<<< Part 1 – Global Internet Censorship
Are you convinced that having a VPN is a good idea? Here’s one fundamental, incredibly compelling reason that has not yet been discussed: public Wi-Fi. Most people realize that Wi-Fi makes users extremely vulnerable. Casual hackers have software that gives them access to all the packets being passed back and forth on the network. In that case, a VPN is a no-brainer so that you are enforcing encryption and anonymity of your location, identity, and all data transmitted.
Eric Geier of PCWorld recently discussed several simple ways to set up a VPN. They are the following:
- basic Windows VPN setup
- tapping into a VPN via a third-party application
- getting your firmware on with a VPN router
- using VPN-as-a-service through a knowledgeable provider.
A step-by-step mini-guide for each scenario is described below.
Every standard Windows installation includes a VPN client. Using it is easy. Simply go to the start menu, or search charm, and input “VPN.” When you select to set up a VPN, you are then directed through a wizard.
The VPN client can connect with any other Windows PC and VPN servers compatible with PPTP and L2TP/Ipsec. Just supply it with the domain name or IP address of the machine that you want to visit. When you want access to the VPN of a business or one publicly available, ask the owner for the IP address if you can’t locate it.
You also may want to determine the IP of a VPN server that you are operating through Windows. To identify your IP, enter “CMD” into the search box (as you did with “VPN”). Once the Command Prompt populates, input “ipconfig.” The information is helpful when you set up VPN capabilities and want to access the VPN from a second device located anywhere.
Be aware that when you establish this type of VPN connection directly through the Virtual Private Server, you have to instruct the network router to send all VPN users to the Windows device you are entering from another location. Typically that is achieved by going into the control panel of the router and adjusting so that port 1723 forwards to the target Windows PC’s IP. Plus, your firewall settings must allow access to PPTP, but generally, that is considered default access.
Geier recommends a third-party application for anyone who wants a VPN to interconnect various devices so that resources and documents are commonly accessible, with no need for router adjustments or designation of a computer as the server for the VPN. Examples of standalone VPN software – all of which are relatively user-friendly, high-performative, and free – are TeamViewer, Gbridge, and Comodo Unite.
Another option is LogMeIn Hamachi, which becomes a paid service once you go beyond five devices. If you do want to connect additional computers, Geier seems to be particularly fond of this solution, even putting on his tech-dandy hat and calling it “elegant.”
If you want various computers to all be able to access your VPN server, or if you want multiple websites to communicate securely, use a router equipped with a VPN client and server. The most cost-effective way to establish a dedicated router is with used firmware – DD-WRT or Tomato.
If you aren’t quite as worried about cost-cutting and need a convenient, trouble-free solution, you can buy a VPN router, which is a router with a preconfigured VPN. This type of device is available from brands such as Netgear, Cisco, and ZyXel.
Whenever you are looking for either a prebuilt VPN router or firmware, you need to be sure that they are compatible with the VPN protocol required for your machines. You also want to know the number of users that can be accessing your VPN router at any one time.
Maybe you don’t care about connecting various computers but just want to conceal yourself at Wi-Fi hotspots or get to websites blocked in certain countries. The easiest way to establish a VPN for that situation is using a VPN service or setting up a private VPS hosting server, both of which are surprisingly affordable.
If you can’t afford a VPN subscription, try the Onion Router, which distributes your web access throughout a worldwide network. You can access it using the TOR browser. All your transmissions will be encrypted, and you will go online via one of many different servers (although the downside is that you will experience more latency, which of course, is more easily avoidable with a paid service).
As hinted above, a virtual private network is just one way to browse anonymously and privately from various locations. You can also use VPS hosting, one of our hosting specialties. We will discuss that option next.