We have recently been asked by several of our customers to explain what a “server location” is and how we operate them.
VyprVPN Server Locations
At VyprVPN we have over 70 server locations worldwide. Each server location provides IPs that are geo-located to the city listed, which is accomplished using either a physical server housed in that location or a virtual server which appears to be housed in that location. We have been specifically asked about our use of virtual server locations and our criteria for utilizing them.
As a practice we do not have physical servers in restrictive countries. Instead, we use virtual servers to keep the encryption gateway out of the hands of dangerous regimes, yet still offer access to an in-country IP address. We also utilize virtual servers to test new locations and determine where to deploy physical servers as we gain more customers and usage. When making these decisions, we are guided by our top three technical goals: security, performance and IP location. Here’s some more detail on our technical goals and how our server deployments support them.
Security: We use identical algorithms and configurations around the world, but the physical location of the endpoint does affect security. Some locations simply do not have facilities, networks, or laws that we feel are secure enough to protect our connections. In these instances, we might choose a virtual server over a physical one, to bring traffic back to a secure facility with trusted physical infrastructure. For some countries, such as Russia, encrypting that traffic to a physical location outside the border ends up being more secure overall than placing a server in-country.
Performance: For performance reasons, networks don’t always operate according to physical country borders. For example, much of the network from Brazil to Argentina will travel thousands of miles from Brazil to the United States through a single data center in Miami, Florida called the NAP of the Americas and then to Argentina. The Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) is another example. Traffic between European countries will often go through AMS-IX before reaching its destination. Since its inception, Golden Frog has exchanged traffic at AMS-IX, and our sister company, Giganews, helped AMS-IX break the 100 Gbps barrier back in 2005 (I’m also CTO of Giganews). Golden Frog and Giganews remain AMS-IX members today.
Network quality around the world varies greatly, and many networks in smaller countries bring their traffic to large international Internet hubs for better peering and interconnection with the rest of the world. For these locations, we tend to put our physical servers where all of the country’s networks are physically interconnecting – which may not be within the country itself. This allows us to provide fast connections and enables our large sites to bring their performance benefits to smaller countries where we otherwise could not deploy those kinds of resources. As sites get large enough, we spin them out to separate physical locations. For all server locations, we provide ping times to help the user make a decision about what server location has the performance that is best for them.
Geo-location: For customers concerned about the “country” of their connection, this is the feature that really matters. We work very hard to configure our systems and peer with the right networks so that customers present an in-country presence, even if the server is physically located elsewhere. On the Internet, physical borders are fungible. A user in China, for example, may not normally be able to access a controversial newspaper, but online, the physical border that keeps that newspaper out does not really exist. The same concept applies to networks. A network need not be in a country if it can directly connect with that country’s networks effectively.
For some countries, our overall model simply doesn’t work. Take China, for example. Two of the reasons we don’t have a China server, physical or otherwise, are that we do not feel comfortable with the system and network security within China, and connecting directly to Chinese networks just outside of China does not provide true in-country performance due to the Great Firewall.
As you can see, there are a variety of factors and complexities to consider when we select our server locations and determine which are physical versus virtual. Regardless of where our actual physical infrastructure is located, we only store our customers’ personal information physically in Zurich, Switzerland (this is where our company is incorporated, too!), due to their favorable and exceptional privacy laws as well as the physical security of the data center and networks there.
China began blocking VPN providers again this morning, around 6:30am CST. Chinese customers were blocked from some of VyprVPN’s sites for about 2 hours, but we rolled out workarounds to restore service and were back up and running before 9am CST.
This quick turnaround by our engineers is one of the many benefits of running our own servers and network, allowing us to restore service ahead of other blocked VPN providers. The connection activity chart below illustrates the impact of China’s latest attempts to block VyprVPN and our success in working around these efforts.
Alarming, albeit unsurprising, news out of China today as the Chinese government announces a full-on VPN ban to take effect early next year. The government ordered the three largest, state-owned telecoms – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – to completely block access to VPNs by February 1, 2018. Collectively they have over 1.3 billion subscribers, meaning most Internet users in the country will be impacted.
