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Interview with Joel Timothy

About Joel Timothy

 Joel Timothy is an IT Expert currently pursuing his Masters in Computer Science at The University of Adelaide. He is an IT Security Consultant and has worked with various companies to help them ensure the security of their networks and data in general.

Joel Timothy
Joel Timothy, IT Expert and
Tech Writer

Joel enjoys exploring various security and privacy tools that help create a more private internet, as well as keeping tabs with the current and emerging technology. For the past 5 years, he has been reviewing security products like VPNs and helping internet users tackle tricky tech and internet issues, as well as maximize the boundless power of the internet.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself? Why did you pursue your career?

AI’ve been into technology since I was young. I have always liked being current on technology and learning new things on the internet. During my early years, my computer was infected with ransomware, thanks to my poor browsing habits. Looking for a solution to get my files back was frustrating, and when I couldn’t find one, I ended up formatting my laptop myself. I lost all my files, but I gained more interest in Cybersecurity, a field that I enjoy till today.

I completed my Undergraduate in Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, and I am currently pursuing my Masters of the same with a concentration in Cybersecurity.  For the last 5 years, I have been helping people deal with internet threats like phishing as well as restoring their own privacy (which is heavily threatened) with tools such as VPNs, Tor, I2P, etc.

Q: What is the importance of using a VPN service? How does a VPN service work?

AA VPN is one of the most important tools that you need if you use the internet regularly. The technology was designed to help protect internet users from threats such as hacking, as well as help make their internet use as private as possible. VPNs have also proven to be important tools when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content and overcoming censorship in countries like Iran and China.

A VPN accomplishes this by encrypting your device’ traffic and then sending it to a remote VPN server through a secure tunnel. After connecting to the new server, you are then given a new IP address which then gives you a new online identity. Your real identity will now be hidden, hence the creating a strong element of privacy in your online presence. Your ISP or any other third-party will also no longer be able to see what you do on the internet as your traffic will now appear in a complex encryption. This way, a VPN helps create a secure and private network with your original network

Q: How has the world of online privacy changed over the past 20 years?

A: The internet has forever changed privacy to the extent that even experts claim that “privacy is dead.” When social media started in the early 2000s, privacy wasn’t much of a concern. People would freely share information about themselves without worrying about any consequences. However, as technology advanced, the concern about personal privacy grew. Companies and governments would now collect information about people and store it. Cybercriminals also started using personal information available online to steal from and con individuals.

Governments then started creating laws that protected internet user privacy, but these haven’t been very helpful. In fact,  some governments like the US and the UK have laws that require ISPs to collect data about people. Today, billions of records (including phone calls) are recorded every day. Big data companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc are also thriving on user data. For instance, Facebook  might know everything about your appearance, your health status, your friends, the places you have traveled to (or even planning to go to), your future plans, etc. How? Through big data collection and analysis. The current state of user privacy only leaves us with the need to restore our privacy as much as possible using tools like VPNs.

Q: Besides video streaming, what are some of the best uses for VPNs

Data security: When using unencrypted connections, internet bad guys can sniff on your traffic to spy, steal data, hijack devices, and even steal identities. A VPN can however encrypt your traffic using standards like the AES 256-bit protocol to make your data transfer secure.

Internet Privacy: Normally, your ISP can always see the website you access, the files you download, and the resources you use. This is because you are usually using their servers to do all that. A VPN encrypts your data and connects you to a different server such that your ISP can never see anything you are doing while connected. Your new IP address also ensures that your activities aren’t connected to your real identity.

Securing public hotspots: Public hotspots are dangerous, and they should be avoided at all times unless you use a VPN. Besides hacking unencrypted hotspots, hackers can even create evil twin hotspots. Once you connect, they can then hack into your computer to steal personal data or even install ransomware. A VPN protects you from such by creating a secure network within the main network.

Avoid Network Throttling: At some point, you may have noticed that your connection slows down when doing certain activities (e.g., streaming videos) or when visiting certain sites. ISPs usually throttle internet, and this is now worse especially in the US after the repeal of the net neutrality rules by the FCC. By making your ISP not know what resources you are accessing, a VPN helps beat ISP throttling.

Finding Better Deals Online: Most people aren’t aware of this trick, but it can prove to be a very useful one if you have a VPN. You can start by checking prices in your region, then connect a VPN and compare prices from different regions. You will be surprised at how prices vary depending on your region! This mostly applies to flights and hotels, but the strategy can also be used on other products.

Q: Your background is in IT. Can you tell us how VPNs and online privacy have affected your industry?

Online privacy and information technology are two interactive units. It is the advancement in technology in the first place that has threatened personal privacy and reduced the amount of control we all have on our identifiable data. Today’s technology is driven by Big Data which allows collections of huge amount of data and then the use of data mining technology to find patterns.

Recent technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) has also increased the avenues of data collection, with home IoT devices and tools like Alexa collecting a lot of data about us.

However, technology has also provided ways of dealing with the threat to user privacy through privacy design methods and tools such as VPNs. The term VPN means a Virtual Private Network, and so these products have been designed to provide privacy and anonymity. In addition, you can also use tools such as Tor, Freenet, I2P, etc. to ensure your online privacy.

Q: Is a good VPN service worth the investment? What are the alternatives to using a VPN service?

A VPN is a crucial tool if you are interested in online privacy and security. You surely don’t want your ISP, government, or any other organization spying on how you use the internet. If you access copyrighted content when using bare internet, you put yourself at risk of receiving a DMCA notice, and you can even end up facing legal action. Investing in a VPN is therefore very important, and the few bucks you spend on a reliable VPN can be worthwhile.

In case you are not in a situation where you can readily use a VPN, there are still other privacy tools available, although they are not as comprehensive as a VPN. An anonymity browser like Tor can encrypt your traffic and send it through other nodes that anonymize your connection. Tor is however not as fool-proof as most people tend to think, and it will have a considerable impact on your browsing speeds.

Q: Are there any risks to VPNs? What should our readers know about the technology before using it?

A VPN is one of the best tools for internet privacy, but it doesn’t offer 100% anonymity. VPNs only offer what is referred to as pseudo-anonymity, just like Bitcoin. Though VPN providers are dedicated to offering privacy and security, governments will stop at nothing trying to uncover any illegal activities. However, pseudo-anonymity is really all you need if you’re engaging in legal activity, which is the only type of activity that we endorse here at VPN Vanguard.

Further, it’s very important to know that the level of privacy and security that you get with a VPN depends on the VPN provider. Some VPN providers keep connection and usage logs. Other VPNs are based in regions where the government requires them to keep some logs, and so you can’t trust their “complete privacy promises.” For maximum privacy, go for a VPN that is based in a privacy-friendly region, and keeps Zero connection and usage logs.

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