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VPN use is on the rise as people finally worry about web privacy, security

Chances are you’ve heard the term “VPN,” but have you tried one? What are they, how do they function, and why should you care?

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Keeping your biz secure

VPN use is a on the rise, and while there are certainly some clear advantages to using a VPN there are also a few drawbacks as well. If you haven’t used a VPN before, there are a few things you should know before you jump on board and give it a try for yourself. There’s also a pretty good chance you may have already used one and not be aware of it.

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Opera users may have noticed the recent launch of their free and unlimited VPN servers, but you may not know exactly what this can do for you. Here’s a little bit more about VPNs and why they’re becoming increasingly popular.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is nearly essential if you travel outside of your home with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. A VPN connects two computers securely and privately over the Internet.

Even though you may be using a public connection, the use of a VPN client on one computer will connect to a VPN server on another computer through encryption and other security measures, so no one can see what information is being exchanged.

It sounds complicated, but in essence, the VPN’s private network across the Internet so you can connect more securely.

Why are they popular?

VPNs are popular with businesses as they can use it to enable employees who travel to have access to the company network; the same type of connection you would have if you were inside the building on your desktop computer. The company network is routed through the internet from employee to company, but it is encrypted and secured, so no one else can intercept the private company information.

VPNs are a safer, more secure alternative to free hotel Wi-Fi, as they enable you to access company material, as well as keep data hidden from prying cyber eyes.

VPNs are not solely used by companies, however; many individual choose to use a VPN to protect their personal data on their private devices. Since VPNs keep everything encrypted, individuals use them to keep online banking, shopping, and web browsing private. When you’re on free Wi-Fi, the network is open so that everyone can connect to it. This is great, but it also makes data vulnerable to hackers because of the poor security. This is where VPNs can be the answer. You can use it on-the-go and keep your data safe.

Sounds good, but how does it work?

I mentioned client and host before, but let me explain that a bit more. You run the client program on your own computer, smartphone, or tablet, and it connects to a server to establish your connection and provides you with a private link. When you run your browser and visit a website, the request is sent to the VPN server rather than locally from your machine. This way the website queries the VPN server and not the computer, so the site has no way to know who you are or where you’re surfing from, as it will only detect the location of your VPN server.

Think of the VPN as a cloak of security and anonymity; you still surf just as you always have, but everything gets encrypted.

Should you try it?

If you’re not doing anything illegal, why would you need one, you have a security program, right?

Even when you’re using security software, firewalls, and the whole host of protection options, there’s still the chance that someone can get their hands on your data.

With a VPN, this data is encrypted, so the hacker will have some work ahead of them if they intend to decipher the code; whereas, traditional security programs are meant to keep people out, but should they breach your security, chances are the data is not encrypted.

Another thing to consider is whether you want a free or paid VPN options. If you’re considering getting started with one, you need to consider how much speed and time you need (you can turn them on and off as needed). Free options attract more users so they won’t be as fast. Also, does the company keep a log of what you access of it is truly anonymous?

While there are a few things to consider before jumping on the VPN boat, it’s certainly a good additional step to take if you frequently access private, financial, or other sensitive information.

#VPN

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Anastasia

    June 14, 2016 at 5:13 am

    no doubt VPN enhances the security level and safeguards your online security and privacy absolutely.

  2. Jimmy

    June 16, 2016 at 5:39 am

    It’s a common mistake, people say “If I have nothing to hide, why should I care about my data’. It’s simply a crap. Everyone has something to hide if someone religiously believe this statement then he should post his bank details in public because he has nothing to hide. Obviously, no one would do that, then he should understand that he HAS something to hide. Hence, people should use a secure VPN like Ivacy, Express etc.

  3. Noah BRODI

    June 16, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I venture to guess that VPN use will become common before too long in order for protect to people themselves from ubiquitous online tracking and profiling. When you consider the many benefits and uses of a VPN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL4c_Vijv6s, you will come to realize it is well worth the modest cost of a few bucks per month.

    There are over 200+ VPN providers on the market today so there are plenty to choose from. However, so much choice can also be paralyzing so seek out reliable VPN reviews and recommendations, https://www.cogipas.com/choose-best-vpn/

    Stay safe people!

  4. Chaik

    June 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    Many users haven’t pay high attention to the safe of online activities. Also many online crimes happened again and again. We should take action to secure our online ID. Many guys say I don’t care my online info. But you did? Do you want someone post your ip address, Email information, Bank number, password on the internet…. I think the answer is NO NO No. So we should use get connected on VPN like FlyVPN to encrypt our network connection when we are using pubilc hotspots.

  5. Barbie

    June 23, 2016 at 10:15 am

    People really need to understand the importance of internet security especially how vpn can help securing one’s identity online. I never wanted to compromise my own online security and privacy on the web that’s why I trust Frootvpn. I was once a victim of Identity theft and I wont let that happen again to me. Now, I’m assured that no activities of mine are recorded as my frootvpn don’t keep any of my logs.

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  9. Pingback: Amazon Ring exposed wifi passwords; let's talk ethics

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Tech News

Having your license plate data stolen is worse than you think

(TECH NEWS) California’s license plate camera system not only records everyone, but has some glaring security issues that could expose sensitive data.

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Turns out, California’s been recording millions of license plate information. What’s the deal?

Another day, another privacy violation. That’s sure what it seems like in our increasingly connected world – from our speakers spying on us, to our phones recording our every move – but that shouldn’t stop us from interrogating what is happening and whether or not it should continue.

