VPN which stands for Virtual Private Network is a technical term that describe the capability to tunnel traffic between two points. A VPN application is a piece of software that run on a computer, tablet or smartphone and allow the user to encrypt the communication from his device to the VPN server which is usually situated in the cloud outside of the country.
A VPN application can be used for different purposes. We will detail them in this article
- Protect your privacy
- Access restricted content
- Prevent man of the middle attack
A VPN allow you to protect your privacy online
Internet Freedom is sadly declining in Myanmar and censorship is on the rise.
Freedom House is an initiative that aims to protect human rights and promote democratic change. Freedom House publishes every year its Freedom on the Net score: 0=Most Free, 100=Least Free.
Myanmar scores 63/100. This is lower than Thailand that score 67/100 but way higher than Singapore that score 41/100. Western countries as a comparison usually score below 30.
Different source, same result: Reporters Without Border ranks Myanmar 131 out of 180 countries in 2017 for freedom of information.
Recently in the news, Myanmar minister for Transport and Communications announced that K6.4 billion was spent from the 2017 emergency fund to monitor activity on the Internet and especially Facebook.
If these simple facts concern you even slightly, you may consider using a VPN service to browse Internet privately.
By using VPN, your public IP and therefore your origin will be hidden from the site or application you intend to access. As such, there is no easy way to track you down. VPN therefore provides a first level of anonymity over the Internet.
Note that the VPN server itself always knows your real public IP. It is important to select carefully your VPN provider and make sure it does not log your Internet activity.
According to The Best VPN, 26 commercial VPNs out of 113 collect important log files.
The following VPNs should be avoided: HideMyAss, HotSpot Shield, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Astrill, ZoogVPN, Buffered, TigerVPN, Boleh VPN, Anonymizer, IPinator, Seed4.me, AnonVPN, FlyVPN, SunVPN, iPredator, HideIP VPN, VPN Gate, HolaVPN, Faceless.me, Betternet, Ace VPN, Flow VPN, Freedom-IP and IronSocket.
If you avoid these ones, you should be able to navigate freely the Internet without leaving traces. Saying that, it is very important to be careful with login information and cookies. Obviously the minute you login to a website with your real name or email, you compromise your anonymity and become an easy target to track down.
Cookies could also betray you. Cookies are “a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing.” Wikipedia
By using cookies, websites can track you and then attempt to correlate your fake IPs (the ones provided by your VPN) with your real IP if only once you visit the website without a VPN.
To avoid being track during your Internet browsing, a feature is available on most of the browsers: incognito or privacy mode. By typing CTRL+N on Google Chrome or CTRL+SHIFT+P on Firefox, you get into a private mode. In this mode, the browser won’t save your browsing history, cookies and site data or any information filled into forms.
Combining VPN and Incognito mode can provide you a complete privacy and freedom of action on the Internet.
Using VPN to access geo-restricted content
Myanmar has recently hit 100% mobile penetration and this penetration is mostly driven by the craving need of Myanmar people to consume more and more international contents. Even if Netflix and iflix already stepped foot into the country, their catalog for Myanmar is limited and it could be tempting to see what other countries have to offer.
Play Store in Myanmar has a decent choice but a lot of top apps are not available due to geo-restriction. This limitation can be bypassed easily using a VPN and a few manipulations on your smartphone. You can find our complete guide here.
Spotify is a great app if you love listening to music. Unfortunately it is not available in Myanmar as of now. Similar-wise you can bypass this limitation by using a VPN. Take a look at our guide there.
As for Netflix, the movie streaming service is indeed available in Myanmar but the content portfolio is very limited. One great website allows you to find Netflix content available per region or country: http://unogs.com/. Combine this tool with a VPN and you are ready to enjoy endless hours of TV shows, movies and cartoons.
Geo-Restricted Content is a pain. Still, a good VPN will help you to easily bypass any sort of restriction.
Protect you from man-of-the-middle attack
In cryptography and computer security, a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) is an attack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other. Wikipedia
This sounds scary right? A man-in-the-middle attack is actually pretty simple. When you connect to the Internet, your traffic goes via a certain number of hops or routers to reach the destination which is the content. And then come back.
If someone manages to get into that traffic flow without interrupting it, it can theoretically listen and capture all your data and you won’t be able to notice it.
More and more websites are now using HTTPS which present a high level of security. Saying that, you can still find sites which are not secured. There are also some tricks to get your connection fallback to plain HTTP or trap you into a fake webpage that looks exactly like the real thing!
If you are using a mobile connection or your home connection, you may feel safe and confident that no one can really get into the middle of your communications. This is true as long as you do not use WiFi. But you do use WiFi, do you?
WiFi security is extremely easy to break these days and there are hundred of websites that explain how to do this. Once a hacker gets into a WiFi network, he can use techniques such as spoofing to appear to your computer as your home gateway. This means that all the traffic that leave your computer will be directed first to the hacker computer before reaching the internet. This is a man-in-the-middle attack. Therefore, the hacker will be silently able to capture all your traffic and possibly decrypt it.
For those who frequently connect to free WiFi hotspots or to MyanmarNet, this should be a major source of concern. It is very possible to have a hacker sitting on the same free WiFi network, listening to any communication. Another useful tool for hackers is a rogue WiFi access point. A rogue access point basically broadcasts a well known WiFi network and act as a legit hotspot but which only purpose is to log all the traffic that flow through it.
As such, and especially for Internet users that are using WiFi hotspot, it is highly recommend to use a VPN solution to protect their communication as these transit through the hotspot.
In conclusion, a VPN application is definitely essential for Internet users these days.
Any user concerned by privacy, any user that use frequently unprotected or poorly protected WiFi networks should consider installing and using a VPN application as often as possible.
When it comes to picking the VPN solution for your needs, make sure the VPN provider respect your privacy. As such, we do recommend PureVPN. PureVPN has a no log policy which means it does not log the user source IP or the destination. It is also very easy to use and affordable.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.