The Internet in China is already censored heavily via the Great Firewall. For Internet users in the country seeking access to unrestricted news, social media, websites and important tools like Google, VPNs have long been a necessity. An all-out VPN ban in China will have immense impact, threatening business, academics and technology – not to mention violating the human right to free and open Internet access.
The Chinese government has been aggressively blocking multiple VPN providers, both foreign and domestic, from operating within the country over the past 48 hours. We wanted to let our VyprVPN users know we’ve found workarounds to these blocks, and VyprVPN is 100% back up and running in China at this time.
As with previous VPN-blocking incidents, we were able to quickly and effectively find a solution to the blocks enacted by the Chinese government – bypassing them to restore service to our users well ahead of other VPN providers. We had all major sites unblocked within 3.5 hours, and all sites unblocked within 5. The graph below illustrates our rapid response time.
Whether it’s your favorite social media platform or your trusted email provider, you’re more than likely unsafe from data collection. Many popular services in 2017 are collecting a great amount of detailed information on their users, including you. We’re taking a deeper look into what specific information is being collected by top services across the web, to better educate the public about the importance of Internet privacy.
Across the globe, millions of people flock to the search engine, Google, to look up directions, find recipes for dinner, search for jobs, and do a variety of other things. Founded in 1998, Google is the powerhouse of the Internet, and has transformed and expanded to include Google Maps, Google News, Google Analytics and much more. However, their generally positive reputation shouldn’t deter users from using Google with caution. Google is known to collect data from users, and to sell this data to advertisers and other entities for targeting and other purposes. Here are just a few items that Google current collects:
Videos you watch
Websites you visit
Contacts you add
Photos and videos
Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Facebook is the leading social media platform on the web. With 2 billion monthly users and a highly innovative spirit, Facebook continues to grow with the acquisition of multiple companies, including WhatsApp. Despite their popularity, Facebook is well known for its data collection practices, selling user data to third-party advertisers so that they may better target ads to users. Facebook has also been criticized widely for using WhatsApp to gather user data, sparking international outrage when they announced they’d be doing so. Here are a few key pieces of information that Facebook is collecting from you, and potentially sharing:
Shopping and buying behavior
Founded in 2006 in San Francisco, CA, Twitter is a leading social media network known for its easy ability to share fast, important information across the globe instantly with one 140 character ‘tweet’. Transforming into a popular news and social media outlet, Twitter has had its growing pains but has come out the other end with millions of active users, on desktop and mobile. Twitter is undeniably popular, but with great popularity comes concern. Here are some of the alarming pieces of information that Twitter is collecting about you in order to track your activities and monitor your interactions:
Visits to third party sites
Contact information including your email and phone number
Direct messages and non-public communications
Websites you visit while using the service
We use browsers, such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, in our day-to-day lives to power our Internet searches. Web browsers are software applications (programs) used to reach and explore the Internet. Think of a browser as the engine that starts your drive to the Internet. We interact with browsers every day, but we rarely think about the information they’re collecting about us. Here are the most worrisome items that are being collected and potentially distributed by Internet browsers:
Information about your devices
HTTP referrer (what sites you came from)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Internet service providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, are running massive monopolies in the Internet space that are used to manipulate traffic, impact consumer activities, and extract data. Currently, there is a worldwide fight to save the Open Internet and preserve net neutrality, a concept that the FCC is currently trying to repeal. At Golden Frog, we have long battled for full open access, as a measure of maintaining choice, transparency and competitive markets. As certain ISPs continue to monopolize access to the Internet, it’s important to stay educated on the pieces of information they are collecting about you:
Deep packet inspection
Information passed to the government
All browsing data
Big news for Gmail, as they announced they’re halting all inbox scanning later this year – meaning they will no longer scan the contents of email communications. The announcement comes as the privacy debate heats up across the globe.
