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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.

  6. Pingback: Cloudbleed: What the average person must know about Cloudflare's security crisis - The American Genius

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  8. Pingback: CUJO: the smart firewall for all of your smart devices #SMART - The American Genius

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

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iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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Amazon Music debuts synchronized text transcripts for popular podcasts

(TECH) The first feature to hit Amazon Music is auto-generated and synchronized text transcripts for their most popular podcast shows. Sign us up!

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Amazon Music Transcripts

Amazon set out to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts last year by acquiring the podcasting network, Wondery. Now, the company is doing just that with the launch of its auto-generated and synchronized podcast transcripts feature on Amazon Music.

According to an Amazon Music tweet, with this feature, you’ll be able to “Roll it back, jump ahead, and follow along” with the podcast you’re listening to. For instance, you can scrub through the transcript to find that line of text with that quote or movie and book suggestion you can’t quite remember. When you tap on a particular line of text in the transcript, you’ll be able to jump straight into that specific part of the podcast. I can already see all the time saved! But, if you just want to read along as you listen, you can do that, too. The transcript will match the audio as you’re hearing it.

Right now, the company is only rolling out podcast transcripts in the US on both iOS and Android devices. When it will expand to other countries isn’t known, and the feature isn’t available for all podcasts yet. For now, it is only available on a selection of popular podcasts like Smartless, Crime Junkie, This American Life, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love, but more are coming.

Amazon Music Homescreen

To use it, all you have to do is open the podcasts tab on Amazon Music and select one of the podcasts you’d like to listen to. Of course, you’ll need to select a show with the podcast transcription feature to see it. When your show is playing, on the top of the album art and in fullscreen mode, the transcriptions will be available for you to read along to.

Oh, and if you’re worried about having to read through the ads, you have nothing to fret about. Ads won’t be transcribed. Instead, the transcription will read “audio not transcribed” when they are playing.

So far, Amazon seems to be going strong in the podcasting game with the release of podcast transcripts. The feature makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for in a show. And, for those on a long and noisy bus and subway ride, you’ll finally be able to read the information you previously couldn’t hear.

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Tech News

UX design: If you don’t have it, get yourself an audit made easy

(TECH NEWS) UX design is important. By conducting a simple audit to make sure your site is accessible, you can minimize the number of people that quickly go away.

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Two UX design people standing in front of a whiteboard with a UX map.

A good UX design is essential in attracting and retaining customers. A seamless and positive experience will keep customers happy and bring your business many benefits, like increasing audience engagement and sales.

But, how do you know if your user experience is in need of help, so people don’t bounce away quickly? Well, if UX is not your forte, the best thing to do is to hire a good UX designer. Unfortunately, sometimes hiring one isn’t always within the budget.

So, what do you do then? The next best thing is to conduct a UX audit of your website or app. Not sure where to begin? Fulcrum’s Do It Yourself UX Audit kit is one place to start.

According to the website, this DIY UX audit “can help you gain valuable insights about the usability of your product.” The tool detects problems in your UX, prioritizes them for you, and finds out how you can fix any existing issues.

The tool is made out of free easy-to-use Notion templates. These UX audit checklists are all customizable, and you can print them or save them on your Notion dashboard to use later.

Inside each template, there are cards with descriptions and examples. Depending on if you meet certain criteria or not, you drag and drop the card into the “Yes” or “No” column. When you’re finished, you will easily see what issues you have, and you can work on fixing them.

The templates are divided into Junior and Middle-level templates.

The Junior level has templates for things such as field and forms, login, mobile UX, and architecture. Most of these templates help make sure you cover your basic UX bases. For instance, it looks at whether your website is desktop and mobile-friendly, and if each element makes sense and is easily identifiable.

The Middle Level dives in a little deeper. The “Visibility of system status” audit checks if you are keeping your audience informed on what’s going on. Things like battery life, loading, or Wi-Fi connection indicators can make a huge difference. No one wants to stare at a screen with no clue if what they clicked on is working or not.

If you can afford it and want a UX virtuoso to do the work for you, you can get a UX audit from Fulcrum. The experts will conduct a full-fledged UX audit and create wireframes with solutions for your UX issues.

However, no matter how you go about it, a good UX design is important. Higher rate conversions and user retention won’t happen if your product is just pushing people away.

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