The China Firewall and VPNs

GFW of chinaThe Great Wall of China is an amazing piece of architecture. It is so monumental that it can even be seen from space. But did you know that there is another wall, an invisible one, which surrounds the entire country? We’re talking about the Great Firewall of China.

Perhaps no other country has pushed the limits of Internet censorship and regulation the way that China has. From blocking websites that violate government standards to imprisoning bloggers for expressing their views, China takes a hard line in controlling digital information.

Getting around the Great Firewall of China is a must for expatriates and those who visit the country. There is a way to circumvent many of the Internet restrictions in China if you are working or traveling there, and that way is to use a VPN.

What is the Great Firewall of China?

The Great Firewall of China actually has a more proper name. It is called the Golden Shield Project. The government began to develop the Golden Shield Project in 1998, and it was fully operational by 2003. Since that time, the Great Firewall of China has been the government’s tool for managing Internet restriction in one of the world’s most powerful nations.

The premise behind the Golden Shield project was simple. The Chinese government believed that the arrival of the Internet “opened a window” to the West, and that controlling what came through that window was important. Deng Xiaoping, the legendary Chinese leader, essentially referred to the process as “swatting flies.”

The flies coming through the open window of the Internet were any voices which could be considered as opposing the Communist principles of China. One such group, known as the China Democracy Party, was gaining some strength as the Internet arrived, and the government worried that unfiltered usage of the Internet would strengthen the CDP’s efforts to network. Hence, the Great Firewall was born.

How the Great Firewall works

Internet filtering through the Great Firewall of China is accomplished through a variety of means. Much blocking is accomplished by preventing some IP addresses from routing through, and proxy servers are heavily used.  In addition, a technique known as DNS cache poisoning is used to restrict access to certain sites.

The end result is that those who use the Internet in China are able to access only what the government wants them to access. All ISP’s in China adhere to the standards imposed by the Golden Shield project.

Why should you care about the Great Firewall?

As of June 2013 there are over 550,000 expatriates working in China. These individuals come from a variety of nations, but the turmoil in the European and American job markets have produced many of these young expatriates who are looking to improve their job status by working in China.

Foreign workers have perennially fueled many industries in China, many of them in the gas, coal, and steel industries. Teachers and other degreed professionals have always been in demand for their ability to introduce new learning and technology to the Chinese population. If you are planning to become an expatriate and work in China, learning how to avoid the Great Firewall is a must.

China is also the third-most visited nation in the world. In 2010, 55.98 million tourists visited the country. China is a favorite of tourists because of its history and culture. It is also a safe country to visit, with little turmoil.

When you combine expatriates with tourists the result is a sizeable foreign presence in China. Many of these individuals depend upon Internet access to stay connected with their home country, but many are surprised when they arrive and are confronted by the Great Firewall of China.

IMPORTANT–You must get a VPN before you reach China!

If you are planning to visit or work in China, a VPN is your only reliable option for maintaining access to the Internet as you have come to enjoy it. You can use your personal VPN to create an encrypted tunnel which will allow continued access to services like Skype, your local news and television programming, and digital services like Netflix or even Amazon Prime.

What you must understand, however, is that you need to secure your VPN account before leaving your home country. China knows that users can circumvent the Great Firewall with a VPN, so access to VPN sites is largely restricted. This means that if you wait until you arrive in China to purchase VPN access you will likely be unable to access our website. If you are in China and accessing this page while on some proxy that is currently unblocked you can email us for an alternative link or you can provide a family member the site url VPN-accounts.com  and they can order for you.

A VPN should be on the list of everyone who plans to visit China. We can help you get yours configured and ready to go before you arrive in the country to work or vacation. Do not forget this important part of your travel preparations!

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VPN to Jailbreak your Work & School Network

If you work for a large company or are attending college, you’re probably somewhat familiar with private networks. Many jobs and most universities provide their own secured network to employees and students, and some even have VPN capability that will allow you to connect remotely. When it comes to work or school networks, however, there are some important security matters you should consider when using them for Internet browsing.

In this article we’re going to show you how you can avoid a lot of hassle by using your own personal VPN to jailbreak your work/school network and preserve your Internet privacy.

Why not just surf on my work/school network?

Most work/school networks are secured. By that we simply mean that access to these networks is restricted to employees and students. That sounds pretty good, right? These networks offer a certain amount of encryption, use many of the same protocols used in a VPN (the most common being PPTP), and generally protect your data from anyone trying to steal it. So, why not just use these networks for privacy?

These answer is that the privacy afforded by a school or work network is an illusion in most cases. Yes, your data transfer is encrypted. Yes, unauthorized users cannot access the network. The network administrator (i.e. your employer or school) can still log and track everything you do.