Since then, the backlash has been mounting. As the world’s most used email provider, Google is known to set the standard for other email providers. Thankfully, this move to stop scanning the contents of email has changed the course of Google’s privacy-invasive practices, giving them back some credibility when it comes to user security and inbox privacy. Although Gmail will still show ads through their platform to users, it is thought that the multi-billion dollar company doesn’t need to collect additional user data because they have all the information they need already.
Thinking of being adventurous and traveling somewhere exciting this summer? As June ramps up, the season of skyrocketing airfare and expensive hotels does too. As millions of people flock to various countries across the globe, it is crucial that we remember the importance of maintaining a private and secure Internet connection that won’t be bogged down by throttling, censorship, or restrictive foreign governments. VPN technology works to help you bypass these limitations, so you’re able to achieve a free and open Internet. We’re listing the top 5 ways VyprVPN can improve your overall travel experience.
1. Protect Your Privacy While on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi can be very dangerous for travelers because it opens you up to multiple Internet threats. Public Wi-Fi is oftentimes highly unsecure and and unencrypted, creating a gateway for hackers and snoops to infiltrate the network and steal your private information – such as your email chats, photos, classified files and even your banking credentials. VyprVPN encrypts your connection from end-to-end, so your data won’t be vulnerable.
2. Access Geo-Blocked Content
Need to watch a sporting event or your favorite program in the United States while traveling half way around the world? With VyprVPN, you will never need to worry about geo-blocking making it difficult for you to access your favorite Internet content. This is crucial for keeping in touch over social media with your loved ones as well, as certain countries like China block popular websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
3. Improve Your Streaming Speed
Want to watch your favorite TV show while on a long-haul flight or train ride? When you connect to VyprVPN while traveling, your streaming speed will be improved, allowing you to enjoy video content online without worrying about network congestion and pesky throttling. Your ISP will only see your encrypted traffic, making it hard to bog down your connection speed.
4. Bypass Restrictive Government Censorship
Multiple governments across the globe actively work to restrict user content online and censor the Internet to help control what their citizens have access to. With VyprVPN, you can avoid these restrictions at all times, as well as bypass unjust surveillance by governments that are spying on your data and collecting information about you without your consent.
5. Save Money on Travel
Not only will a VPN encrypt your Internet connection and keep your data private, it will also make it easier for you to save money on flights and hotels by replacing your IP address with one that isn’t tied to your physical location – allowing you to access special deals across the globe on airfare, hotel accommodation, car rentals and other travel-related purchases. Plenty of people don’t realize that their location is costing them, and that certain companies will use your location data to determine how much you will pay for an online travel purchase. VyprVPN makes it easy for you to switch server locations an unlimited number of times, giving you the upper hand when dealing with websites that alter prices.
Mobile devices have become ubiquitous in today’s society, and many people rely on apps in their daily life. The average person even uses about 27 different apps on their mobile device! With so many applications connecting to the Internet, the risks to your online privacy and security are great. Whether it be a hacker or snoop, or an app collecting and sharing data about you, it’s important to consider privacy each time you connect. One great way to protect your online privacy when using apps is by using a VPN. While not all applications need a VPN connection, for those that do it’s an extremely important tool.
What Kind of Apps Are at Risk?
Any app that connects to the Internet or requires you to enter personal details will benefit from using a VPN. Some applications require you to enter personal information to use them, putting you at risk of hackers or snoops if your connection is not secured. Other applications collect a great deal of data collection about your behavior, oftentimes beyond what is expected. For example, an application like Facebook may not only collect information on your browsing habits and time online, but also request access to your contacts, calendar, photos, phone type and other details. Browsers, ISPs and cellular providers alike all collect information about users as well – what sites you’re visiting, how long you stay there, the location you’re browsing from and much more.
Both mobile devices and computers are at risk of these privacy invasions, so it’s essential to protect the apps on both – especially when connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks from a laptop or mobile device.
China has been increasing Internet censorship over a period of years, and although the country has implemented blocks and one-off censorship events in the past it feels different this time. The events occurring, and the rapid succession in which they’re occurring, indicates the Chinese government is enacting an ever-increasing censorship strategy and continuing to tighten their grip on China’s Internet.