For several years now, i’ve been contemplating the use of a VPN service for all my personal internet activities. Ever since the reveal of government surveillance programs released by Edward Snowden, which involves the NSA and GCHQ being involved in illegal wiretapping and dragnet surveillance upon the general public, i realised back then that i should have been using a VPN already.
I’ve finally gotten around to using one, better late than never. After checking out the price/feature pros and cons of many different providers, i have decided to start using frootvpn.
My main cause for concern here, and the reason that the idea of using a VPN has been revived for me, is the creeping censorship from this Tory government we currently have in the UK. If you know me, you will know i hate the tories, and that Margaret Thatcher can rust in a bucket of steaming cat shite. But i don’t want to get into a rambling rant about party politics, so i’ll leave that off this blog. The tories (backed by other parties) have put forward a plan to “protect the children”, by requiring proof of ID to anyone trying to view adult content over the internet in the UK. This is coming into effect during April of 2018. Websites that do not comply to Age ID will be added to state firewall blacklist.
This policy is not about protecting children. It is a policy of testing the waters, attacking a taboo so that normalization of identification requests over the internet become a normal thing. The internet passport of sorts.
I can only wonder when we will be asked for identification, be that credit card, passport or drivers license, to read an article on a foreign media website… but there are so many questions over this. Who is going to give a porn website their personal details? Do you want some corporation like MindGeek knowing your real identity, whilst also knowing that you searched for and watched a 40 minute video of brazilian midgets having a bukkake orgy?
Of course not. This is where the policy realistically falls apart. MindGeek has been given the reigns to run a monopoly, as they are in control of the Age ID system. This is more about profit (marketing, the sale of personal data) and enabling control of citizens internet usage A.K.A, state censorship.
Almost 20 years ago, as i started secondary school, the entire class were using web proxies to get around the school firewalls so we could all play online Shockwave Flash games during lessons. We were no older than 12 or 13 at the time. Kids today are going to be much more tech savvy at a younger age than most of us ever were, having been brought up with tablet computers and smartphones. If not, accessibility to VPN’s, and proxy services are easy enough for anyone to figure out. The vast majority will be able to get around these restrictions (*cough* censorship) and watch porn either way. So the policy becomes pointless in restricting access to content for everyone else.
What’s being done, is the fact that porn is STILL a taboo amongst society, and can easily be attacked as a means of testing how censorship could work. It’s a slippery slope of shit.
I would recommend to start using a VPN right now. There are of course various reasons to use one for privacy in general (going back to dragnet surveillance by governments).
Now back to Frootvpn.
Frootvpn operates out of Sweden, and has a “no logs” policy, along with the bonus of enabling P2P/Torrent activity on most servers. For £2.17 a month, this is a bargain deal, and the price convinced me to try it out.
Using a VPN, not only encrypts your data so that government spooks have a harder time knowing that you’re searching for cat videos on youtube, but it also allows you to get around state censorship blacklists. As long as you set your VPN server to a country outside your own residence, you are then able to bypass any state censorship blacklists. This also allows you to get around geo restrictions, for instance being able to watch BBC iPlayer if you are an American citizen.
So far i have been experimenting with browsing, gaming and P2P. I haven’t really noticed any speed loss or higher latencies when using a VPN server located in the UK. My ISP at the moment gives anywhere from 150-200mb/s at most times, and running the same speed tests through a London hosted VPN on this provider gives me around 40-50mb/s. More than enough to stream HD video. Latency is also fine here, without the VPN i can achieve <20ms ping on most game servers, whilst using the London VPN i will get a fair ping of 30-50ms. This is fine for me, although i don’t think it’s neccesary to use a VPN for casually playing a few multiplayer games (unless you’re trying to evade an IP ban).
Setting up Frootvpn on Slackware Linux was a breeze. You can follow their setup guide for Ubuntu here, which doesn’t differ much from what you need to do on Slackware. I ended up doing things a little different however.
First off, assuming you are using NetworkManager. You want to download the zipped archive of the server information (as mentioned in the above link). Then you want to extract these somewhere. I chose /etc/frootvpn.
# mkdir /etc/frootvpn # mv *.ovpn /etc/frootvpn/ # chown -R root:root /etc/frootvpn
Secondly, you will need to install the openvpn support for NetworkManager.
You can find this in slackbuilds.org. Make sure you create a user/group for this as mentioned in the readme:
# groupadd -g 320 nm-openvpn # useradd -u 320 -g nm-openvpn -d /var/lib/openvpn/chroot -s /bin/false nm-openvpn
Once that package is installed, restart NetworkManager, and also restart nm-applet. You should now see options for adding VPN configurations.
To quickly add all of Frootvpns servers, i ran this simple command:
# for i in /etc/frootvpn/*; do nmcli connection import type openvpn file "$i"; done
This will loop over all the *.ovpn files and add them to NetworkManager. One extra step is needed to be able to connect to the VPN, so right-click nm-applet and “Edit Connections”, and edit each VPN connection to use your assigned username/password you chose when creating your Frootvpn account.
Finally, you just have to enable one of the VPN servers to connect to, which appears under your normal menu for choosing your wireless network.
I would also recommend disabling WebRTC to stop IP leakage, for firefox, installing this add-on is all you need to do.
One extra step, is that you may have issues with your firewall, so enable them using iptables (this blog page shows you what to do).
I’m very happy with Frootvpn so far, whilst only paying monthly so far, i am more than tempted to start paying for an annual subscription.
I hope this has helped you, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment.