Category - Surveillance

Attention, travelers: countries where VPNs are illegal

In some countries, topless sunbathing is frowned upon and strictly prohibited. Such a place is Egypt. In other countries, wearing a burqa is not allowed. That kind of place is France. Winter tires are also source for controversy, as using them during summer can lead to certain fines in Italy.

If such things leave room for debate, it comes as no surprise that tools such as VPNs are frowned upon in certain places, especially since they were created to protect our identities online, thus not allowing others to spy on us and maybe to control us easier.

Why are VPNs banned?

The reasons/pretexts for which VPNs are banned vary. The most widespread ones are terrorism, child pornography distribution, spreading malware, committing fraud or other illegal activities. Such a measure may save time and effort when catching certain felons, but it could expose many innocents to various types of cybercrimes.

However, this VPN ban is taken very seriously in the countries which have adopted it. Harsh punishments can be applied to those violating it, including simple tourists.

What forms of punishments are applied?

If you take the following excerpt from the United Arab Emirates’ federal law, you will notice that breaking the VPN ban is in no way regarded lightly:

“Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 [US$136,000] and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000 [US$544,500] of either of these two penalties.”

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Every move you make – 3 tips to stop your phone from tracking you

It is no mystery that everything we do online leaves traces behind. Our mobiles seem to be the most knowledgeable tool on that matter, since we carry them everywhere with us and they silently keep track of everything we do. Why is that, you ask? Well, our personal information is probably one of our most valuable assets, whether we’re aware of that or not.

On the one hand, our details can be used for advertising purposes. If you fill in your email address somewhere on the Internet, don’t be surprised if you start receiving unsolicited emails trying to convince you to buy a product you never showed interest in. Also, if you happen to google a random word, such as “backpack” or maybe use it in a hashtag on a social media channel, expect to be targeted with Facebook/Google ads for backpacks almost immediately afterwards.

On the other hand, all the info you leave behind online can be used as evidence in a legal action, if that is the case. Maybe you decide to look up online the most extremist groups throughout history – out of pure curiosity or maybe you wish to write a book on the topic. This info can be used against you should you ever be involved in a lawsuit.

Last but not least, let’s not forget about hackers. Apart from simply stealing your credit card details used on an unsecure app/website and using them to make payments in your name, they can claim your personal identity and use it as their own.

All this (and not only) can be done using the data our mobiles learn about us. Here are a few tips & tricks leave less behind and keep more to yourself:

  1. Google Maps & Location Reporting

Google Maps knows exactly where you are or you’ve been and is not afraid to share. But there is a way to delete your history and disable future tracking.

To check if you have location history is enabled, head to your Google Maps Timeline, after logging in to your Google account. In the section below the map, you will see whether location history is on or off and you will also be able to pause it, if it is on.

But let’s go beyond Google maps. There are other apps using your location. You can also which apps are using location services on your iPhone by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

On Android, go to Settings > Location > Google Location Reporting. For Location Reporting, tap the slider to turn it off.

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Welcome to the USA! Upon entering, please relinquish your privacy

Donald Trump has only just taken up the role of president of the US and he seems to be determined to take one controversial measure after another.

An executive order that he signed in his first days in office is potentially threatening the 6-month-old EU-US Privacy Shield agreement.

In short, the order strips non-US citizens of their privacy rights. Here is what section 14 of the freshly signed Executive Order says:

“Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.” (the entire Executive Order can be found on the White House’s website)

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2016 in review: TOP 10 online privacy milestones

If we were to describe 2016 in terms of privacy, it was neither good, nor bad. It was probably somewhere in between. Just when we thought we won some battles, new enemies emerged, armed with even more advanced weapons.

What is however important is that, slowly but surely, people are starting to be more aware of their ideally innate right to online privacy and are starting to fight for it.

So here are 10 of the most important privacy highlights of 2016*:

  1. The Pokémon GO frenzy

The Pokémon GO bug traveled fast and faded away just as quickly. Everyone seemed to be out on a hunt around the town this summer, but no one seemed to pay any attention to the permissions they were giving the intrusive app. If you’re still enjoying this game, here are 10 tips for staying private.

