Black Friday & Cyber Monday SALE — Save 50%!

Our Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sale Extended to January 10!

It’s that time of year again! We’re very happy to announce our annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.

Existing subscribers and new users can now save 50% on all types of subscriptions.

Existing subscribers follow these steps:
1) Log in to your account on ironsocket.com
2) Go to the pricing page: https://ironsocket.com/pricing
3) Create a new subscription
4) Apply the code 2017BFCMSALE on Step 3 of the payment process

Once you have paid, please contact customer support and they will manually update your current subscription with the time from the new one.

Use the coupon code 2017BFCMSALE to save big (just click the link or the banner and the coupon will be applied automatically.)

If you have a Windows machine, be sure to check out EasyVPNConnect, our new custom app!

Hurry, this sale will end on December 10, 2017

The Importance of Net Neutrality

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably seen the term “net neutrality” at the core of some passionate debates. Despite the attention, many internet users are still not sure what the term means, what the controversy is all about, and how it might affect them. Let’s take a closer look.

What It Means

The basic principle of “net neutrality” is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all data in the same manner.  The idea is that ISPs should function as a neutral information gateway, not as “gatekeepers” controlling what data is passed through and with what level of preference. Advocates of net neutrality take the position that ISPs constitute a form of utility, like companies providing electricity or water, and should be similarly regulated.

When ISPs apply different standards and different speeds or quality of service to different users, content, platforms, websites or application types, they violate the principle of net neutrality. Abandoning this principle has both political and economic implications, which is why net neutrality advocates push for legislation they say will protect all internet users, provide a fair and equitable marketplace, and protect the “open internet” that we enjoy today.

The History

The term “net neutrality” came to prominence in 2003, expanding on the concept of a common carrier in the telecommunications industry.  The most widely used example of violating net neutrality occurred when prominent ISP Comcast slowed down the upload speed of file sharing applications until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intervened and ordered them to stop.

In 2010, the FCC passed a package of rules designed to keep the Internet neutral. Verizon, a prominent ISP, challenged those rules in court, and in January of 2014, a US Court of Appeals ruled in Verizon’s favor, stating that the agency did not have the authority to regulate broadband providers. In February 2015, the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler reclassified broadband as a utility, effectively granting itself the capacity to regulate and restore the 2010 rules. Those rules were lengthy, but the three main points were that providers could not block access to legal content, could not impair or degrade transmission of legal content, or prioritize delivery of paid traffic or traffic from their affiliates.[1] These rules are now under serious threat. Ajit Pai, Donald Trump’s FCC Chair, is a known opponent of net neutrality and is expected to roll back the net neutrality rules.

Who’s Involved

The opponents of net neutrality fall broadly into two groups. One is the ISPs themselves, dominated by a small handful of companies: Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-mobile, or Verizon. The 14 largest cable and telephone providers in the US provide service to about 95% of American internet subscribers.[2] Comcast alone serves 56% of US Broadband (25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload) customers.[3] The limited number of providers means that many subscribers have very limited options for choosing a provider. 30 percent of US census blocks have no broadband ISP at all, and 55 percent have only one.[4] Proponents of net neutrality use limited choice as an argument for greater regulation, pointing out that customers who are dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed by an ISP may not have the option of switching to a competing provider.

ISPs claim that they have made major investments in the infrastructure needed to deliver internet service and that they need to have flexibility in delivering service to assure return on their investments. They point out that high-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and other video streaming services consume disproportionate amounts of bandwidth, and claim that these companies should pay more for delivery of their services. Net neutrality opponents point out that under the current rules the costs of providing the infrastructure dominated by high-volume services and their users is shared across all users, penalizing the many users who only use basic services. Why, they ask, should consumers who only use Facebook and e-mail have to share the cost of providing the huge data pipe needed by Netflix users?

It is important to distinguish ISPs from content providers, which are companies, Netflix or Amazon for example, that use the services of an ISP to deliver their content to internet users. It is possible for a company, to be both an ISP as well as a content provider.  Some companies work in both roles: for example, Comcast owns NBCUniversal, so they fall into both categories. Companies operating as both ISPs and content providers have a special interest in repealing neutrality rules, which prevent them from prioritizing their content or content provided by their subsidiaries or affiliates.

Some economic conservatives oppose net neutrality on the general grounds that reducing government regulation is desirable in general. The primary claims here is that reducing the ability of ISPs to earn money will reduce investment in the industry, stifle innovation, and reduce efficiency.

The second group opposing net neutrality is composed primarily of economic conservatives who oppose regulation of industry in general, for ideological reasons. This group simply assumes that regulation will distort the market, reduce investment, and impair efficiency.

What’s At Stake

What will happen if the government rolls back net neutrality rules and abandons the goal of neutrality? Nobody can reliably say what would happen, but we can look at what could happen.

  • ISPs could start selling bundles, like cable companies, limiting access to high-volume services like Netflix, YouTube, or peer-to-peer download sites to customers that buy more expensive packages. Instead of getting access to the Internet as a whole, the sites you can reach could be determined by the package you buy.
  • ISPs could ask companies like Netflix or Google to pay for preferential access, a cost that would inevitably be passed on to consumers.
  • ISPs could create “fast lanes” that prioritize content from their affiliate networks or favored sites, games, or services, giving preferred customers a speed boost or exempting them from data caps.
  • ISPs could impose actual censorship; refusing to transmit news from certain channels or reducing access for individuals or organizations who hold views they find distasteful.
  • The ability of regulators to control privacy violations and efforts to mine and sell personal data for marketing or other purposes could be reduced.

