How many of you use mobile data? Have you read the terms and conditions of your mobile contract? If you have you will be aware that pretty much every mobile carrier in the world grants themselves permission to read your emails, monitor which web sites you visit and a whole host of other privacy invading activities.
Did you know that you can protect all that data from as a little as 7p per day? Did you also know that in doing so you can also avoid any content filters your mobile carrier may have placed on your mobile data connection and what’s more you can set up your own cloud service, image gallery, blog and even email server?
How is this possible for just 7p a day? The answer is simple, with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) running OpenVPN.
The VPS market is incredibly competitive with plans starting from literally as little as 7p per day for enough computing resources to run a virtual private network (OpenVPN) which you can then route all your mobile data through. This encrypts all the data between your VPS and your device which means your mobile carrier cannot monitor your online activities and your VPS becomes your gateway to the rest of the Internet.
Furthermore, because your DNS lookups (how you find a web site by its domain) also go through your VPS, any content filters your mobile carrier may impose on your connection are circumvented because the only thing your mobile carrier sees is an encrypted connection between your phone and your VPS. Chances are it could even speed up your browsing because some carriers give a higher priority to VPN connections than normal data traffic as these connections are traditionally used to connect to a corporate network.
To push all your data through your VPN you can install OpenVPN client on both Android and iOS devices. Also given that most VPS plans (even the cheap ones) provide upwards of 10GB of storage space you don’t just have to use it for OpenVPN. You could potentially run your own email server on your own domain meaning you can finally move away from the likes of GMail or Yahoo – the cost of a domain name is less than a bottle of cheap wine (around £5.00 a year). But why stop there – you could setup OwnCloud for well, your own cloud, to store your files and music on; you could run your own web site or blog and even your own image gallery to share your family photos. With most VPS plans offering at least 500GB of traffic every month you should have more than enough for your needs.
If you are a family member, you could use the same service to secure the communications of all the devices in your household. Don’t want your mobile carrier spying on your children? Setup a VPN connection for them as well, on the same VPS at no extra cost. Do you travel overseas a lot and still want access to your catch-up tv services? Again, a VPS hosted in your country is a good solution since most catch-up services run IP address filters to restrict the viewing of content unless you are in a country they are offering their service in.
If you are lucky enough to have a fast internet connection at home you could even setup a local VPN server and not have to pay for a VPS at all. You would probably want to have a fiber internet connection with at least 10mbit/s upload speed – although you could manage with less.
Now don’t get me wrong – this is not something that you simply click a button and it works – you would need to install and configure the services you want to run (such as OpenVPN) and this can be daunting for those without technical confidence – but there are a number of pretty good guides out there to help you along (see the bottom of this article). However, the learning curve is definitely worth it because with VPS prices being as low as they are – there really hasn’t been a better time to make your communications more secure.
You should understand that using shared resources does not guarantee the security of your data as potentially, anyone with administrative access to the physical server could access your VPS and access data stored in the memory of the host server. However – unless you are being actively monitored by law enforcement and the service provider has been ordered to provide access by a legal order – the chances of this happening are very slim especially given that the market is so competitive so security and privacy are essential to a provider’s reputation. That said, if you do not secure your data, it is absolutely guaranteed that your mobile carrier will continue to monitor everything you do over their networks – so whereas a VPS running a VPN is not the perfect solution – it goes a great deal further than the current default option of trusting your mobile carrier.
You could of course simply buy an existing VPN service but they are generally expensive (prices seem to start at around £15.00 per month) and have a severely limited amount of data traffic allowed and charge for extra users. Not to mention they are often bottlenecks because they lump as many users together as they can get away with with, which degrades the quality and speed of the service. The other obvious problem with this is you are being forced to trust yet another third party with your communications data, which kind of goes against the entire point of using a VPN.
Now I don’t normally do things like this because it can have a catastrophic impact on my time management – but as an incentive to help people secure their communications, I would be willing to setup OpenVPN on a VPS of your choice for upto five people for a one off fee of £30.00 (or equivalent in other currencies) – if you would like to take advantage of this offer, contact me on Twitter (@alexanderhanff) or leave a comment below before you decide on a VPS provider so I can help guide you through the entire process. Providing I don’t get absolutely swamped with requests, I will keep this offer open indefinitely, because really, it is about time everyone started to take back their privacy and this is an excellent first step.