Public Wi-Fi: Think Before You Connect

News broke this morning that Twitter is blocked in Turkey today.

The block was enacted in response to a terror attack that took place Monday, as the government hopes to stop Twitter users from rallying support for protests in the wake of the event.

This is not the first time social media has been blocked in the country. It was blocked during a hostage crisis earlier in 2015, as well as when a tape suggesting corruption by government officials was leaked.

Here at Golden Frog we believe in a free and open Internet for all – without restriction or censorship. Our VPN product, VyprVPN, allows users to maintain this experience by connecting to any of our over 50 server locations around the world.

The Internet experience in China is not the same as the Internet experience in other parts of the world. China places heavy restrictions on their online content, and there’s a barrier in place to keep Internet users from interacting freely with the outside world. This barrier is called “The Great Firewall” (GFW).

The GFW is intended to make the quest for information just enough of a nuisance that users generally won’t bother. Instead, the hope is users will turn to the surplus of content (including books, magazines and TV shows) already existing within the country. By making the search for external information difficult, Chinese Netizens are driven back to an environment where familiar tools of social control come into play.

Researchers from RSA have discovered that hacker groups have been using VPN server networks based in China to launch attacks. This VPN network run by malicious users has been dubbed “Terracotta.” Attacks have occurred around the world, including in Brazil, Vietnam, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

As stated in Krebs on Security, this “satellite array of VPN services may represent the first exposure of a PRC-based VPN operation that maliciously, efficiently and rapidly enlists vulnerable servers around the world.” Full details on the situation are outlined in the RSA Research report that was released today.

This discovery only reinforces the importance of selecting a VPN provider that owns their own network infrastructure and hardware. Golden Frog’s VyprVPN with proprietary Chameleon technology provides users in China an option for secure and trustworthy VPN access.

We’re very excited to announce that Fastest Server Selection is now available on VyprVPN for iOS! By selecting the Fastest Server option from the server list, the app will automatically connect to the fastest server location available, wherever you are. This saves you the step of figuring out what server location will provide the best speed – VyprVPN will do it for you!

We have 50+ worldwide VyprVPN server locations that you can easily switch between, including our newest servers in the Middle East and India.

Fastest server has already been implemented in VyprVPN for Android, Windows, and Mac so now you can use this feature on all of your devices.

There’s some big news in Internet censorship today – Google is reportedly unblocked in China., a website that reflects which sites in China are currently blocked, displays Google’s unblocked status in provinces around the country. The site is reportedly unblocked due to a sporting event, the 2015 World Championships in Athletics.

If you’re an Internet user in China we encourage you to test Google and see if it’s available, as we expect availability may vary depending on geo-location and ISP. Please share your experience with us in the comments section below.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times by Murong Xuecun stated, “You shouldn’t let a wall decide what you know.”

He was referring to the Great Firewall of China (GFW), and how important it is for Internet users in China to bypass the GFW and the restrictive censorship it imposes. We couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, and believe that everyone should have access to a free and open Internet. As Murong describes, the difference between those who escape the wall and those who don’t is huge:

“One world stands for free information and the exchange of ideas, the other for censoring and monitoring. The wall fences in a Chinese information prison where ignorance fosters ideologies of hatred and aggression. If the firewall exists indefinitely, China will eventually revert to what it once was: a sealed off, narrow-minded, belligerent, rogue state.”

The good news is that there is an escape from the Great Firewall, and we’ve seen an increasing number of VPN connections out of China recently. That means more people have been using tools to bypass the GFW, including VPN services. We must continue this fight, however, as escape options aren’t always easy to come by. This week a VPN service that is popular in China, Red Apricot, also known as 红杏, announced they’ve temporarily stopped accepting new user registration. Additionally it was reported that police were speaking to the creator of Shadow Socks, a popular proxy service for wall escaping in China.

We believe those who are successfully bypassing the Great Firewall have a responsibility to tell others. The process of breaking out of censorship starts with creating awareness, and extends to providing people with the tools to access an open Internet. We’re so grateful that thought leaders such as Murong Xuecun are continuing to spread awareness, and here at Golden Frog we provide a tool – VyprVPN with Chameleon – that allows users to bypass the GFW.

ICANN has been highlighted in the news over the past few months, so we wanted to provide an overview of ICANN and some issues and policies surrounding the organization.

ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the group responsible for the Domain Name Registry. In July they proposed new rules that would force website owners to reveal their address and restrict the use of proxy services. This would apply to domain holders with “commercial” sites in particular. It’s a concern, as it represents a significant threat to the owners’ privacy since anyone can search the database and access this private information.

Currently, people who own domains can use proxy registration to hide their identities, and avoid having themselves listed in the WHOIS database (a public online directory that lists who owns what domain, and contains personal information about these owners). Proxy registration allows for a certain level of privacy and safeguards these users’ information.

The period of comment on these WHOIS-related changes just closed on September 6, so ICANN gained some attention this week as the EFF continued to express concern over these proposed policies. The Irish Times also reported last week that ICANN is holding its October meeting in Ireland, which reflects the US-based organization’s move towards a more global reach.

There’s been a lot of talk about the dangers of public Wi-Fi lately. From a recent Digital Trends article outlining these dangers, to last week’s report of AT&T using an airport hotspot to serve ads, to Skycure’s recent study on unsecured connections at top tourist attractions worldwide, it’s hard to ignore the issue.

And it’s not just buzz – the dangers are real. Public Wi-Fi networks are often “open,” or not secure, meaning your communications are not being encrypted. These hotspots are an easy target for hackers trying to steal your login passwords, credit card information or other personal details.

What’s even more concerning is peoples’ willingness to use these networks, despite being aware of the risks. A recent poll by McAfee revealed that a large percentage of people still opt to use free Wi-Fi: “According to Intel, 38 percent of the 2,000 people they asked were happy to use unsecured Wi-Fi.” Combine that with a statistic from the AARP’s Convenience Versus Security report that “A quarter of the adults who use the Internet access it via public Wi-Fi once a week or more,” and you get an idea of how common using unsecured networks is.

A recent study by Skycure examined the security of Wi-Fi hotspots at tourist attractions around the world. They reveal that the riskiest travel attractions to use your mobile device include top spots like Times Square, Notre Dame, Disneyland Paris and Golden Gate Park. Meaning the information of the millions of people connecting daily through these networks may be at risk.

And it’s not just hackers on unsecured networks to worry about. As illustrated by the AT&T example above, ISPs can also create vulnerabilities. By injecting ads onto the pages over the airport hotspot, AT&T not only impacted user experience and speed but also introduced additional security threats.

Public Wi-Fi can be convenient, and even necessary at times – so what can you do to reduce the risk?

The first step is awareness. It’s essential to realize that when you’re logging on to a Wi-Fi network in a public place, especially one labeled “free,” you’re at risk. It’s also important to understand what you’re agreeing to. When you accept the terms and conditions of a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s likely you’re giving the service permission to collect information about you or what you’re looking at.

The most important thing you can do is to use a VPN every time you connect. A VPN encrypts your Internet connection, protecting your browsing activity, personal communications and data from any hackers or third-party snoops – wherever you log on.