Now ISPs are required by law to track, record and retain your metadata for 2 years, do you give up your privacy, or install a legal VPN?
The big news recently is that Australians are now subjected to Orwellian anti-privacy laws that force ISPs to keep your metadata for up to 2 years. This in itself isn’t so alarming if we could be sure the data would only be available to those groups who absolutely need it, to maintain law and order. You haven’t anything to hide right? Well the groups who do have access are not limited to law and order. Neither do they need a warrant to access this information as they would if say, they wanted to enter your home and read your personal data in your filing cabinet.
Your data up for grabs
Unfortunately, as we have seen with many high profile hacks in recent times, this data isn’t always safe. Once scooped up, it’s just a matter of time before it gets out. Either by subversive means, or by amended laws expanding the dubious list of departments with access to your information. Within days of the new laws being introduced, the abuse has already started. Even as the law stands the following groups will have unquestioned, unrestricted access:
- Federal, state and territory police
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
- Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
- Australian Border Force
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
What are my options?
Many people are now turning to a perfectly legal solution that has been in place around the internet for many years, which masks your internet activity from being logged by encrypting it from source to destination. It’s called a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and for a small cost, it is simple to activate one to circumnavigate these laws. This begs the question, who or what were these laws designed to target?
How does a VPN work?
In this scenario, a VPN program defines where the data you are accessing resides, then creates a ‘tunnel’ from you to that data. All data being transferred through the tunnel is encrypted, which renders it unreadable to anyone between you are the data source. Without the tunnel, the encrypted data passes through several computers on its way to you and therefore can be recorded.
This VPN tunnel can be set up in a variety of methods.
- Within your browser to encrypt just browser traffic.
- In the settings of most P2P programs to hide torrent downloads only
- You can install a dedicated program on the computer which will encrypt all traffic from the PC.
- As a catch-all solution, you can set it up on your internet router, which covers all traffic from within your home, including mobile phones, iPads, TVs, and computers.
Whichever method you choose, you should check can set-up by going to a web check site to confirm your IP or traffic is not open to scruitiny.
Where am I?
Your VPN comes with nodes in different geographical areas of the globe, where you choose to ‘appear’ to be. Basically, if you want to appear to have your computer in Norway, Switzerland or the US, you simply change your node. This is one way of circumnavigating the geo-blocks put on services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer etc.. In this article, it is used to fool anyone tracking the data, to appear to come from somewhere other than your home and therefore cannot be traced back to you.
VPN choice tips
When searching for a VPN provider, look at the following for comparison points depending on your intended usage
- Diverse number of nodes in various countries
- Bandwidth speeds in the countries you are likely to use
- Does this provider keep logs of your access?
- Use on various devices
- Torrent / P2P friendly
A few savvy VPN providers have seen the new laws in Australia and are offering great deals to entice customers. Have a look around at what suits you and your usage.
There are a few downsides to running a VPN depending on the configuration you choose. There is a convenience in using an authentication scheme which remembers your browser and IP address, however if you appear to mask your IP address, you will appear to be someone else and may trigger security systems that advise someone may be trying to hack your account.
Another drawback is the inherent design of VPN means your traffic is encrypted. Performing this encryption takes a small hit on resources like CPU and bandwidth speed, albeit a hardly noticeable one. As more people travel through the servers of VPN providers, you may also notice your download speed slowing too.
If this is all a little too technical and you want to keep your privacy, feel free to give us a call. We’ll be happy to set it up for you remotely or on-site, or just offer some advice on a recommended VPN provider that can be used in all the ways we have described.