Burn­ing down the bar­ri­ers

APC’s edi­tor reck­ons you need a VPN. Here’s why.

APC Australia - - News -

For those who are puz­zled about the hint of flames/saved­from-the-fire look to this month’s cover, rest as­sured that there is a link — and it’s all got to do with this be­ing the 451st issue of our es­teemed 38-year-old mag­a­zine. We couldn’t think of a more serendip­i­tous time to cover VPNs (and other anti-re­gion­re­stric­tion and cen­sor­ship tech­niques) than in issue 451, with that num­ber dove­tail­ing nicely with Ray Brad­bury’s sci-fi clas­sic on the same themes, Fahren­heit 451.

And a good VPN is pretty much a must-have in to­day’s com­put­ing cli­mate — and that’s as much about de­feat­ing cen­sor­ship and get­ting to geo-blocked con­tent on stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix as it is about se­cu­rity and pri­vacy. Since April last year, it’s been manda­tory for all Aus­tralian ISPs to keep a meta­data log of much of their users in­ter­net ac­tiv­ity and a VPN will ob­scure much of that.

It’s not in any way il­le­gal to use a VPN or an en­crypted chat ser­vice in Aus­tralia ei­ther — at least not yet. Our own Prime Min­is­ter’s pref­er­ence for the Wickr app ( www.wickr.com) is well known, al­though the gen­eral con­sen­sus among the para­noid is that Sig­nal ( sig­nal.org) is the go-to choice for tru­ely pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

VPNs are great for se­cu­rity, too, par­tic­u­larly if you’re a fan of pub­lic Wi-Fi, which, much like pub­lic swim­ming pools, do carry some risk to their users. Free pub­lic Wi-Fi is, in fact, a great way to get your­self hacked — their open na­ture and of­ten lax se­cu­rity mean that they’re rife for abuse, so if you want to pro­tect your traf­fic from be­ing sniffed (and your lo­gins po­ten­tially be­ing stolen), then en­crypt­ing your web traf­fic via a VPN is a very sen­si­ble pre­cau­tion.

Geo-blocks are the other big rea­son peo­ple turn to VPNs, and you may be sur­prised to learn that get­ting ac­cess to other-re­gion stream­ing con­tent isn’t il­le­gal ei­ther (al­though it may tech­ni­cally be against the stream­ing ser­vice’s terms of ser­vice). In re­ports com­mis­sioned by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment, com­mit­tees have re­peat­edly come down on the side of con­sumers in this area, stat­ing that lo­ca­tion-based blocks on dig­i­tal con­tent are anti-com­pet­i­tive, as they re­strict choice and don’t al­low con­sumers to shop around and find the best value.

So if you’re not cur­rently us­ing a VPN, then now is a pretty good time to start — and this month’s su­per­guide aims to make choos­ing and us­ing one as easy as pos­si­ble. So what are you wait­ing for? Flick to page 42 to find out more!

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