  1. WhatsApp with your privacy?

At the end of August, WhatsApp announced a change in their ToS, by sharing the phone numbers of users with Facebook. Upon doing so, they claimed they were fighting spam and increasing business-to-consumer communication. There is however a hidden way out of this.

  1. The rise of fake news in social media feeds

In light of Donald Trump’s recent election, many fingers have been pointed at Facebook’s potential contribution. Here’s how to stay safe from the daily cavalcade of alarming headlines thrown in our direction.

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Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: Facebook’s rumored censorship tool and more

In many other parts of the world, the holiday season has officially begun. Thanksgiving was just yesterday in the US and Black Friday has become a global frenzy, reminding us that in less than a month, our close ones would better find something underneath their Christmas trees (on sale or not).

In spite of this global “cheerfulness”, however, digital freedom and online privacy are becoming more and more elusive, with anti-democratic measures being taken all around the globe.

Here is the news of the week in brief, brought to you by CyberGhost VPN, the always at-hand solution to bypass censorship or surveillance:

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Facebook reportedly built a censorship tool to return to China

According to the NY Times, the social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas.

The social network giant has restricted content in other countries before, such as Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. China has not been on Facebook’s map since 2009 because of the government’s strict rules around censorship.

Speaking of China, on a funnier note…

Chinese websites have again blocked searches for “Fatty Kim the Third”, as many Chinese mockingly call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with China’s foreign ministry saying it did not approve of ridiculing foreign leaders, according to reuters.com.

Extra, extra, read all about it: #Facebook may have built a #censorship tool, #Thailand pushes #cybersecurity… Click to Tweet

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Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: Britain passes Snooper’s Charter and more

To paraphrase a Bob Dylan song, the times, they are a-scarying! Not only did Donald Trump win the US elections, which could have a major impact on global online privacy issues, but Great Britain and Russia are making efforts to catch up by rubber-stamping new surveillance laws. Here is the most important news of the week on the online privacy front, in a nutshell:

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Privacy-invasive law gets the green light in the UK

The Draft Communications Data Bill, a.k.a the “Snooper’s Charter”, was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government.

With May as prime minister, on Wednesday, November 16, the bill was finalized and passed by the Parliament.

The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer’s top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments. On top of this and more worryingly, the law gives intelligence agencies the power to citizens’ computers and devices.

Do you live in Britain? Maybe you should consider installing CyberGhost VPN for free in order to protect your online privacy.

Russia to start blocking LinkedIn after court ruling

Russia’s communications regulator ordered public access to LinkedIn’s website to be blocked on Thursday to comply with a court ruling that found the social networking firm guilty of violating a data storage law.

LinkedIn will be blocked in Russia within 24 hours. One Internet service provider, Rostelcom, said it had already blocked access, according to Reuters.

LinkedIn, which has its headquarters in the United States, is the first major social network to be blocked by Russian authorities, setting a precedent for the way foreign Internet firms operate. It has over 6 million registered users in Russia.

The times are a-scarying! Britain passes Snooper’s Charter, Russia starts LinkedIn ban and more #OnlinePrivacy news Click to Tweet

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Snowden movie review: when fiction turns privacy issues into reality

First of all, as you may already know, we are proud supporters of the Snowden movie release in Romania. Starting November 18th, the picture hits cinemas throughout the country, but we got to see it a bit earlier to tell you whether you should also go to the cinema or not (in case you haven’t already). Be warned, however: SPOILER ALERT!

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So, what happens when one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors and one of the digital age’s favorite real-life heroes meet? A gripping hacker thriller emerges, bound to make each of us question our own privacy and whether we really don’t have anything to hide.

Although the movie manages to quite accurately illustrate the life and struggles of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, if you want to see a factual depiction of the former CIA and NSA contractor, then you should probably try the Citizenfour documentary, directed by Laura Poitras.

On the other hand, Oliver Stone, the director who brought Platoon, The Doors, Natural Born Killers, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, dramatized the Snowden character, without affecting his humanity or credibility too much though. Because the last thing we needed was another Avengers character (what would Snowden’s super-ability be though: online invisibility?)

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