postcards from the pug bus
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Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian writer who has met with Snowden and has played a lead role in writing about highly classified material the former NSA contractor gathered, said the NSA abuse of movie-pirating protocol is "potentially more embarrassing" than the revelation that NSA officials spy on their girlfriends, wives, and significant others to learn if they are being unfaithful.
Glenn Richter, a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which has called for Mr. Snowden's "immediate capture and execution," vehemently disputed Mr. Greenwald's statement.
"Whenever some scumbag downloads a movie illegally, the terrorists win. Movie pirating costs hundreds of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars annually. The NSA, by monitoring P2P sites and the vermin that use them, helps prevent those loses. If there is any abuse of NSA power, I am certainly unaware of it. Besides, NSA officials advise me that the incidence of such abuse is too infrequent to catalog, much less be concerned about."
Postcards from the Pug Bus, in the interest of helping concerned patriots make citizens arrests of movie downloaders, will present a series of excerpts of Mr. Snowden's latest disclosures. We begin today with a discussion of virtual private networks.
A virtual private network (VPN) connection achieves two killer, stick-it-to-the-man results: first, a VPN cloaks and encrypts any signal that leaves your computer, making your online activity completely illegible to any eavesdroppers, including your internet service provider (ISP), who, as we know, will gladly sell you out to the first dickhead with a badge who comes along inquiring about your internet habits. With a VPN installed and operating, your ISP doesn't know whether you're off to visit a bomb-making site, a fantasy football site, or a site with links to "free" movies and music. Sweet.
Thus, if the MPAA or the NSA is monitoring traffic to any site you visit, and they try to follow you home, they will get no further than that server in Switzerland or Moscow or wherever. Not ones to give up without a bluster, the content police will send a letter to the owners of that server, demanding a bunch of things; but if you have chosen your VPN provider wisely, and by that we mean if you have chosen one that does not keep records (and all the best ones do not), the content police will come up with nada, squat, zilch, a handful of fart. You may get a polite, almost obsequious letter from your VPN provider telling you that you have been naughty and suggesting that if this naughtiness continues, they may have to terminate your service. Big whoop, there are lots of VPN providers in the world (as we shall see in the next installment).
Meanwhile, here are half a dozen reasons why thee should get thyself a VPN, like yesterday, dude.
1. Use Public Wi-Fi with Confidence
Public wi-fi is more insecure than Amanda Bynes. That Starbucks or supermarket hotspot or that $10-a-day hotel wi-fi is not safe for confidential email or browsing; but if you log into a public wi-fi network and then connect to a personal VPN on your laptop or tablet, all of your hotspot web use will be encrypted and hidden from prying eyes.
Because of the dictates of our fucking nanny state, sometimes foreign content cannot be accessed from within the United States of Big Brother. If you have a VPN that provides you with a foreign IP address, however, and all the good ones do, voila, you can view all the foreign television and porn you want. Can you say, "Oh my god, I'm cuming," in Russian?
3. Get Around a Tight-Ass Network at Work or School
If you are a slave to some company, or a student/slave at a school or university, you will be subject to an "Acceptable Use" policy for browsing the web. Acceptable use is often debatable, and many organizations will impose dumb-ass restrictions, like blocking you from checking your Facebook page, visiting YouTube, reading Twitter, stealing music, instant messaging, or even accessing your Gmail or Yahoo mail.
A VPN connection will allow you to "tunnel out" of a restrictive network and connect to otherwise forbidden websites and webmail services. More importantly: your VPN browsing content is scrambled and indecipherable to the network administrator, so she cannot collect any recorded evidence about your specific web activities. Fuck 'er.
4. Download and Upload P2P Files in Privacy
The MPAA and other cinema and music associations have a perpetual hard on for P2P file sharing. These nazis nab offenders by masquerading as file sharers or by eavesdropping on their ISP signals; but a VPN can be a P2P user's best wing man. A VPN connection may slow your downloading speed somewhat (to a scarcely noticeable extent, though, if you've got a fast enough computer); but a VPN will also mask your file downloads, uploads, and actual IP address so that you are unidentifiable by authorities. If you share files and you don't want to risk copyright prosecution or civil lawsuits, VPN is the equivalent of a condom that never breaks.
Voice-over-IP (internet telephoning) is relatively easy to eavesdrop on. Even crap-level hackers can listen in to your VOIP booty calls. If you regularly use VOIP services like Skype, Lync, or online voice chatting, get a VPN connection or become fluent in Pig Latin.
6. Use Search Engines Without Having Your Searches Logged
Google, Bing, and other search engines will catalog every stinking web search you make, Skippy, then attach your search choices to your computer's IP address and use them to "customize" advertising and future searches for your machine. This might seem unobtrusive and perhaps even useful, like your own Jeeves in a box, but it is also a risk for future public embarrassment. Even if you haven't got anything to hide, you do have something to lose. Like your privacy. So don't let Google store your searches for "anti-depressants," "sex aids," "MBLA," "anger management," and "altar boys at play." Get a VPN and cloak your IP address so you can keep your private searches private.