If you use a device provided by your work or school, you should know right away that your browsing activities can be tracked. Using a personal device such as your laptop, iPhone, or Android tablet is no better. Whenever you log on with your personal device your data is encrypted within the network, but that doesn’t mean the network administrator can’t log web traffic.

Let’s say you decide to check your Facebook or send a Tweet while connected at work or school. That’s harmless enough, you say. Think again.

Fired for Facebooking?

According to Business Insider, numerous people have been fired in the US this year for updating statuses on Facebook and Twitter while using the company network. Some of them were even dub enough to criticize their employer or customers in their posts. Now, using a VPN doesn’t conceal your identity on accounts like Facebook and Twitter, but it can help conceal the fact that you were checking your newsfeed or looking at your friend’s pictures.

Many university students have been severely reprimanded for browsing porn sites while using the school’s network. Some have even been placed on probation or suspended outright, losing their scholarships and financial aid in the process.

These things happened because employees and students never stopped to consider that their traffic on the network could be logged and viewed by the network administrator.

A special word about college networks

We should take time to mention that many VPN’s offered by colleges and universities are not enabled for Internet browsing per se. The purpose of these networks is to allow students to store their school-related files securely and access them remotely. The same protocols are used in many of these cases to encrypt data, but the setup is different. You can’t connect to the public Internet through the school’s VPN.

A university VPN is structured to allow access to things like the university library, where you can conduct research and things of this nature. It will also allow you to securely access your grades.

What we are discussing in this article is using the college network on campus to access the Internet.

Jailbreaking your work/school network

Let’s take a moment for a basic refresher on networks. Without getting too technical, your school or work has an account with an ISP, or Internet Service Provider. The ISP provides the Internet service to the business or school, and the business or school sets up a network which allows employees or students to use the Internet either on a personal device or one supplied by the company.

When we talk about jailbreaking the work/school network, we’re talking about situations where you use your personal device. In this sense, think of the work/school network like a Wi-Fi hotspot. The difference is that the work/school network will require you to enter a password to access the network. This is to prevent those who do not work there or attend classes from using it.

Once you enter the password and connect you are able to access the Internet. But, entering that password does not conceal your activities while browsing. This is why you need to use a personal VPN after connecting to your work/school network via a personal device.  In this scenario, the network simply facilitates your initial connection. Once you are connected, your personal VPN creates a secure tunnel between you and the access point, and tracking your activities becomes much harder to do.

When you’re on your lunch break and decide to fire up your laptop to check personal email, simply connect to your VPN after you have connected to the work/school network. Now you can hit up Facebook or Twitter without worrying about leaving tracks for someone to follow.

Logging and VPN’s

Here’s the main thing you need to take away from this article: if your work or school provides a network for you to access the Internet on a personal device, you need to be aware that traffic on the network is most likely logged. These logs can be very revealing, as many employees and students have discovered.

At VPNaccounts we do not log your Internet activity. Logs are the greatest enemy to Internet privacy and freedom. No one wants to risk losing their scholarship because they sent a controversial Tweet, or lose their job because they browsed a dating site on their lunch hour. Using a VPN is the safest way to guarantee your online privacy while using any shared network.

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How and Why Governments Control Information

Controlling the flow of information has become a priority for many governments around the world in the age of digital communication. Just look at the recent events in Egypt which serve as an example of how digital information is parsed out in a crisis. It is important to understand how governments seek to control information, why they do it, and how you can avoid being caught in the crossfire by using your own VPN.

Isn’t the Internet unregulated?

Society has a tendency to think of the Internet as the last outpost of expressive freedom, but is it really as unregulated as one might think? Perhaps in the early days of the Web this was so, but in today’s world websites are routinely censored and blocked for a variety of reasons.

Would you like to visit a dating website while online in Saudi Arabia? How about using Skype in Oman? Or maybe you just want to watch a movie with your Netflix while vacationing in the Grand Caymans. In all of these scenarios you are out of luck unless you have your own VPN account.

Granted, all of the situations we mentioned aren’t due to some nefarious plan by a country to block information. Some services, like Netflix and Hulu, just aren’t available outside of the US. The point is that anyone who has traveled to various parts of the globe knows they cannot take digital services for granted.

How do governments control information?

Censorship and regulation of the Internet can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One of the first methods is through proxy servers / firewalls.

Some regions control information by monopolizing the ISP’s within a country. Many countries in the Arab Peninsula have ISP’s which are state-owned. These Internet Service Providers can use software to restrict website access, and they do. They block access to certain websites that they deem unacceptable in one manner or another. Many appear to be blocked for no apparent reason.

By using a VPN,  your IP address reveals that you are accessing the Internet from a location such as the US, accessing Netflix or Skype won’t be a problem. Your IP is basically telling the website that you’re in a non-restricted area. At the same time software used on proxy servers to block sites and ports will be unable to monitor encrypted VPN traffic and hence remains unblocked/unfiltered.

