifications

Without a doubt, the most awesome new feature of ExpressVNP app 6.5.1 for Android is the dynamic notification system.

VPN app for Android

The new notifications will display your current connection status and let you act on them—you can interact directly with the notifications. Nice!

Streamlined setup

It's easy to setup a VPN for Android with ExpressVNP.

It’s easy to set up ExpressVNP for Android. Just follow the straightforward on-screen instructions. Need help? No problem! The blue hints will guide you through it.

The best connection reliability

ExpressVNP has the best VPN connection for Android.

ExpressVNP 6.5.1 for Android works hard to make sure you always get the best possible connection. And, as always, different VPN protocol settings let you customize your Android app the way you want it.

Smart Location is as good as ever

ExpressVNP Smart Location for Android is wonderful.

Save time and browse faster with the improved Smart Location feature. Smart Location automatically chooses the most reliable VPN connections for you. That way you can stream without having to worry about less-than-stellar speeds.

Download ExpressVNP 6.5.1 for Android today!

Now you know what’s new, head over to Google Play and download or upgrade your Android app today. If Google Play is not available, you can download the APK version from your setup page.

Once you’ve had a chance to get used to the new layout, let ExpressVNP know what you think! Your feedback is appreciated, so leave your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.

And one more thing! If you’re unable to access the Google Play Store or are having trouble downloading the app, your friendly neighborhood superhero Support Team is available around the clock to help answer all your VPN-related questions.

ExpressVNP 6.4 for Android ExpressVNP is excited to announce the release of ExpressVNP 6.4 for Android.

A bunch of new features and options have been added this time around, and it’s the most secure ExpressVNP Android app to date. Is it a stretch to say this is the best Android VPN app on the market today? ExpressVNP doesn’t think so.

Let’s take a look at what’s new under the hood.

New features in ExpressVNP 6.4 for Android

Streamlined setup

It's easy to setup a VPN for Android with ExpressVNP.

First thing’s first. It’s now easier than ever to set up ExpressVNP for Android. Just follow the straightforward on-screen instructions. Need help? No problem! The blue hints will guide you through it.

Better connection reliability

ExpressVNP has the best VPN connection for Android.

ExpressVNP 6.4 for Android works hard to make sure you always get the best possible connection. And, as always, different VPN protocol settings let you customize your Android app the way you want it.

Smart Location is better than ever

ExpressVNP Smart Location for Android is wonderful.

Save time and browse faster with the improved Smart Location feature. Smart Location automatically chooses the most reliable VPN connections for you. That way you can stream without having to worry about less-than-stellar speeds.

Download ExpressVNP 6.4 for Android today!

Now you know what’s new, head over to Google Play and download or upgrade your Android app today. If Google Play is not available, you can download the APK version from your setup page.

Once you’ve had a chance to get used to the new layout, let ExpressVNP know what you think! Your feedback is appreciated, so leave your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.

And one more thing! If you’re unable to access the Google Play Store or are having trouble downloading the app, your friendly neighborhood superhero Support Team is available around the clock to help answer all your VPN-related questions.

ExpressVNP 6.0 for Android ExpressVNP is excited to announce the release of ExpressVNP 6.0 for Android.

A bunch of new features and options have been added this time around. Is it a stretch to say this is the best Android VPN app on the market today? ExpressVNP doesn’t think so.

Take a look at what’s new under the hood.

New features in Android 6.0

Completely new design

android tap to connectFirst thing’s first. The beautiful new layout lets you browse securely and privately with one tap. Just tap the ON button to automatically connect to any one of ExpressVNP’s 130+ VPN locations worldwide.

Smarter connection options

android 6.0 location pickerSave time and browse faster with the new Smart Location feature. Smart Location automatically chooses the most reliable VPN connections for you. That way you can stream without having to worry about less-than-stellar speeds.

Better connection reliability

android-phone-connectingThe app’s new connection settings help make sure you’re constantly connected. And, as always, different VPN protocol settings let you customize your Android app the way you want it.

Download ExpressVNP 6.0 for Android today!

Now you know what’s new, head over to Google Play and download or upgrade your Android app today.

