The Internet is becoming an ever more restricted, ever less private place. The Snowden leaks and other more recent events have demonstrated that governments are interested in our personal data, we have all long known that corporations have sought an end to privacy protections so that they can monetize our browsing habits and it looks like they have finally succeeded. Most recently, the Republican dominated senate voted to allow ISPs to sell consumer data without prior consent or knowledge.
VPNs are often touted as an invaluable tool that you can use to secure yourself online and protect your web-traffic from being snooped on. They are an essential part of protecting yourself online and to understand why you need to understand what a VPN is.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a group of computers, or discrete networks, networked together over a public network, or in other words, the Internet. If you have ever worked remotely from home or had to access a computer in another office then you have done so using a VPN.
VPNs are great because they allow you to access network resources that are not on your local network and they can be used to secure and encrypt communications when using an untrusted public network, such as the local Macdonald’s wi-fi.
To use your VPN you would generally launch a VPN client on your computer or phone, enter your log in credentials and then your computer will exchange keys with a remote server. Once your computer and the server have verified each other your Internet communication can be considered secure from any eavesdropping.
Once your VPN is connected to this server, all communications appear to be originating from that server which make it difficult to trace the traffic back to you personally. This is also why you can use a VPN to make it look like you are browsing from a foreign country.
Okay, that makes sense, so why should I use one?
There are a number of reasons you might want to use a VPN. They’re useful to pretty much anyone simply because they shield your traffic from any unwanted eyes and allow you to protect your data. I would really recommend using a secure one to protect yourself online, especially on public wi-fi networks. That being said, there are a number of specific reasons that you might want a VPN.
You might want to access resources in another country. VPNs are a great way to help level out the geographical divide. Perhaps you are a British emigrant who wants to be able to watch BBC Iplayer abroad, or maybe you are sick of the poor Netflix selection in your country. Whatever your reason, a good VPN provider will give you a number of locations to choose from, allowing you to “unblock” the web.
Another reason many people choose to use a VPN is to protect their privacy and security. Whether you live in a country where your web traffic is heavily monitored by the authorities, or whether you simply prefer to be safe rather than sorry, a VPN is a brilliant way to keep your private browsing history private.
Okay, so VPNs are useful, how do I choose one?
Well, there are a number of criteria that you should look at when choosing a VPN:
Number of exit locations
exit locations are an important factor for most users. This is basically where their servers are physically located. So, if you want your traffic to look like it is from the UK then you would want your exit location to be from the UK. This is especially important if you want to use your VPN to watch TV from another country.
The biggest security risk in any VPN service is the provider itself. While your data is protected from any external snooping, it has to go through your provider’s servers, meaning that they are the only ones with access to your data. If you are concerned about your privacy then you need to make absolutely sure that you know your providers logging policies. If they don’t log anything then they have nothing to hand over to the authorities regardless of where they are located. Many providers do log user traffic and can be compelled to hand those logs over to the authorities on request, some even sell that information onto third parties. It really pays to know exactly what data your provider keeps and how they use it.
If you think about it, you probably use your phone a lot more for general web surfing than your computer anyway and it is likely significantly less well protected. So choosing a service that offers protection for your mobile should be a big factor in who you choose, most paid VPNs worth their salt have a mobile app and some free ones do as well.
While some VPNs are no thrills affairs many offer extra features to help you keep yourself safer online. This is especially important you want to pay for your VPN service. VPNs aren’t a magic bullet so some providers package in software that help you identify trojans and spyware to help keep you safe online.
So, should I pay for a VPN or not then?
Well, it really depends upon what you need it for. If you just want to browse the web and access content from other countries then a free one should suit your needs just fine and there are plenty of good ones out there. Concerned about your privacy or security? Then a paid VPN is probably the best route to go down, though a couple of free ones might meet your needs.
If you do opt for a free VPN, keep in mind that nothing is truly free and many support themselves through advertising and they might well use your browsing data to more effectively target ads within the service. Many free VPNs also have data limits, making them unsuitable for beefing up your security. Do your research before using a free one and make sure that you know how they make their money and what their privacy policies are before you use them.
If you want to be serious about your privacy or your security then you really should be looking at paid VPN. If you pay for the service you are generally going to get access to more exit gateways, unlimited data use and the logging policies focused on protecting user data. Beware though that just because you pay for something, it does not mean that it is good. There are a lot of VPNs out there and many are bad. Do your research, take advantage of free trials and take your time before you decide, you don’t want to buy a year subscription only to find out that you are unhappy with the service.
Can GeekReply point me in the right direction?
We’d love to, as part of a long-term effort to help our readers stay safe we’re beginning a short series on tools that will beef up your privacy and security.
