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Five inexpensive VPNs to keep you all sorts of secure

(TECH NEWS) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friend, the VPN. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, a VPN is a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s 5. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

Another thing that can trick iPhone X facial recognition

(TECH NEWS) The iPhone X has had an array of challenges, even with their innovative facial recognition technology.

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Yiiiikes, a mask tricked Apple’s new Face ID feature. Vietnamese security firm Bkav Corporation recently held a demo pointing out flaws in the iPhone X’s facial recognition, claiming the technology is not as secure as Apple originally touted.

Bkav Corporation focuses on network security, anti-virus software, and mobile security software. Bkav Corp created a 3D mask that “beat” Face ID in a demonstration. The mask was crafted with a combination of 3D printing and 2D images.

When verifying users, Face ID takes photos using infrared cameras. The first photo creates the surface of the face then the second pic makes a mesh, reproducing the face in 3D. From there, Face ID uses AI technology to distinguish faces.

The 2D/3D hybrid is meant to throw off the AI feature specifically. According to Bkav’s VP of Cyber Security Ngo Tuan Anh, “Apple’s AI can only distinguish either a 100% real face or a 100% fake one. So if you create a ‘half-real half-fake’ face, it can fool Apple’s AI.”

Face ID is supposed to have a one million-to-one chance of false recognition.

Compared to Touch ID’s potential fail rate of fifty thousand-to-one, Face ID is meant to be way more secure. However, the risk of a false recognition increases with identical twins, siblings, and children under the age of thirteen since their facial features aren’t finished developing.

When iPhone X launched, Apple stated they worked with professional Hollywood mask makers and makeup artists to ensure Face ID couldn’t be fooled by masks or other prosthetics. While Apple noted Face ID should still work if users get haircuts, change facial hair, or sometimes wear glasses, masks weren’t part of the good-to-go features for unlocking phones.

If you’re one of the adopters of iPhone X, don’t start freaking out yet though. To create their mask, Bkav had to use a handheld scanner to get pictures of their target’s face. As in, the person whose phone they were trying to hack had to be in the same room to get the initial scans.

Plus, Bkav could have intentionally done a subpar job of setting up the Face ID. The obvious solution if you’re still worried? Add a passcode as well and don’t trust anyone who wants to make a mask of your face.

Read also: Do literally anything with your money besides buy the iPhone X

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Tech News

Well great, now the robots can do acrobatics

(TECH NEWS) Do you want Terminators? Because this is how you get Terminators. Bipedal robots can do backflips now…

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This is it. It’s happening. Robots.

A year ago Boston Dynamics robot Atlas was learning to stand and falling over while walking. Now, Atlas has been upgraded, allowing it to easily scale blocks parkour style, doing backflips, and even raising its arms triumphantly after nailing a landing.

And I am raising a card with a 10 for the solid execution, albeit shakily, because the first thing that went through my head watching those eerily fluid, human-like movements, was imagining it stomping over piles of human skulls with an AK in its cold, calculating hands.

We can build it. We have the technology.

Let’s hope it doesn’t find videos all those videos on YouTube of its creators tormenting the thing; prodding it with hockey sticks like a lion tamer with a chair, knocking boxes out of its arms, pushing it over, and kicking its robo-dog companions.

Atlas won’t forget that.

Imagine this thing chasing you in the woods, or down the street. In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Atlas bots were wearing badges. Atlas is far more spry than the dopey droids you might find in a Star Wars flick, and well on its way to creating Skynet from Boston Dynamics.

Guys, Atlas can do acrobatics now, like a ninja:

Anywhere human feet can tread, an advanced enough droid will be able to go (can we start calling them droids now?). If you knock them over, they get right back up. Those human-powered mechs have nothing on Atlas. Give it enough time, and Atlas will run circles around both Eagle Prime and KURATAS. They won’t need us puny humans for robot battles.

One day, they might not need us at all.

All jokes aside, it’s an incredible, awe-inducing advancement in robotics. Boston Dynamics also recently revealed a smaller, less creepy version of their robo-dog Spot to bring us SpotMini: a small four-legged robot that can climb stairs and moves similarly to the way a dog would romp about.

Just so you know, this is nothing to be afraid of… We’ve only just found out that robots are evolving at an alarming rate.

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Tech News

Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over in fascinating ways, but this big experiment of replacing human tasks is failing. Good news / bad news.

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Let me tell you a story. In fact, let me tell you several.

A village in Macedonia had a small economic boom during the 2016 election, plagiarizing and stitching together pro-Trump messages on social media, then publishing the results as “news” in order to profit from Google ad revenue.

Back during the “Keep Calm and…” T-shirt fad, a shirt company went through a thoroughly justified PR apocalypse for selling products labeled “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

The 17th most popular website on Earth occasionally likes to tell women over 30 to freeze their ova.

So! That’s a parade of fail. What’s it got in common, beyond making any reasonable reader consider moving to an Amish community and trying to forget even the word “Internet”?

People. More accurately, their absence.

Veles, Macedonia churned out profitable nonsense about Trump slapping a protester (that didn’t happen) or getting the blessing of the Pope (Pope says nope) because Google ads are programmatic. There’s no QA component, no human eyes reviewing content and asking “is this worth advertising on?” or for that matter “is this blatantly false?”

Likewise the Evil T-Shirt Crisis. The company generated slogans by dropping memes into an algorithm, then throwing the result on Amazon. That ended… poorly.

We, and every other tech and business network in the digital cosmos, have written in depth about all the dang robots taking our jobs. Usually our primary concern is the economic fallout. We’re a business news organization. It’s our job to warn you about that stuff.

But there’s another problem, and it’s a huge problem, especially as media consumption in general continues to rise, and more and more of that media is moderated by algorithms rather than people.

Robots aren’t just taking our jobs. They suck at our jobs. Algorithms may play go, but they aren’t ready to make value judgments yet. A quick Google will yield a dozen more examples of AI failures just as repulsive and/or hilarious as the ones on my list. And the real punchline for all of that?

It’s good news.

For once, the robot apocalypse is cutting us puny humans a break. It’s creating jobs almost as fast as it’s gobbling them up, because at this point, it is excruciatingly clear that robots aren’t ready to produce work people can actually see. They’re not even ready to put ads on work people see, not without causing a PR catastrophe every other month.

AI isn’t a better widget. It also isn’t an employee that doesn’t want benefits or take long lunches.

It’s a product in permanent beta, desperately trying to catch up to the constantly changing nuance of human interaction. It doesn’t work without homo sapiens holding its robot hand.

Let’s call it Salter’s Law: For every application of AI to customer-facing work, you will need to hire at least one human for damage control when the AI screws up.

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