Proxy servers is used by many countries to block access to sites. The UK want to ban adult sites, and probably gambling sites too if they succeed in blocking sex sites.

Why do governments control information?

There can be a variety of reasons for Internet censorship, but most have to do with the politics or culture of a specific nation.

Arab countries are very intolerant of pornography, homosexuality, and anything which violates the principles espoused by their faith. In the US or UK, these types of websites don’t encounter nearly as much resistance. Arab nations take a proactive stance by simply eliminating the offensive material from view.

Those who live in democratic countries are also used to the freedom of being able to engage in political discussion and question the policies of their government. In other countries, like China, this is not permitted. Many news sites and blogs have fallen victim to the Great Firewall of China.

Finally, governments willingly cooperate with some digital media services to prevent piracy and unauthorized viewing of restricted content.

So, what’s the big deal about blocked websites?

The big deal is that some people who want to view restricted content while they are traveling can’t, even though their home country allows access. If you pay for a service, shouldn’t you be able to access that service whenever and wherever you choose?

You might think that the only people who want to access restricted websites are criminals or pedophiles. Wrong answer. What about the expatriate who is working on an oil rig in the Persian Gulf and wants to be able to talk to their family via Skype? What about members of the military serving abroad? Sure, they may be able to access unrestricted Internet while they are on base, but what if they live off-post in Germany and have to use a German ISP at home?  Many of their services will be restricted.

Even at home, Internet users just might want the added comfort of the encryption a VPN offers. The bottom line is that censorship of the Internet is viewed by some as an attack on personal freedom.

What if I do not use a VPN account?

If you do not use a VPN, it basically works this way. Every computer that accesses the Internet possesses a numerical identifier that is unique, like a fingerprint (e.g. 142.30.0.212). This is called an IP address. Whenever your computer asks a server to distribute content, its IP address is revealed. The server then knows where to send the digital content. ISP’s are given blocks of IP addresses to provide to their customers, and these addresses, in many cases, can be very accurate in determining the physical location of your computer. Enormous databases have been complied which map the IP addresses of different countries. If you do not use a VPN your location is known but with a VPN you are anonymous and traffic sent and received is encrypted.

Fight back with a VPN

You don’t have to settle for a censored Internet. You don’t have to allow a government to decide what you should look at online. You don’t have to sacrifice your local news when traveling. All of these things can be circumvented with a VPN.

If you haven’t jumped on the VPN bandwagon yet, you will. The past year alone has seen a rapid rise in the use of private VPN’s as web surfers become more aware of security and protecting their private data. When the cost is so affordable (we charge about 0.27 cents a day for a year of private VPN service), why wouldn’t you take that extra step to protect your information and ensure unrestricted access to your services? It just makes good techno-sense. Don’t get swept up in government efforts to restrict digital media, buy a vpn from VPN-accounts.com

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Why you should use a VPN instead of Tor

tor vs vpnAttempts to ban or block anonymous web surfing programs like TOR are on the rise. A recent article in Japanese newspaper Mainichi detailed how the Japanese government is attempting to ban TOR in the country in an effort to crack down on Internet users who participate in illegal file sharing or illegal activities such as the distribution of child pornography. While these are certainly valid reasons to question TOR’s usage, it also serves as a good example of why you should choose a private VPN over a free anonymous web browser like TOR.

What is TOR?

TOR is actually a software platform which was originally developed for the US Navy, but now they program is readily available for civilian use. It can be integrated into many browsers, such as Firefox, via extension and has been a popular choice for those who want to surf anonymously.

It works on the principle of masking your IP address and uses a complex method of routing your signal through different servers. The idea sounds really good, but because TOR has been used by hackers, data thieves, and other unscrupulous individuals the program now has a target on its back. Japan is just one of several countries that have spoken out against the program and are actively seeking to ban its use.

One danger of using TOR is that it depends upon volunteers to run so-called “exit-nodes” as a part of the signal routing process, something we’ll talk more about later. If you happen to become one of these volunteers your IP address can be linked to the browsing activity of whoever used you as an exit-node. If all of this sounds confusing, all you really need to know is this: TOR has numerous security vulnerabilities that a VPN does not.

A VPN is a better option than TOR

Let’s look at the similarities between the two options. The main one is that both a VPN and TOR are often used to spoof one’s geographical location and also to enable anonymous web browsing. In most other respects, the two options are very unlike one another. Here is a side-by-side comparison which reveals the advantages of using a VPN:

VPN

TOR

Very fast—no   notable difference in connection speed Extremely slow—caused   by signal routing through multiple nodes
Easy   location-spoofing—a VPN such as the one we provide offers servers   worldwide Inefficient   location-spoofing—too slow to stream geo-restricted services like Netflix
Legitimacy—VPN’s   are considered a legitimate option for security-conscious users Poor reputation—Tor   has been used for too many questionable activities
Support—a   personal VPN provider offers technical support Limited support—most   support must be obtained through other TOR users via messageboard

The biggest security concern regarding TOR relates to those exit-nodes we mentioned. Anyone can offer to provide a node via TOR, and anyone includes people who want to observe your browsing activity. You have zero control over how your signal is routed along the TOR network. When using a VPN you remain safe and secure behind the VPN tunnel. Your true IP address is never completely safe when using TOR because the service depends upon a human element to make it work. That human element allows for the introduction of many security loopholes which can reveal your true IP address and make you an easy target for those who are trying to gain access to your personal data.

