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Old 3rd August 2020, 08:23   #1
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Default Protecting your online privacy & user data

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Originally Posted by binand View Post
Generally, there are two reasons why people use a VPN:

1. To bypass access control systems. This could be geofenced content (Netflix, Spotify prior to their Indian launch etc.), or firewalls (corporate Intranet/ERP systems) etc.

2. To keep out vested interests in tracking them. If they are doing illegitimate things this could be the local police. If they are whistleblowing it might be the government intelligence apparatus.

If you don't fit in either of these two then you probably don't need a VPN. Your security is more or less taken care of the common instructions like "lock icon in browser", "end-to-end encryption" etc.
I believe you should add one more point to the list.

If you value your privacy.

I use a VPN everytime I log on to Facebook. They are among the biggest spies outside of government agencies. I don't use the Facebook app at all. I use the Opera browser over a VPN to access FB. Google is not too far behind. Many websites have inbuilt trackers too. Most are for personalized marketing. Online privacy is a myth. Still using a VPN can help you a fair bit in masking your geo location among other things.
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Old 3rd August 2020, 09:13   #2
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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I believe you should add one more point to the list. If you value your privacy.
I encapsulated privacy in the "tracking" point. Having said that...

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Originally Posted by longhorn View Post
I use a VPN everytime I log on to Facebook. They are among the biggest spies outside of government agencies. I don't use the Facebook app at all. I use the Opera browser over a VPN to access FB.
If you believe that FB is "the biggest spy" and you value your privacy, the right approach is to not have an FB account at all and actively block all their attempts to track people without accounts (the so-called Shadow Profiles). I do, and therefore I have FB blocked at DNS level in my home. Opera browser and VPN don't protect you from their tracking/analysis/learning systems.

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Originally Posted by longhorn View Post
Google is not too far behind. Many websites have inbuilt trackers too. Most are for personalized marketing. Online privacy is a myth. Still using a VPN can help you a fair bit in masking your geo location among other things.
As mentioned, I captured all this in "To keep out vested interests in tracking". My DNS-based tracker blocker works quite well - it currently has ~60000 tracker sites listed. VPN does not block behaviour tracking. It does not even prevent GPS-based location tracking or proximity-based location tracking. The only thing it prevents is IP-based location tracking.

Don't put all your eggs in the VPN basket.
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Old 3rd August 2020, 18:47   #3
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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I use a VPN everytime I log on to Facebook.
How does this work? A VPN to where? Does Facebook provide you with a VPN connection? Are you using a VPN provider? You have a VPN to them, and then, from them you out in the cloud with everyone else. The only difference is that Facebook might see your IP address as that provided by the VPN company. Control over what it is learning from your browser is with you and your browser. What's in an IP address alone? Not much, except the identity of your ISP (owner of the address) and a good indication of your location.

For privacy in the sense of anonymity, the Tor browser and system would be a better bet. And even that can be unravelled, if you are a big enough fish that some organisation has that much interest in you. And also, careless use of Tor, eg with a browser stuffed with history, bookmarks, passwords etc can render it useless.

I am out of date on this stuff: please correct where necessary.
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Old 5th August 2020, 08:18   #4
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
How does this work? A VPN to where? Does Facebook provide you with a VPN connection? Are you using a VPN provider?

For privacy in the sense of anonymity, the Tor browser and system would be a better bet. And even that can be unravelled, if you are a big enough fish that some organisation has that much interest in you. And also, careless use of Tor, eg with a browser stuffed with history, bookmarks, passwords etc can render it useless.

I am out of date on this stuff: please correct where necessary.
On my laptop I use a paid VPN service along with Cloudfare DNS on the browser. I sign in to a location in another country on the VPN. This tricks FB on the country where I am located. I use the same country setting on the VPN every time I log in to FB. Yes, they still have other ways to find your location, especially from your phone.

On my cell phone, its just the VPN over Opera browser. I trust Opera over Chrome / Edge/ IE. On Chrome browser, they somehow have a way of poking around and collecting data even when you are signed out of FB. I am aware of the TOR / Vivaldi browsers, just haven't got around using them. I don't have any filter set up at the router level.

Last edited by longhorn : 5th August 2020 at 08:26.
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Old 5th August 2020, 10:39   #5
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by longhorn View Post
On my laptop I use a paid VPN service [...] I sign in to a location in another country on the VPN. This tricks FB on the country where I am located.

Yes, they still have other ways to find your location, especially from your phone. [...] they somehow have a way of poking around and collecting data even when you are signed out of FB.
But the question is, what is the purpose of all this roundabout way of accessing Facebook?

If it is to hide your location from FB or more generally avoid being tracked by FB, then as you admit there are many other ways of detecting your location and collecting data on you. Every app / website that uses any of FB's features (FB connect / login, FB Analytics...) tracks you on their behalf whether you like it or not. So you are not achieving anything.

A large chunk of the data that you provide Facebook is via your actions. Liking a photo, commenting to a post, reading an article... those you do with VPN or without - this is what they call interest data, and is what most advertisers segment the userbase on. As long as you do these sort of things on FB, you are valuable to them and any VPN etc. is just snake oil.
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Old 5th August 2020, 13:41   #6
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by binand View Post
My DNS-based tracker blocker works quite well - it currently has ~60000 tracker sites listed.
Binand sir, after reading your post, I wanted to try the DNS based tracker blocker - specifically the Adguard.
Yes - the pages loaded faster - probably because it blocks the ads. But unfortunately it also blocks bank sites from functioning properly. ICICI returned some error right in the browser.
Removed the DNS server entry from the laptop. One should probably have a switchable DNS servers.
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Old 5th August 2020, 14:21   #7
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

And Facebook probably sees that your IP address belongs to a VPN provider. Which might suggest you have something to hide. Which might make you look interesting.

