I normally aim to update TechYourBlog at least once a week with some cool/useful info, but these past couple weeks I haven’t been able to do that because I’ve been running around in CHINA!
It was an experience to say the least. The week before I left I was seeing news stories about the air pollution being off the scale. The scale ends at 500 (which is “hazardous”) and the air quality in Beijing was around 750 in some areas. Encouraging. But I’d already bought the ticket so I was going, damnit.
I actually was insanely lucky – the 3 days I was Beijing the sky was BLUE and hit around 6 (yes, 6) on the scale. The day before I arrived it was still in the 600s, planes were grounded, and the winds came through and blew it out.
The only time I experienced the dreaded pollution was the 4th day when I was leaving, and the air was hovering around 150-200 and was brown. By noon my throat felt like someone had scraped it with a fork. I can’t imagine what is was like before.
Then the day after I left, Beijing issued its first ever red alert for air pollution, closing schools and restricting driving in the city.
If that’s not luck I don’t know what is.
VPNs and The Great Firewall of China
What I really want to post about here in relation to China is something called a VPN (virtual private network) which became invaluable in China because of the famous “Great Firewall of China” which blocks sites like Instagram and Facebook. I was always able to access whatever info I wanted thanks to a handy VPN called VyprVPN.
Hopefully this goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway – I DON’T ENDORSE OR ENCOURAGE USING A VPN TO DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL. So don’t. You’re solely responsible for whatever you choose to do with the knowledge you gain here.
You’re not even truly anonymous while using a VPN anyways – which I’ll explain.
Why you should use a VPN even if you’re not in China
Lots of people have heard of “The Great Firewall of China” and that some people find ways around it using VPNs, but China isn’t the only place a VPN should be used. Even those with access to virtually (no pun intended) any corner of the internet they want could benefit from the security VPNs provide.
Go to vyprVPN and look at the very top of the page where it says “public ip” – the bunch of numbers are your computer’s IP address. If you’re connected to a shared internet network (such as in a coffee shop) then there is the possibility that someone else could snoop on your computer through that network. A VPN helps keep that from happening, keeping your information secure.
VPNs offer you some extra protection in the virtual world
VPNs act as a middle-man between you and your ISP (internet service provider) which (depending on your provider and laws) may keep logs of your internet activity.
Your ISP will log the basics of your IP address and the date and websites you visited, and then keep those logs stored for a certain amount of time (varying depending on the ISP). The ISP of course has the record for who the IP address belongs to (YOU!), so connecting the dots is pretty easy, but is kept confidential. The exceptions would be if someone legally (law enforcement with a warrant) or illegally (a hacker) decided they wanted your info from your ISP.
For the most part, that doesn’t matter and you’re still entitled to privacy and protection through your ISP, but sometimes it’s nice to have that extra layer of control over your personal info. A VPN helps encrypt your activity and information (such as your computer’s IP address) so it would be harder for someone to successfully hack you.
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VPNs log your info – and you want them to
VPNs still log some of your info, so the idea of truly being “anonymous” is a myth. However if you find a good VPN, chances are they will log less than your ISP and hold on to it for less time than your ISP.
For example, a VPN may not log the websites you visit, but they’ll still log the IP address you’ve been given through the VPN and the time you’re connected to the VPN. This is not something to worry about, that extra layer of protection is still very much there. Logging basic info allows VPNs to troubleshoot and separate users. If someone using the same VPN as you was doing something seriously illegal, you want to be sure law enforcement can tell the difference between them and you.
You may not be in China, but chances are you are blocked from viewing some content on the web just based on your location.
A VPN can help you get around blocks even if you’re not dealing with The Great Firewall of China. For instance, sometimes there are videos that you can’t view in your country – some Netflix videos are only available in England, some Youtube videos are blocked in your country – but a VPN can make it look like you’re actually in England, or wherever you need to be to access the video.
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Any thoughts on VPNs? Have you ever used one? Comment and let me know!
*There may be affiliate links in this post. There may not be affiliate links in this post. Life’s full of mystery. And hopefully pizza.