There was a fascinating story on TorrentFreak.com today extolling the virtues of VPNGate.net. It’s a project brought to us by the Graduate School of University of Tsukuba, Japan. Essentially, it offers free VPN access to anyone in need. The goal is to subvert censorship in the digital age. For example, Iran and China block access to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. But internet users in those geographic areas can bypass their nations network filters by configuring their computers to route all traffic through an internationally based Virtual Private Network, or VPN. For example, a Chinese college student could configure his laptop to use a VPN server in Japan. When that student’s VPN connection is properly configured, all network access will be tunneled though that VPN connection. Any web site he visits won’t show his Chinese ISP’s IP address in the logs. The logs will records the IP address of the VPN server in Japan.
At its most altruistic level, this is a tool of free speech. VPNGate.net offers a range of VPN server locations based in the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Italy, Czech Republic, and the UK. You literally select a desired VPN end point, configure your computer, and off you go! The project offers a wide range of VPN protocols as well. The tried and true L2TP/IPsec is supported, as is OpenVPN, as well as SSL-VPN. This means just about any personal computing device can use the service: Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. The project’s web site has documentation explaining how to configure each operating system.
First and foremost, proper configuration of the VPN tunnel is absolutely critical. And I want to draw special attention to this point since many of the people who use VPN access on a regular basis don’t consider this. The computers VPN configuration has an option to “send all traffic over VPN connection.” Your OS might phrase it slightly different, but this is a critical setting. If you want to obscure your digital traffic to the greatest possible extent, this option must be engaged. If it is not, only some traffic will route over the VPN. The rest of the traffic will flow out through your internet connection in a traditional manner and it is neither wrapped in encryption nor routed through the the international network.