One final word about speed. The bandwidth of a VPN is top-notch, so VPN users pretty much get the same speed as when using their own personal network connection. We mention this again because connection speed is important when you need to stream media from a service like Hulu. The slowness of TOR makes it an unworkable option for trying to access streaming media in geo-blocked locations.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some users seem to prefer combining the use of TOR and a VPN, but this solution does not ultimately increase your security and the speed of your connection becomes unbearable.

Why do some countries want to block anonymous surfing?

To use the example we gave at the beginning of the article, some officials in Japan believe that anonymous surfing assists criminals in posing a threat to other individuals online. One Japanese hacker known as Demon Killer evaded and embarrassed the Japanese authorities for months because they were unable to pinpoint his location via IP address. It was subsequently revealed that he had been using TOR the entire time to conduct his activities.

We’re not trying to give TOR a bad rap, but the fact is that anonymous surfing programs are the first targets in efforts to prevent access to restricted content. Countries and media services are more concerned with these because they are so readily available. Unfortunately, those users who have become dependent on them for anonymous surfing will ultimately find themselves without an option unless they have a VPN.

Getting around blocks on anonymous surfing with a VPN

The primary way to ensure that you will be continue to be able to surf anonymously and access geo-blocked services like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber is by using a VPN. Your web surfing is also protected because of the encryption a VPN account that VPN-accounts.com offers. In addition, it is the integrity of a VPN which makes it the only viable long-term solution for anonymous surfing. While some anonymous surfing programs like TOR may eventually fall, the personal VPN will remain available because the concept is not one designed to help users break the law.

VPN’s are designed to protect data through encryption. Period. True, they can be used to avoid geo-blocks and there is nothing illegal or wrong about that. VPN users are not typically trying to carry out questionable activities. They simply want the peace of mind that comes from knowing their browsing is not monitored and the ability to enjoy an Internet free of censorship. Therefore, no substantial efforts are being directed toward banning the use of a VPN.

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VPN to unblock Facebook, Twitter & Youtube

facebook youtube twitterFacebook, Twitter, and YouTube are three of the most-visited websites in the world, but did you know that in some areas of the world these services continue to be censored or blocked entirely? That can be bad news if you happen to be traveling or working in an area where these sites are restricted. Using a VPN can help you avoid the censorship of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in many cases.

Which Countries Block Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?

Let’s address these individually. We’ll start with Facebook. Facebook has managed to overcome much of the censorship it faced in its early days. As of March 2013, there are four countries which block Facebook entirely: China, North Korea, Cuba, and Iran. Despite the block, there are people within these countries that still manage to use Facebook. It is important to remember, however, that a block will prevent you from creating an account in many cases. A VPN is most useful for individuals who already have a Facebook account and want to continue using it in a restricted area.

Twitter has been censored at various times in China, India, France, Egypt, Iran, and South Korea. The United Kingdom even threatened to shut it down during the 2011 England Riots! In the case of Twitter, it is far more likely to find examples of selective censorship as opposed to outright blocking. Governments can affect the removal of objectionable tweets. Once again, even though Twitter is blocked in China, many people there continue to use the service. A VPN can restore your access to Twitter in most cases.

YouTube falls under many of the same sanctions aimed at Twitter. It is far more likely to find individual videos removed. However, as of late 2012, the following countries are among those which have a national ban in place against YouTube: China, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. VPN’s have been successfully proven to restore YouTube access in these areas.

We want to be clear once again: a VPN works when you have an existing Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter account registered from a location that is not blocked. For example, you live in the US and are planning on visiting China. If you attempt to access Facebook when you arrive from a Chinese ISP your access will be blocked. A private, paid VPN is the only option for those who happen to be in a country hit by serious web filtering.

A Quick Word on Free Vs. Paid VPN

Using a free VPN service might sound nice, but here’s a quick reality check. Free VPN’s are easily blocked in many cases by whoever is responsible for enforcing web filtering. In addition, just try getting customer service from a free VPN. If you want to maintain access to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in restrictive countries, the only dependable fix is your own paid VPN account.

Why do countries block social sharing sites?

Websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter can be broadly classed under the definition of social sharing sites. Users can post updates and share media across the various platforms. That doesn’t seem like it would be such a big deal, but to countries that actively censor the Internet these sites pose a significant problem.