For instance, should the government be allowed to store images of license plates for no apparent reason? Because that’s exactly what’s happening in California.

Okay, it’s probably happening in plenty of other states too, but California’s recent audit revealed the extent of their privacy violations. In fact, 99.9% of all license plate images stored had no connection to cases from law enforcement. This is bad enough, but the audit also revealed that this information was shared with all sorts of agencies for no justifiable reason.

And it should come as no surprise, but California’s audit also revealed that none of these agencies are up to snuff when it comes to the state’s 2016 privacy policy. In fact, few of the agencies audited even had reliable protections on their cloud based storage system, which leaves them vulnerable to outside attacks. This would be bad enough if they’d only stored information collected for legal purposes, but the storage of plenty of innocent civilian’s records makes it much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, California isn’t the only state to have troubling policies when it comes to ALPRs (automatic license plate readers). In fact, it’s been revealed that many of these cameras are connected to the internet – and make it terribly obvious to boot. That means if you live in an area with a heavy concentration of ALPRs, any stranger might easily be able to learn about you: your preferred route to work, the times you’re typically out of the house, sometimes even where you live. In short? Not great.

There is some glimmer of hope, though. Last year, Virginia became one of the few states to more strictly regulate ALPRs. After being sued by the ACLU, a Virginia court ruled that a license plate can only be recorded and stored if said plate was part of an on-going investigation. They’re now one of 16 states to have some sort of regulation on LPRs.

In the meantime, if you’re in California – or one of the 34 other states without regulations – drive carefully. You never know who’s watching.

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Tech News

Futuristic air commuting via drone-like air taxis is around the corner

(TECH NEWS) German aviation company, Volocopter, and southeast Asia rideshare company, Grab, partner to take business to the skies in Singapore.

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air taxis taking flight

Move over, Jetsons! You too, Leela and Fry! You’re not the only ones living in the future. If Volocopter and Grab have their way, you’ll soon be able to hail an air taxi as painlessly as you hail a rideshare, at least if you live or travel in Singapore.

Nothing thrills me like being airborne, so I am excited to read this. The dreams of my childhood are unfolding before me. Electric air taxis transporting us across the urban landscape? Yes, please, and hurry up. Are you with me?

Imagine what a powerful–and fun–flex it will be to summon your own private electric multicopter and hop from rooftop to rooftop (AKA VoloPort to VoloPort), arriving at your destination in high style. Eyebrows will go up, and jaws will drop as you saunter into your appointment with a nonchalant air of confidence. In my mind, clients and investors will rush to sign contracts with you, and potential mates will move you up to the top of their short lists.

This is the reaction I imagine at first, when Volocopter and Grab launch their test commercial flights in 2022. If we are to believe the hype, this experience won’t always be such an exclusive one. The long-term goal (at least ten years) is to offer affordable and accessible rides for the general population, not merely the posh and pompous among us.

Drone-type electric Volocopter air taxis are single-passenger multicopters. Other companies are also dabbling in these vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft as well, but the Volocopter 2X has beaten them to the punch with successful test flights in Germany, Dubai, and Las Vegas.

By many accounts, multicopters with several chopper blades are simpler to navigate and more stable than a traditional, single-blade helicopter. However, flying requires mucho power, which must be why Volocopter has set its sights on multiple, short flights vs. long-distance transportation. They currently are projecting a maximum distance of 17 miles and 30 minutes per ride.

Singapore-based Grab is already part of daily life in Southeast Asia, much as Lyft or Uber is in the U.S. and elsewhere. Singapore is one of the fast-growing financial hubs in Asia, one of the Four Asian Tigers. Wealth and commerce abound in this charming island nation/city. In general, Singaporeans are quick to embrace modern solutions that add value and convenience to their lives. As such, it’s a dream location to test the waters for using VTOLs as a means of transportation.

Therefore, it makes sense that German aviation startup, Volocopter, and popular southeast Asian rideshare company, Grab, would team up in Singapore to make this futuristic dream a reality. No word yet on the cost-per-ride of traveling via the uncrowded skies of Singapore, but one can assume it will start out fairly prohibitive. Testing these flights with commercial clients first ensures that the math checks out for now.

However, Volocopter foresees a time when their VTOLs can land in a park or parking lot as easily as at a sanctioned rooftop VoloPort. Bring on the glory days of your average commuter as they hop from home to work to the nightclub with the greatest of ease. I want to live in this reality.

By 2035, Volocopter and Grab predict building up the capacity to deliver up to 10,000 Grab air taxi rides per day in Singapore alone. The commute to work never looked faster, easier, or sexier. One day in our nearish future, we may shrug and see air taxis as a mundane part of daily life, a mere getting from point A to point B.

I expect it to stay exclusive and kind of a thrill a while longer. However, if you’re planning to travel in Singapore, and your company is an early adopter of the first commercial Volocopter air taxi flights, rest assured your glamorous sunnies and fanciest gear will not look out of place–yet.

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Tech News

You’ve seen the job listings, but what exactly *is* UX writing?

(TECH NEWS) We seeing UX writer titles pop up and while UX writing is not technically new, there are new availabilities popping up.

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across everyday. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touch points through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints UX writers work on are interface copy, emails and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find a UX writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must have. Excellent communication skills is a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post.

But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater UX design team. In larger companies some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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