At the local cafe, hackers can get a cup of coffee and rogue access to the network. Who needs a VPN; what could go wrong?Ken Hawkins
For the security minded, one of the scariest revelations from the now three-year-old Snowden leaks had nothing to do with accommodating ISPs (shocking) or overreaching and often vague anti-terrorism practices and policy (an even bigger shock, right?). Instead, when news trickled out about matters like the National Security Agency’s Vulcan data repository or its Diffie-Hellman strategy, online privacy advocates found themselves quaking. Suddenly, seemingly everyone had to re-evaluate one of the most often used tools for maintaining a shred of anonymity online—the VPN.
VPNs, or virtual private networks, are typically used to obfuscate users’ IP addresses and to add a layer of security to Web browsing. They work by routing traffic through a secure, encrypted connection to the VPN’s server. The reasons for using VPNs vary. Some people use VPNs to change their IP address so they can access location-specific media content in a different geographic location or download things on torrent that are less likely to be traced back to them. Others hope to minimize online tracking from advertisers, prevent the negative effects…