To begin with, social networks are difficult to monitor. Think for a moment about the millions of people who use Facebook alone. Trying to manually monitor every post for offensive or prohibited content is economically and practically impossible. There are only two viable options for countries like China in this case: block the site entirely or use sophisticated software to essentially spy on users. China has chosen the former in most cases, although they do still monitor many sites.

Secondly, social networks are virtually impossible to control. When a Tweet is sent there are vast numbers of people who can see it before it gets deleted. It’s the same with Facebook. The easiest and most effective means of controlling which information gets out is to simply block the troublesome sites.

Very recently, communications websites like Skype and Viber are also being targeted for the same reason. They make it too easy for users to contact other people in non-restricted areas.

A small caveat is in order here. Our website does not exist to provide political commentary on various countries that promote Internet censorship. Some countries may have valid reasons for doing so, which include matters of national security. What we do provide is an option for those people who may find themselves in a country which censors Web activity. There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to keep accessing the websites that are available in your own country. This is the primary reason that people choose to use a VPN legitimately. We do not endorse or support using your VPN account for activities that would be considered objectionable in ANY part of the world, such as using torrents to download copyrighted material.

True Anonymity and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Many people who purchase a VPN are very conscious of maintaining their online privacy. They like the encryption offered by a VPN and the ability to be anonymous online. Something you need to remember is that whenever you login to a website like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, your anonymity is sacrificed.

Social networks require account registrations, and most people use their regular email to sign up. Whenever you login, your activities within the platform are easily tracked and monitored. In that sense, using a VPN won’t make you invisible.

A  VPN is your online passport

Try to think about your VPN as an online passport. You can’t cross borders without a real passport, and you can’t cross online borders without a VPN. The checkpoints in place to prevent access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from countries like China will stop you in your tracks. You wouldn’t dream of trying to travel overseas without your passport, and you shouldn’t dream of traveling overseas without a VPN account.

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02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

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Accessing Blogs with a VPN

blogsBlogs are the hallmark of new media. Bloggers the world over are using this platform to express their political views, provide up-to-date news in real time, and interact socially with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, many relevant blogs are becoming inaccessible in some parts of the world due to Internet censorship. Thankfully, a VPN can remedy this problem.

If you are a faithful reader of some popular blogs, here is some information you may find very useful as well as information on using a VPN to maintain access.

What is a blog?

Strictly speaking, a blog is an online journal. In the early days of blogging, blogs were used primarily for social purposes. A blogger could post personal updates and reflections on things they found interesting. Today, blogs serve a more important purpose. They are often used to provide political commentary and news which is untainted by the influence of the major news networks.

One of the more popular examples of a modern blog is the Huffington Post. Started by Ariana Huffington as a relatively small venture, the Huffington Post has expanded to provide some of the best news and commentary on the Internet. For entertainment enthusiasts, Perez Hilton’s blog has also become a sensation.

While these blogs are extremely popular, more relevant to our discussion are blogs which are emerging in areas like the Arab region and China. These blogs provide unfiltered news and information, often in real time, about political events. They have become so popular that many countries which restrict Internet freedom have engaged in blocking them via the firewalls on their proxy servers.

Why would countries block a blog?

In countries where the Internet is tightly regulated—Saudi Arabia, UAE, and China, for instance—the control of information is a high priority. These governments go to extremes to limit what can be accessed from within the country. For bloggers, this can be the kiss of death.

Many bloggers tend to be somewhat controversial in their coverage of local politics. They seem themselves as on outpost for freedom of the press and proponents of unfettered Internet access. This type of criticism of the government is frowned upon and therefore many blogs are considered a threat.

In February of 2012, Google announced that it would censor blogs on a “per country” basis. Google owns and operates one of the most popular blogging platforms called Blogger. What Google chose to do was redirect blog traffic to country-specific domains, thereby opening the door to state-controlled censorship. India was one of the first countries to institute this technology. In the immediate aftermath of Google’s decision, India sent 39 requests to the Internet giant for content removal. The greatest impact of this decision was that many blogs disappeared from Google search results, which pretty much voided their availability.

Blogs and a VPN

Let’s look at the subject of blogs and a VPN from a couple of different perspectives. First, we’ll talk about the reading side of things.

If you like to travel, or perhaps your job demands that you visit different countries, don’t take it for granted that your favorite blog will be available. Censorship of blogs is one of the reasons the nickname The Great Firewall of China was given to that Asian nation. In China, bloggers have even been imprisoned for posting things considered objectionable by the government, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.