Over the next couple of days I’ll be posting a list of our recommend paid and free VPNs. Subscribe to our twitter feed or facebook page to make sure you don’t miss them or any of our other great articles.
If you have any burning questions in the meantime, then please leave a comment and I will do my best to help.
5 Reasons You NEED To Play The Final Fantasy VIII Remaster
After many years of fans begging Square Enix to remaster Final Fantasy VII, they finally listened and did just that. There were numerous excuses as to why the game’s re-release had lagged behind the re-releases of both VII and IX, with the most common excuse being that the game’s original code was lost years ago. However, the company made it happen and the game is finally available for modern audiences to play on modern hardware today. We’re going to give you 5 reasons why you should do just that.
First time available on modern hardware
As we’ve already said, this is the first time that the game is available on modern hardware. While the game originally launched for PS1 back in 1999, it later got a PC port in 2000. That means that is has been a whopping 19 years since a new version of the game has been available for purchase, and that wait was a brutal one. However, it is finally over and you can now play this classic game on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch along with PC. If the lack of modern hardware support was stopping you from checking out, that excuse just got thrown out the window.
The visuals look better than ever
Thankfully, Square Enix did not just slap this port together quickly and throw it out there to shut everyone up. They did a terrific job of putting on a shiny new coat of paint for the game, with the character models in particular looking much better. While things like environment textures didn’t get quite the same amount of attention, this is nevertheless the best that the game has ever looked. It also helps that the game is simply beautiful from a design standpoint, with the game’s world being gorgeous to behold even though we’re dealing with the hardware limitations of 1999.
Quality of life improvements
While those who played the game 20 years ago will still be getting what is essentially the same experience, Square Enix did add some quality of life improvements to put it more in line with current JRPGs. These changes include the likes of increasing battle speed by 3 times, shutting off random encounters completely and even a cheat to give you max HP and limit breaks. While these may seem minor, these will go a long way to ease some of the tedium that many feel after some particularly long gaming sessions. Max HP and Limit Breaks will also make the incredibly tough Ultima and Omega Weapon boss fights a lot easier to deal with.
The Final Fantasy series is known for having its fair share of enticing side quests and mini games, but there isn’t a single one that is as addicting as Triple Triad. The game is essentially a card game that is played on a 3×3 grid, and each card has a certain number on the top, bottom, left and right sides. You need to place your cards in a manner that the numbers on your cards are higher than your opponents, and seeing as your card can be attacked from four different sides this can be tricky. You’re able to challenge many different characters to a match throughout the course of the entire game, and doing so comes with plenty of nice rewards that will make your quest easier.
The game is awesome
While our previous points focused on specific elements of the game, this one is a simple fact that has been true since 1999: the game is awesome. Unfortunately, releasing immediately after Final Fantasy VII (a watershed moment for gaming) put it under a very cruel microscope, with many knee jerk reactions simply saying it “isn’t as good as VII.” However, in the years that have passed people have revisited the game, and the consensus has definitely changed. This adventure that Square created is unlike any other in the series, being host to an ambitious and bizarre plot filled with some of the best characters the series has ever seen. If you’ve played the game before then this is the perfect time to experience this masterpiece all over again, and if you haven’t then what are you waiting for?
10 Huge Games Still Coming In 2019
2019 has been yet another good year for gaming so far, with several games releasing that will be big contenders for game of the year once the curtain closes. However, despite the year already being more than halfway over, there are still some huge titles on the horizon that are sure to make their own dents on the coming best-of lists. This article will list the 10 biggest games that are still coming in 2019.
A new game from Remedy Entertainment is always highly-anticipated, and Control is no different. The game is an action-adventure game in the same style as Alan Wake or Quantum Break, but with a supernatural twist. Players will control Jesse Faden, who possesses a variety of supernatural abilities like telekinesis, levitation and more. She will be using her abilities in order to defeat an enemy known only as the Hiss, which has corrupted reality. Control launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on August 27th.