The only reason I can see would be to access functionality or services not available in this territory. On which subject...

How's that going these days? I have heard from several people that it is not getting them into Netflix USA, who are aware of the IP addresses.

Isn't that the bread and butter of the general-public VPN market?

(Answer to those who say we should not discuss it because it's illegal... I don't accept. This is not hacking or piracy, these people paid their dollars. And, if it is against T&C, that is a civil, contractual matter, not criminal.)
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Old 5th August 2020, 18:36   #8
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
Binand sir, after reading your post, I wanted to try the DNS based tracker blocker - specifically the Adguard.
I don't use AdGuard, instead I use this one:

https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts
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Old 5th August 2020, 18:48   #9
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by binand View Post
I don't use AdGuard, instead I use this one:

https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts
Excellent idea sir. I will pull the list and integrate it with my local DNS caching server. At least this way I won't be blocking ads. Many a time, I use the ads to know about new products or services. Not all ads are bad.
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Old 5th August 2020, 18:54   #10
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

Just a word about Opera browser and Opera and somehow it being more trustworthy than chrome or edge.

The company is worse offender in terms of privacy violations and was flagged by google play store for pushing microfinance loans to users in India and some other countries. So this means it was not anonymized data collection like Google does but targeting using personalized data.

Opera consumer business was sold to a Chinese group and investors and these aggressive tactics to use consumer data emerged after that.

Using opera free VPN one is offering them more data to cache and mine.

AFAIK browser and VPN like Opera and UC cache data on Chinese servers so use your discretion before using them.
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Old 5th August 2020, 20:49   #11
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

Thank you. I have never used Opera (I think my browser history was essentially Netscape followed by Firefox, and now Pale Moon) but now I have good reason to never even try it.
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Originally Posted by longhorn View Post
I am aware of the TOR / Vivaldi browsers, just haven't got around using them. I don't have any filter set up at the router level.
Tor is more than a browser. In fact, it isn't a browser. Last time I looked it used a version of Firefox especially hardened. TOR is a worldwide system of voluntary node servers, and your traffic is bounced around between them, eventually exiting back into the internet cloud, having been on such a tortuous journey that it's origin is obscured. Duh! I have no idea how the return packets find their way back to you!

Wikipedia:
Quote:
Tor is free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication. The name derived from the acronym for the original software project name "The Onion Router".[6][7] Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays[8] to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to the user: this includes "visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms".[9] Tor's intended use is to protect the personal privacy of its users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities unmonitored.
Tor Project.
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Old 6th August 2020, 10:23   #12
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
Many a time, I use the ads to know about new products or services. Not all ads are bad.
All digital ads are bad. Begins with the extreme levels of segmentation/targeting they end up doing. The ultimate dream of every digital marketeer is to be able to put each ad impression into a segment of 1 and perfectly targeted, so that probability of purchase is as close to 100% as possible. I block ads with a vengeance.

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Originally Posted by amitk26 View Post
Using opera free VPN one is offering them more data to cache and mine.
Thanks for this info. As the maxim goes, if you are not paying for a product YOU are the product.

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Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
I have no idea how the return packets find their way back to you!
Conceptually it is fairly simple. Each node knows just enough to send the request packet to the next node in a sequence, and to send the response packet back to the node that sent the corresponding request packet to itself. That sequence when extended becomes a complete chain from the user to the resource provider.

A good analogy would be a letter that is enclosed in a series of envelopes. Each envelope has an address on it. Each recipient removes the top envelope (that contains their address) and posts the envelope contained within onwards. When a response arrives they put it in a new envelope and post it to the return address from the top envelope (that they had saved).
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Old 6th August 2020, 14:08   #13
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

Yes, thanks for that.

Was prompted by this discussion to install the Tor browser yesterday (yes, it's customised Firefox) and to do some reading on their site.

One thing I'd forgotten is that data is also encrypted at each node.
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Old 6th August 2020, 15:48   #14
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by binand View Post
But the question is, what is the purpose of all this roundabout way of accessing Facebook?
If China can steal stealth plane design from US military servers, that ought to give a fair idea as to how secure our data is. If your PC is connected to the internet, anyone hell bent on getting your data can do it, irrespective of whatever controls you put in. On the flip side, every additional control would require that much more time and effort to break into your system. That's all there is to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amitk26 View Post
Just a word about Opera browser and Opera and somehow it being more trustworthy than chrome or edge.
This is news to me. Thanks for the update. In fact Opera was sold to a Chinese company way back in 2016. Don't remember reading about this anywhere in the news. Anything related to software or hardware that has a Chinese connection - uninstall !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
Was prompted by this discussion to install the Tor browser yesterday (yes, it's customised Firefox) and to do some reading on their site.
Let us know how this goes. I believe I should also move to Tor browser.

Last edited by longhorn : 6th August 2020 at 15:52.
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Old 6th August 2020, 16:17   #15
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Default Re: On Wi-Fi & Routers

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Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
Was prompted by this discussion to install the Tor browser yesterday (yes, it's customised Firefox) and to do some reading on their site.
I downloaded the Tor browser for Mac o/s. Did not change any settings, but used the default ones. imported bookmarks, cookies and history from Chrome. Tried a few sites. Works fine, no ads, and pop ups seem to work.

However, all user names and passwords do not get automatically populated-which could be quite a pain. Any work around this without compromising privacy/safety?

edit: Probably you would have to open all the sites you use, by manually feeding the user name and p/w in Tor and then ask it to save them.

Last edited by earthian : 6th August 2020 at 16:19.
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