Blocking by IP address is usually the method employed to censor blogs and make them unavailable in certain countries. You can easily override this restriction by using our VPN to change your IP address and bypass restriction via an encrypted VPN tunnel. That way, if China or Oman or the UAE happens to be blocking a news blog that you usually read at home in the US or UK, you can appear to be visiting the site from home and the internet service provider will not know you are accessing the site while connected via the encrypted vpn account. The process of setting up your VPN account to preserve access to your favorite blogs is very simple, and we provide detailed setup instructions.

Now, let’s talk about the writing side of blogs. Are you a blogger? Do you have a considerable number of readers who visit your blog regularly? If you host and publish your blog inside the US or UK, it might be to your benefit to use a VPN to research your news stories or other posts. It has been demonstrated that even the US has stepped up its monitoring of social networks, Google searches, and who knows what else. If your blog offers a lot of controversial content, the encryption of a VPN might be useful to you as you surf the Net.

Thankfully, blogging in the US and the UK has not become as threatened or as dangerous as blogging in China. Many bloggers have been arrested in China and detained with no explanation or timetable of release. It is difficult for these bloggers to maintain anonymity, especially when their blogs are hosted in China. More and more Chinese bloggers are using a different route by hosting outside of the country, then using a VPN to connect to the Web and make their posts. In this way, tracing the IP address of the blogger will only lead back to the blogger. A blogger in China can easily make it appear as though they are blogging from the UK or the US.

A VPN is a necessity for new media

While we’re on the subject of blogs, let’s conclude with a few words about new media in general. The way we get information in this digital age, and even the way we get our entertainment, is becoming more Internet-based. In addition to the blogs you usually read, think about the entertainment or communications services you use on a daily basis. New media is great, but it is by no means global. Numerous countries still block Skype, and services like Netflix are unavailable beyond US borders. To preserve access to the blogs you read, or the media services you use when traveling, buy a VPN account from VPN-accounts.com is an absolute must.

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01

Sign upGet an affordable VPN account.

02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

Enjoy VPNEnjoy the benefits of a VPN today.

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Connect & Enjoy: Internet Freedom, Privacy & security.

Internet freedom in Cuba

Cuba internetCuba boasts one of the most tightly-controlled Internet environments in the world. The cost of service can be prohibitive for many residents of Cuba, the connections are typically very slow compared to other areas of the world, and censorship is rampant. The penetration rate remains below 30%, but things have slowly started to improve in recent years. Much of the country’s lack of progress where the Internet is concerned can be directly attributed to the US embargo.

History of Cuba

Modern Cuban history begins with the Cuban Revolution which lasted from 1953-1959. It was this revolution which installed Fidel Castro as Cuba’s penultimate leader and created the Cuba we know today. Castro is perhaps best remembered for developing a contentious relationship with the United States which persists to this day.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and imposed a trade embargo the following year. As of July 2013, the commercial embargo still exists. Subsequently, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis further eroded the relationship between the two nations. Matters are further complicated by the presence of many Cuban immigrants in the United States and Cuba’s close proximity to the Southern US.

Internet in Cuba

Cuba suffers from a poor telecommunications infrastructure which has greatly impeded the progress of the Internet throughout the country. Many blame the lack of Internet development on the US embargo, which prevents the presence of many US-based telecommunications companies.

The average monthly salary in Cuba is roughly the equivalent of $20 US dollars, which makes the Internet unaffordable for many residents of the country. Only 25 % or so of residents had Internet access in their homes in 2012, and the cost of using the Internet in cafes is exorbitant. One hour of access costs approximately $5-$7 for the international network.

Internet filtering in Cuba

Internet censorship in Cuba is rampant, with the government enacting tight controls on what users can access. Some ranking organizations have proclaimed Cuba to be an “Internet Enemy”, and the government is reported to use sophisticated software in order to monitor Internet traffic. Connections in the country are routed through a proxy server which gives the government access to usernames and passwords.

The types of websites blocked by Cuba are literally too numerous to list, but here are a few:

  • News websites. It is virtually impossible to access news websites, especially those based in the United States, in Cuba.
  • Political blogs. Blogs which criticize the Cuban regime are routinely suppressed.
  • Media services. Many social networks are blocked, making it hard for Cubans with family in the US to remain in contact.

Every piece of information published on the Internet in Cuba must be approved by the National Registry of Serial Publications.

Unblocking websites in Cuba

Because of the US embargo, travel to Cuba by US residents is mostly forbidden. Even so, Cubans in the US might consider purchasing a VPN account for their relatives in Cuba. Expatriates from other nations who allow travel to Cuba will also find a VPN an absolute necessity if they wish to retain any type of normal Internet access in Cuba.

Many bloggers have emerged in Cuba who are using new media to accurately portray life inside the country. In many cases, these bloggers are required to smuggle out their blog posts to those who can use embassy connections to get them published. It is beneficial for these individuals to also consider the use of a VPN for their Internet use.

Of course, US and UK-only media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer are not available in Cuba without the use of a VPN.

