Burning down the barriers
APC’s editor reckons you need a VPN. Here’s why.
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!