It has been many years since the last game in the Borderlands series released, but the hiatus is finally coming to an end very soon. Those who have played previous games in the series will feel right at home with this game, as it’s once again a loot-driven FPS. The game will offer more zany characters and a charming and insane world to explore, all while dealing with new antagonists Troy and Tyreen Calypso along with their Children of the Vault cult. Borderlands 3 launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 13th, with a Google Stadia port release date being TBA.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series is returning soon with Breakpoint, which will serve as a continuation of previous game Wildlands. The game is set in an open world environment called Aurora, which is a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean. Players will control Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman, who is a special forces operative that was sent to the island to investigate a series of disturbances in the area. Breakpoint launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 4th, with a Google Stadia port coming in November.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Each new installment in the Call of Duty series is always huge, but Modern Warfare’s release marks a first for the long-running franchise. It will be the first game in the series that is reimagining of a previous game in the series, taking 2004’s original game and updating its mechanics and themes to match today’s world. The game will still have some of the beats that the first game had, but will also incorporate lots of surprises to make it a fresh experience. Modern Warfare launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds is one that will be very highly-anticipated for fans of Fallout: New Vegas, as this game serves as a sort of spiritual successor to that game. It will be an open world RPG that allows you to explore many unique areas crawling with plenty of deadly foes. Players will also be able to encounter and recruit NPCs as companions that have their own personal missions and stories to take part in. The Outer Worlds launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th, with a Switch port also being in the works.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
It seemed very unlikely that Luigi’s Mansion would become a recurring franchise for Nintendo following the original GameCube game, but here we are. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is coming to Switch, which also means it will be the first home console release since the original game back in 2003. This time the game is set in a haunted hotel rather than a mansion, and Luigi has some new tricks up his sleeves to take down all those ghosts. Luigi’s Mansion 3 will launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on October 31st.
If you’re looking for the most ambitious (and weirdest) game still coming in 2019, then look no further. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding has perplexed gamers ever since its announcement, and each new trailer that releases just brings more and more questions to the table. It is Kojima’s first game since breaking up with Konami after the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phanton Pain (and the cancellation of Silent Hills), and it looks like Kojima has taken the newfound complete creative control to deliver something truly original. Death Stranding launches exclusively for PS4 on November 8th.
Pokemon Sword & Shield
At this point we all know what to expect from a new Pokemon game, and Sword and Shield seems poised to deliver even more cute creatures for players to capture and battle very soon. What sets Sword and Shield apart from its predecessors is that it will be the first home console release for the series, which is saying something considering the series has been around for over 20 years. Pokemon Sword & Shield launches exclusively for Switch on November 15th.
If you’re a fan of Shenmue then nothing needs to be said for the inclusion of the upcoming third game on this list. Fans of the series have been waiting nearly two decades for a follow-up to the second game, and in just a couple of months that will finally be delivered to them. Brought to life thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, the game continues the adventure of protagonist Ryo Hazuki as he hunts down his father’s killer. Shenmue III will launch for PS4 and PC on November 19th.
id Software’s DOOM 2016 was one of the best FPS games to come along in years, so it’s a no-brainer that the follow-up would be on this list. Eternal is set to offer yet another intense FPS campaign for players to plunge into, while also offering a multiplayer component that greatly improves upon the last game’s underwhelming multiplayer mode. There will also be twice as many demon types than there was in the last game, meaning that the chaos level just got that much higher. DOOM Eternal launches for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and PC on November 22nd.
5 Most Exciting Announcements From The Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference
Microsoft’s Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference has officially come to an end, and with it came plenty of big announcements to get excited about. Some new games were announced, whereas previously-announced games got new footage and/or release dates. In this article we’ve narrowed it all down to the 5 most exciting announcements.
New Xbox “Project Scarlett” Coming Holiday 2020
We’ve known for a while now that a new Xbox was in the works, but now we know when to expect it. Microsoft’s fourth console (which hopefully has a better official name than Xbox One did) will be a big step up from the previous console. Things like much faster load times, an AMD Processor that is four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, 8K Resolution and 120 FPS were all mentioned. A price and exact release date weren’t mentioned. It will also be launching with…
Halo Infinite Coming Holiday 2020, Launching On Both Xbox One and Project Scarlett
The wait for the next Halo game has been longer than ever before for series fans, and the announcement at E3 revealed that the wait will continue. Halo Infinite will not be launching until Holiday 2020, meaning it will have been 5 years since the previous game released with Halo 5. It will also be launching on Xbox One and Project Scarlett, meaning the new console will have a big launch title for fans to get pumped about.
Cyberpunk 2077 Coming April 2020, Stars Keanu Reeves
It’s hard to pick a game that people have been more excited about than Cyberpunk 2077, and after Microsoft’s press conference we’re even more excited. Not only is it coming in April of next year, but Keanu Reeves himself will be playing a “key” role in the game. Everything shown from the game has looked great so far, so hopefully it all pans out and we have another classic from CD Projekt RED come April 2020.
FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin Collaboration Elden Ring Announced
This one was actually leaked prior to the presentation, but Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin are collaborating on a new game. The game is called Elden Ring, and it will be a departure from the developer’s most recent games as it will be open world. Very little information on the game is known at this point, as it is still in the early stages of development.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Is Coming West
It took a very long time, but the popular MMORPG is finally coming west. The game is coming to Xbox One in a free-to-play form in Spring 2020, so the wait won’t be that much longer. “There will be no limitations on game experiences,”says Sega, because they want to “provide all players with a fair and exciting experience.”
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