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Internet Freedom in Russia

A recent poll reveals some interesting things about the Internet in Russia. More than half of all Russians are now using the Internet on a weekly basis. That might not sound like a big deal, but stop and consider that in 2006 fewer than 10% of Russians surfed the Web with any type of frequency. The rapid spread of Internet access in Russia and tight government regulations of Internet content are strong arguments for using a VPN, whether you live in the country or are just visiting.

History of Russia

Russia is officially known as the Russian Federation and is a rather large Eurasian semi-presidential republic. The history of Russia is a complex one, with the country having undergone numerous political changes throughout various regimes. Once the face of Communism, Russia has emerged in the post-Cold War era as a nation which has made strides toward democracy.

On a recent note, Russia has been in the news for offering political asylum to NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed the ways in which the NSA collects data on American Citizens. This measure could have implications on the relationship between the US and Russia which has always remained strained despite increased cooperation between the two nations.

Internet in Russia

There are a variety of methods for Internet access in Russia, including dial-up, DSL, cable, wireless, and satellite. The Internet in Russia is sometimes referred to as Runet by the government, a term given to the Russian-speaking web community. Russian is now the second most-used language on the Web.

As we stated previously, the presence of Internet in the homes of Russian citizens has exploded in the past few years, and it is projected that this growth will continue. In addition to the many homes with Internet access, those visiting Russia will find plenty of hotspots and public WiFi access points.

Internet filtering in Russia

We mentioned Edward Snowden earlier for a reason. As recently as July 10, 2013, the Russian government announced that it would seek measures that would tighten the state’s Internet controls. This is concerning because it perhaps reflects Russia’s move toward a more anti-democratic political climate. In that type of climate, Internet freedom in Russia is at serious risk.

Most of the Internet censorship in Russia to this point has involved news outlets and blogs which are critical of the government. These sites can be censored or taken down at will. Recently, however, several Russian politicians have called for the country to restrict the use of social networks like Facebook. Dimitri Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister, said that these networks are waging “cyber wars” against Russia.

In 2012, the Russian government issued a blacklist of prohibited sites which were blocked in Russia. These sites include, but are not limited to:

  • Pornographic websites. Some of these are blocked and some are not, depending on the type of content provided.
  • Drug use websites. Any websites which promote the use of drugs such as marijuana or sell drug-related merchandise (bongs, pipes, etc.) are blocked.
  • Any site with information prohibited for distribution by the government. This is the tricky one, and it allows the government a lot of latitude in blocking websites.

Unblocking Websites in Russia

Using a VPN account  while traveling in Russia can restore access to many of the websites which are currently blocked by the State. In addition, all media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer not available outside of the US and the UK can be unblocked by using a VPN.

With the recent announcement of increased Internet restriction in Russia, anyone planning to travel or work in the country needs to seriously consider setting up their own VPN account in order to avoid any inconvenience which may arise from Russian Internet censorship.

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Egypt is a Strong Argument for a VPN Account

The recent political turmoil in Egypt has been a hot topic in recent days as tensions escalated during the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. As you consider the implications of events like these around the world, you should realize that the events in Egypt are a strong argument for using a VPN.

Internet freedom is the first to go

When Hosni Mubarak’s reign came to an end in 2011 during a political uprising, Egypt made international headlines by basically shutting down the Internet within the country. No information could get in or out of Egypt. Sadly, these types of measures are taken by many governments in their attempts to control protests. While few countries have gone to the extremes that Egypt did, selective blocking and censorship are a common occurrence in China, Burma, and many Arab regions.

Internet censorship in Egypt can happen without advance warning. If you happen to be working or traveling in the country, being unprepared for this type of restriction can hamper your ability to get reliable news or contact family members in your home country. It can be a scary thought to find oneself isolated in a hostile environment.

Imagine not being able to access vital information that pertains to your safety. This is exactly what happened to some American citizens recently in Egypt due to Internet restrictions that could have been bypassed with a VPN. Some American citizens may not have received the directive published by the US State Department ordering them to leave the country immediately because the directive was released via news outlets.

In times of political crisis, news outlets are often considered a threat. This was the case during the Egyptian uprising. Morsi’s administration sought to actively control what information could be accessed from within the country, primarily through geo-restriction, so that Morsi’s opponents in outlying areas had no way to know the uprising was proceeding.

Beating geo-restrictions in Egypt with a VPN

Those within Egypt who had a VPN were able to bypass the geo-restrictions leveled by the Morsi-led government. A VPN helped them to appear as though they were accessing restricted sites from outside the country.

Geo-restriction is accomplished via a user’s IP address. It is the most economical and simple way for Egypt to control the flow of information. There are other methods of censoring the Internet, but this type of restriction is encountered in many countries throughout the world.

