Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Golden Frog’s CTO Describes Personal VPN Services and Why They are Important (Blog 2 of 2)

Last week I wrote about my conversation with Golden Frog’s Chief Technology Officer, Phil Molter one of the developers behind Golden Frog’s VyprVPN solution. In my conversation, I learned a lot about what a private corporate network VPN is versus a personal VPN. I particularly enjoyed Molter’s explanation, “think of a trusted area like a castle surrounded by the enemy. With a corporate VPN, the business' sensitive information is behind the castle walls and the corporate VPN allows you, outside the castle, to slip by the enemy undetected to get access to that information while keeping the enemy out.” In this scenario, a corporate VPN protects its data against prey or unwanted visitors by creating encrypted tunnels that transport the data. With a personal VPN, Molter continues, “you're inside the castle, but you want to get out to the world without the enemy detecting you. The VPN allows you to slip out undetected from your castle, safe and secure.” A disguise, if you will, so that the enemy, snipers and other Internet obstacles don’t get in your way or hinder you from accessing information that you need access to.

This blog is a continuation of my conversation with Molter regarding Golden Frog’s VyprVPN solution and about what we should be concerned about when browsing the Internet.

Question (Ilissa Miller): What issues should concern Internet users when accessing from a public Wi-Fi spot?

Answer (Phil Molter): Generally, public Wi-Fi hotspots are not secured because, by their very nature, they want to be open to everyone. Wireless traffic is a broadcast medium, though, so all of your unsecured packets are sent to anyone around who can listen for them (the wireless router being only one of those listeners). Anyone with a radio antenna can listen to that traffic, just like a wireless router.

In addition, wireless networks are often big LANs, where every computer can see every other computer. Try opening your Windows Network Neighborhood while connected to a wireless hotspot. You might see a bunch of other machines. If you can see them, they can see you.

All of this traffic is open and insecure. Other people can do things as innocuous as know you exist or as malicious as download your data and represent themselves as you.

Question (IM): In your opinion, exactly how public is the Internet?

Answer (PM): The Internet, by its nature, is completely open and public. Various sites on the Internet may be firewalled, but the design is that, by default, anyone can talk to anyone else and the majority of that communication is through simple, human-readable text. If you want privacy on the Internet, you have to make a conscious choice toprotect yourself. In the past, people didn't pay attention to all this public traffic, but now, everyone from marketers to data thieves looks at this data for their own purposes.

Question (IM): Am I able to buy enhanced security from my ISP?

Answer (PM): Generally, no. ISPs generally cater to the lowest common denominator, and enhanced security isn't the first thing people are looking for. In addition, more and more ISPs today are looking to manage their bandwidth to save money on new infrastructure. They limit traffic that's used by a small percentage of their population in order to prevent complaints while holding down usage. To do this, they have to look at and know what kind of traffic you're sending, and traffic with additional security prevents them from doing this.

Question (IM): What other issues are out there that are not as well known to the public as they should be regarding usage of the Internet?

Answer (PM): More and more of our everyday lives are conducted through the Internet. Many services that have become available over the past couple of years are from small startups that are looking to grab users and grab them fast. Securing your data is not as important as getting basic features in place to drive user growth. Time and time again, we hear about private information being exposed or stolen because companies don't take basic security precautions with user data sent across the Internet.

I learned a lot by talking with Phil – particularly about the vulnerabilities we all face as we browse the Internet. Let us know your thoughts and if you found this information helpful. If you are interested to know more about Golden Frog and VyprVPN, please visit www.goldenfrog.com. Drop them a note – perhaps they’ll give you a free trial ;)

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1 Comments:

Blogger Emma Johnson said...

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5:50 AM  

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