VPNs & Internet Privacy in Australia
So for those either living under a rock (or live internationally), the Australian Government has passed new laws enforcing meta-data retention for Australian ISPs which, regardless of your opinion of the laws has opened people eyes that they need to start taking their online privacy seriously. Knowing you need to do something and knowing what to do though are two very different things. I’ll quickly cover a few options for us in Australia as well as provide you with a discount code to get going cheaper.
While the specifics are yet to be defined in our metadata laws we can assume and predict that all of the following are likely to be included in metadata retention:
- Email Information (only Australian email services. ex. @bigpond.com | @iinet.net.au)
- Time, Size, Recipients, Attachment size/type
- Bandwidth Usage
- Online Chat
- Time, Date, Identities
- At this stage actual web browsing history is not included but there are fears of scope creep to include it.
Thankfully, any site you access over https:// (Facebook / Banking / Etc) cannot be read by your ISP and as such can’t have metadata recorded. For everything else you need either an encrypted proxy or VPN to hide your activity. More on that below
Torrenting by design can be traced to your IP address, if you’ve ever looked at the “Peers” tab in your torrent client you can see a list of other people (IP addresses) that are also downloading/seeding the torrent. An organisation can simply open a torrent, grab a list of IP addresses, trace them to the ISP and then try to force the ISP to release the personal details of the account holder.
To get around this we need to make sure that the IP address we display is not the one tied to our ISP, to do this we need either a proxy or VPN which allows us to appear like we are operating from a different IP address. I’ll cover the differences below.
Compared with torrents, very few people know and use Usenet as it has a steeper learning curve and requires a few paid subscriptions (Usenet Server Provider / Reliable Indexing Site) to be used effectively. The benefits though include no P2P reliance so all files can be downloaded at the same speed, downloads can be done over an SSL connection (recommended) which means your ISP can’t see what you’re accessing as the data that passes through them is encrypted. As a result adding a proxy or VPN to Usenet is entirely optional as you are already protected from the SSL connection.
Difference Between a Proxy and VPN
Both a proxy and a VPN provide a similar function, to reroute your internet traffic however they vary slightly in the scope of their operation. A proxy is selective, so you could use a proxy for only your Torrents, while your general internet browsing still runs as normal. A VPN on the other-hand is all encompassing and will push all internet connections through it. If you only have a single service you wish to protect you could save a little bit of money by going for a proxy but I prefer the VPN in most cases.
- TorGuard – My personal choice for VPN, they have an Australian server which means low ping and almost no noticeable difference in speed, 41 other countries to get around any geo-restrictions and keep no logs so I know my activity is definitely private.
- PrivateInternetAccess – Reputable provider with the best base price around. No Australian server to my knowledge but still provide good speeds.
- IPVanish – Over 60 Countries and claim great speeds. They have great reviews but have a slightly higher price tag.
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