In fact, there are some websites and services that are blocked as a matter of course in many nations, and some services can only be accessed by US or UK account holders. The effective solution for getting around a geo-restriction is to use a VPN that will change your IP address to reflect that you are accessing the Internet from your home country. In this way you can continue to access your local news programming and services such as Skype which allow you to remain in contact with your family at home.

What Egypt teaches us about a VPN

If there is a way to maintain unrestricted access to the Internet in Egypt, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of it? There is no reason you should put your own personal safety at risk because you cannot access reliable news content or political blogs.

Egypt teaches us that using a VPN is becoming more important for the average citizen. There may have been a time when a VPN primarily benefitted local businessmen who wanted to remain in contact with their home office, or college students who wanted to preserve the security of their academic work, but the world today has changed. Anyone who accesses the Internet, for any reason, should take these lessons from the Egyptian uprising:

  • Internet censorship can happen quickly. It doesn’t take days or weeks for a country to restrict web content. Because many countries like Egypt either own the ISP’s or strictly observe them, sites can be blocked with a minimum of effort in a short period of time.
  • Internet censorship can compromise your safety. Preserving your access to services like Skype or Viber, and being able to monitor news that is not filtered by the state is vital in situations similar to what happened in Egypt.
  • Internet censorship can be avoided. Using a VPN is the most sensible way to avoid restrictions like the ones imposed by Egypt. Using a VPN is easy—very little effort is required to set one up—and a VPN is also economical. The VPN we offer is affordable to everyone.

Ask yourself…

Is your personal safety in an uprising worth the cost of a VPN account? Of course it is. When traveling or working in a country like Egypt, a VPN is not a luxury. It is a necessity so get one at VPN-accounts.com

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Internet freedom in India

Inia INternetIndia enjoys a high level of Internet freedom, but state surveillance is practiced by the government and a very selective form of blocking is employed to prevent users from accessing objectionable content. You might not think of India as a repressive country, but if you happen to be traveling there you will find that much web content is unavailable without the use of a VPN.

History of India

The Republic of India is the second-largest country by population in the world, with over 1.27 billion residents. It is bordered by many smaller countries and the Indian Ocean. The country is actually the most populous democracy in the world, and the government is a benevolent one.

India gained its Independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 after the non-violent uprising led by Mahatma Gandhi. Prior to this time India was annexed by the United Kingdom through the British East India Company.

While considered an impoverished nation for many years, the level of affluence in India has been rising steadily since economic reforms in 1991. The country still faces many challenges of poverty and malnutrition, however, and it has been the victim of corruption and terrorism like so many other countries in the region.

Internet in India

The presence of a huge population and a mostly benevolent government has created a strong Internet presence in India. There are multiple ISP’s which serve the country, and a large portion of the population is connected. Recent statistics put the level of Internet penetration in India at about 8%, or 100,000,000 users. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but India is largely populated. On a per capita basis, India has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates.

Internet use in India will increase due to the country’s plans to introduce 4G service in 2013. Smartphones are very popular in India and a lot of residents access the Internet with their Android or iPhone. One study suggests that there could be 30 million smartphones in use in India by 2016.

Internet filtering in India

This is where India’s Internet story gets a little murky. Despite being a democracy and being perceived as a freedom-loving country, India maintains one of the most active Internet censorship and surveillance agencies in the world.

In 2011, India adopted new IT rules which give the government sweeping regulatory control over Internet access. One of the specific measures taken was to require all ISP’s to ban content within 36 hours of being notified that the content is objectionable. In the immediate aftermath of this legislation, Typepad and Mobango were blocked in India. In January of 2012, both Facebook and Google were issued summons by a Delhi court for violating the rules regarding objectionable content.

India issues blocks and removes them seemingly at will, so it is hard to compile a current list of which sites are restricted. These are a few of the site which have been, or are currently, banned in India:

  • YouTube, Dailymotion, and other video services. At the precise moment of this writing, access to these sites has been restored, but India has been known to ban them without warning.
  • Political Cartoons. Several of these websites have been blocked.
  • Pornographic web forums. India blocks these sites to prevent media sharing among forum users.

In June of 2013, India once again blocked 39 websites, most containing adult content, without giving any reason or law to justify their action. This is the key to understanding how Internet restriction is accomplished in India. It can be done at any time, to any site, without explanation.

Unblocking websites in India

A VPN account from VPN-accounts.com can unblock restricted websites in India in most cases. Because of the manner in which the country filters the Internet, it is highly recommended that you use a VPN inside the country.

A VPN is very effective in allowing Internet users to access Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, and a host of other services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer which are not available in India. A VPN gives you an added level of security in addition to making these websites available, and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to state surveillance.

3 Steps for a VPN

01

Sign upGet an affordable VPN account.

02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

Enjoy VPNEnjoy the benefits of a VPN today.

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Connect & Enjoy: Internet Freedom, Privacy & security.