Once you’ve had a chance to get used to the new layout, let ExpressVNP know what you think! Your feedback is appreciated, so leave your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.

And one more thing! If you’re unable to access the Google Play Store or are having trouble downloading the app, your friendly neighborhood superhero Support team is available around the clock to help answer all your VPN-related questions.

ExpressVNP 5.0 for Android

Calling All Android Users! ExpressVNP 5.0 for Android Is Now Available

ExpressVNP for Android has always been great, but now it’s even better!

We’re excited to announce the release of ExpressVNP 5.0 for Android! The newest update includes a whole bunch of great new features. Best of all, we’ve made the app even easier to use.

Take a look at the new changes below and then head over to the Google Play store to download or upgrade your app today!

New Features in Android 5.0

Connect to Your Favorite Locations Easier

The simplified menu setup makes it even easier to browse, find, and connect to your favorite VPN server locations.

Have a look!

android-5.0-location-picker

Enjoy Even Better Security Settings

ExpressVNP 5.0 for Android now offers a *** on/off switch to automatically reconnect to your last location every time your phone is booted up.

android-5.0-reconnect

Browse freely knowing your information is secure!

Take Advantage of the New In-App Menu

The newly improved hamburger layout makes it easier to access your account settings, change your VPN protocols, and reach out to Support.

android-5.0-hamburger-menu

Yup, it’s that awesome.

Download ExpressVNP 5.0 for Android Today!

Now that you know what’s new, download the app from Google Play and give it a try today.

After you’ve had some time to get acquainted with it, let us know what you think in the comments below. We’re committed to bringing you the best possible apps, so hit us with your questions, comments, and/or concerns below!

And remember, if you’re having trouble accessing Google Play or downloading the app, our Support team is available around the clock to help answer your questions.

Thanks and happy VPNing!

ExpressVNP 4.7 for Android

Attention Android Users: ExpressVNP 4.7 for Android Is Now Available!

Good news, everyone!

We’re excited to announce the release of ExpressVNP 4.7 for Android. We’ve ironed out a few kinks, added a few new features, and made it even easier to find, browse, and connect to any one of our 100+ locations around the world.

One of the biggest changes you’ll immediately notice is the new layout. We specifically designed this app with accessibility in mind, *** it even easier for you to find and connect to the server location of your choice.

Download the app from Google Play!

What’s New in Android 4.7?

  • Smarter connections: We’ve made it easier for you to find the best servers. When you connect to the country of your choice, you’ll be automatically connected to the best and fastest server in that area.
  • Improved sorting algorithm: We’ve updated the layout so that the best servers are now listed on top.
  • Better search functionality: You can now quickly connect to any location by searching for a specific country or city.
  • Updated design: The revamped layout combines elements of Google’s Material Design and includes our sleek new logo.
  • Favorite option: Our brand-new “Favorite” feature lets you personalize your app by bookmarking your preferred servers for easy access.

Have a look at how the Favorite feature works below:

expressvnp android app v4.7 picture 2

Download ExpressVNP 4.7 for Android Today!

So what are you waiting for? Head over to Google Play and download the app today.

After you’ve taken it for a spin, let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you. Share your comments, questions, and concerns below.

Also published on Medium.

ExpressVNP

Introducing the new ExpressVNP Safari extension for Mac app users

ExpressVNPExpressVNP for Safari

The newest ExpressVNP app for Mac is available, and it includes a fantastic new ExpressVNP extension for Safari!

(Use Chrome or Firefox? ExpressVNP has an extension for those too.)

When it comes to privacy extensions, there’s simply none better than ExpressVNP’s extension for Safari. With your existing ExpressVNP account you can take advantage of anonymous browsing with 145+ server locations in over 90 countries.

Get the ExpressVNP browser extension for Safari

The new ExpressVNP browser extension offers seamless integration and has some impressive features:

  • Built-in kill switch to protect your data
  • DNS leak protection
  • Spoof location feature to disguise your location on HTML5 sites
  • See your VPN connection status from the toolbar
  • Works without the need to run the Mac app in the background
  • (Optional) Auto-connect to ExpressVNP on Safari launch

Setup is instant, and the extension runs the same as traditional ExpressVNP apps.

Enjoy!

ExpressVNP