How to choose a VPN service and browser for desktop and Android/iOS

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So, you’ve heard this “VPN” (Virtual Private Network) thrown around and how you should use it if you’re connecting to a strange WiFi network or you’re conducting sensitive work at the job that needs added protection. The simple answer for what is and why you should use a VPN is: private, secure (encrypted), dedicated connection for your internet activity. Read my article on how end-to-end encryption works so you understand why that’s important. VPNs in addition to having secure browsing, have practical uses, such as: bypass geographic restrictions for websites (folks in censorship-heavy countries like China, Egypt, and Turkey use VPNs to access otherwise denied information); some anonymity while online, hiding true location; preventing logging while you’re torrenting files; access a business network while you’re traveling or working remotely; and circumvent blocked websites or video or audio that your employer deems no bueno. These are some of the use cases many folks use VPNs for daily.

Tor Browser Initial Splash Screen

One of the downfalls of using a VPN service on a public WiFi is that if you’re attempting to get anything sensitive done — like access bank records or your Wave Receipts account, etc. — the IP address you’ll be routing through will probably be flagged as a “bot” so you’ll have to jump through the Re-Captcha hoops and alligator pits. But, i believe that’s a good thing in the end since these sites and services are trying to protect your account from theft and other unruly things. The good and the bad, always.

One thing you’ll also want to do the first few times you connect via VPNs is to start jotting down the IP address(es) that you are assigned. You may need to add these addresses to a whitelist (grr to that term) on your servers — if you own a website — or other applications that will only allow certain locations to connect to said account. Trust me. I’ve run into issues on the road when tethering to my phone’s hotspot to change a file or sixteen only to be denied access because my IP address wasn’t on the list of allowed IP addresses. Funky stuff you might now think about until you run into the issue during crunch time.

Desktop Browser

Do not use Opera’s “VPN” service via their web browser since it’s really not a VPN but more of an http/s proxy. Misleading via naivety of their customers. Instead, download Tor Browser. It’s free.

Reason why i don’t want you to rely on Opera’s “VPN” is because it depends on if you trust the company. All your searching and web browsing will go through the VPN — will be logged on Opera’s servers, which they’ll claim to not keep, but that’s not always the case. Recent Facebook and other high profile company data breaches and logs being exposed will give credence to that paranoia or caution, if you will.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is the case for all VPN services, which the article here and at the bottom of this post thoroughly chronicles/reviews. Make sure you read that.

Mullvad Logo

Desktop VPN

Not free, but what i use when connecting to public WiFi via Desktop — even those that require a password, since most of them don’t use WPA2 Personal (instead they more than likely use the less secure, older WPA/WPA2 Personal) — is Mullvad. It costs $5 a month (and can be paid in a myriad of ways, including cryptocurrency and cold hard cash). That’s the cost of a beer or a latte a month.

Android Browser

Download OrFox (which replaced OrWeb; for Android) if you’re looking for a web browser with VPN built-in.

Android VPN

Download Orbot! Yes, it’s related to OrFox above. If you don’t want to use OrFox, instead using Chrome, Firefox, Firefox Focus or whatever browser on your phone, you can have Orbot VPN running in the background. Boom.

iOS Browser

I’m not an iPhone user so this recommendation is solely off of cursory research and who the Tor Project has endorsed: Onion Browser.

There are many aspects and things to do if you truly want to be anonymous on the ‘net. But most of us aren’t looking to go that route. We just want to make sure our login credentials, our Facebook or other social media messages or email are safe; not easily spied on by a random lookie-loo at the coffee shop two tables over, or the next door neighbor attempting to peak into browsing history.

Read this comprehensive beauty of a guide regarding VPN services — breaking down all the aspects of each, the cons and pros.

I may have a longer write-up in the future regarding 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes. But that’s a lot. Feel free to google each in the mean time.

Happy and secure browsing! Cheers.

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