Your route to the internet is via your ISP – your internet service provider. Every piece of data you send or receive goes through their fingers. And Lord, don’t they help themselves.
In the UK, they are now required to hang on to it by law for a year and surrender it to… well, any Tom, Dick or Harry who feels in the mood, basically. The High Court struck that law down, and it’s being rewritten.
But unless it comes back as the We Respect Your Right to Privacy Act, which it ain’t gonna, the problem is still there.
In the USA, ISPs have fought for, and won themselves, the right to throttle your traffic, censor what you see on the internet, refuse service to sites they don’t like or don’t agree with, push adverts at you, and watch every little thing you do online, keep that data and sell it to third parties.
Guys: we are a long way past ‘if you haven’t broken the law, you’ve got nothing to fear.’
How did we get here? Government sure didn’t help…
First: the people who write the laws are brazenly selling themselves to your ISP.
Imagine this: Your ISP, in a wrinkled suit that doesn’t hide its paunch, just pulled up to a street corner in a busted Mercedes with a missing badge and a backseat filled with old takeaway cartons so trashy they don’t even have a logo on.
But wait! Who’s that, leaning in the driver’s window, lips forming the words, ‘you looking for a good time, honey?’
It’s Ajit Pai.
And you don’t have to imagine it.
He’s literally fighting the US Supreme Court for the right to sell the right to spy on you to the highest bidder.
When they try, they make it worse…
Secondly, they’re crazy – and incompetent. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she doesn’t need to understand how encryption works to pass laws about forcing backdoors in it.
Let that sink in.
I don’t need to know how it works, to make laws… about how it has to work.
Reminds me of the Indiana Pi Bill, which was designed to make math easier by just saying that from now on, pi would be 3.2.
Good luck with that one.
Point being: they could turn the tables on you any time. Meanwhile, your data is being collected in one insecure, unencrypted silo, shunted to another and sold off to a third. Only one of those has to be Yahoo! Or Equifax – and the fact is, they all are.
But the ISPs are the problem.
There’s barely a government in the world that doesn’t have creepy, authoritarian tendencies. But they are as nothing to the creepiness of corporations that want to control you.
Don’t believe me?
Comcast – just a few weeks after the death of net neutrality and while it’s still being debated in court – blocked its users from accessing an encrypted email service.
Now, given that email is the most insecure form of communication online – it’s literally sent in plaintext, anyone can read your emails – and the most used, especially for business, please ask yourself this question:
What do you call a person who wants to force you to have insecure communications that any crook can read?
It’s not ‘friend.’
And if you just wanna play…
So much for the heavy political stuff. Yay, freedom, whatever.
But what if you don’t care too much for the struggle and you just want to get on Steam, lock and load and spend the evening (I know you mean ‘all night and most of tomorrow morning,’ you know it, but we’ll be polite here) laying teh suxxors to waste with flurries of buckshot?
Your ISP is watching your traffic.
Too many packets, they’ll throttle you, dump your packets, or queue them until they’ll feel like they’re in the queue of ISPs waiting to get a little sweet time with Ajit Pai in the Casa del Sol Naciente.
(Oh, plus: the tool your ISP uses to do this? That’s called Deep Packet Inspection – reading the contents of your traffic packets to ID where they’re going and what they contain. Yep, it’s legal.)
What to do?
Best time to get a VPN? Yesterday. Second best time?
Without a VPN, each packet that travels across the network is like a letter in the old mail system: it has an address and a return address. To know that Mike in Michigan is writing to Ian in Idaho I don’t need to open the letter, I can just look at the address and return address.
Your traffic is the same. Each packet has info on the outside that can be read quickly and easily.
Inside the packet the data is easily available – it can simply be opened. Like as if the post office steamed open all your mail, had a good look, photocopied it, then sent it right on its way.
With a VPN it’s a different picture.
There’s nothing written on the outside of the envelope. No address, no return address. And if you take it into your head to snoop inside? No dice. It’s encrypted.
Choosing the right VPN might take some thought. Deciding whether you need a VPN or not is a no-brainer. You need one to protect you from your ISP.