Most ISPs publicly promise that they won’t do these things. Comcast CEO David Watson wrote, “Comcast does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” but has backed away from previous promises that the Company would not adopt “fast lane deals with content owners.”[5] There is little real assurance that ISPs will keep those promises without explicit regulations. ISPs have already tried some of these moves: Comcast has throttled BitTorrent users and forced Netflix to pay to avoid throttling, and T-Mobile exempts certain apps from its data caps, giving those apps a competitive advantage.[6] This history suggests that ISPs will not hesitate to use an unregulated marketplace to their advantage.

What Can You Do?

Companies like Google are applying pressure to the FCC to preserve the open internet, but individual consumers also have a voice.  To express your concerns to the FCC, please visit this link.  Another group pushing for tighter controls around net neutrality is ‘Save the Internet”.  They urge you to contact Congress via their website and join the fight to ensure we regulate appropriately to preserve net neutrality.  Contacting your Senator and Representative and communicating your opinion clearly and with conviction does make a difference.

The concept of net neutrality is simple but important.  There is a real need to assure that all ISPs will treat all data equality and behave in an ethical manner that ensures we keep the open internet available for all.  Like many industries before it, the internet provider sector needs to be heavily regulated to avoid monopoly control and assure fair and equitable access to information and communications services.  We all need to act and join the call to arms.  Write to your local congress member and the FCC and voice your concerns, so we can all continue to enjoy our favorite content in a fair, affordable and equitable marketplace.

 

[1] “The FCC’s Net Neutrality Vote: Here’s What You Need to Know”: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/02/26/389089145/the-fccs-net-neutrality-vote-heres-what-you-need-to-know

[2] “Internet Subs: Cable’s Market Share Hits 64%”: http://www.broadbandtechreport.com/articles/2017/08/internet-subs-cable-s-market-share-hits-64.html

[3] “Comcast now has more than half of all US broadband customers”:  https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/01/comcast-now-has-more-than-half-of-all-us-broadband-customers/

[4] “US Broadband: Still no ISP choice for many, especially at higher speeds”: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/08/us-broadband-still-no-isp-choice-for-many-especially-at-higher-speeds/

[5] “Comcast quietly deletes language about internet fast lanes”: https://thenextweb.com/us/2017/11/28/comcast-quietly-deletes-language-about-internet-fast-lanes/

[6] “Your Guide To Net Neutrality (2017 Edition)”: http://mediashift.org/2017/11/guide-net-neutrality-2017-edition/

Cybersecurity Highlights – December 11

Every Monday we bring you a review of the previous week’s hottest cyber-security and online privacy news articles.

Here at IronSocket, we work to continually call attention to the risks and threats to our online privacy and security that we as individuals face in our connected lives. We are 100% committed to helping our customers stay safe and secure while online, both through our VPN and proxy services as well as through education.

Here are the top articles we have panned from last week’s news goldfield.

Privacy Is Important

And as artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated, we’ll need to work harder and use better tools to protect our privacy.  Fortunately, there are people working on making better tools.

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/12/how-to-avoid-getting-tracked-as-you-browse-the-web/

What the Padlock Means

You know that padlock next to the web address in your browser?  That’s the HTTPS icon and it indicates the data moving between your computer and the website you’re connected to is encrypted.

 

To host an HTTPS website, you need a signed security certificate.  The problem is, anyone, including hackers and phishers, can get one of these certificates for a few dollars.

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2017/12/08/phishing-embraces-https-hoping-youll-check

Finally!

If you use an iPhone or iPad and you have not installed iOS 11.2, do it now.

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2017/12/08/apple-fills-the-krack-on-iphones

You’ve Been Profiled

Would you like to know all the information that your browser makes available to the world wide web?  Would you like to see your browser tell you all about your mouse movements and clicks?  Would you like to know more about the digital fingerprints you leave wherever you go?

https://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/heres-all-the-data-collected-from-you-as-you-browse-the-1820779304

Be Anonymous

Sometimes it’s good to have an anonymous email address.  Here is how to set one up.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/305799

 

That’s all for this week. As always, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write to us. Our cyber-security experts are here to help you stay safe secure and protected while online.

Cybersecurity Highlights – December 4th

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Every Monday we bring you a review of the previous week’s hottest cyber-security and online privacy news articles.

Here at IronSocket, we work to continually call attention to the risks and threats to our online privacy and security that we as individuals face in our connected lives. We are 100% committed to helping our customers stay safe and secure while online, both through our VPN and proxy services as well as through education.

Here are the top articles we have pulled from the wreckage of last week’s news pile-up.

Are We Trustworthy?

Now, here’s a useful article.  Let’s see.  How does IronSocket stack up?

  • Doesn’t keep logs – check
  • Subscription-based service – check
  • Supports OpenVPN – check

Looks pretty darn good!

http://www.tgdaily.com/technology/how-to-tell-if-your-vpn-is-trustworthy

Normalize!

Normalizing good security practices has benefits for others beyond yourself.  What does that mean?  It means making good security practices part of your normal way of living helps everyone else working to surveillance-proof their lives.

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a37m4g/the-motherboard-guide-to-avoiding-state-surveillance-privacy-guide

Maximizing Privacy With a Router

If you want to beef-up the privacy on all devices connected to your home network, get an advanced router that has a built-in VPN client.  For a list of recommended routers, contact our customer support team.

http://www.techradar.com/news/heres-why-you-need-to-have-a-vpn-on-your-router

They Record Everything You Type

Researchers at Princeton University have found over a thousand websites that use third-party session replay scripts.  These tools record every keystroke and every mouse click when you visit these sites.  You have to click through this article to get to the actual list.  This list is searchable so you can enter a website name and if it’s on the list, it will show you.

http://www.alphr.com/security/1007743/how-to-stop-over-400-sites-logging-everything-you-type-a-complete-list-of-every

Wake Up!

Once again we are reminded that we’re not the customer.  We’re the product.

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2017/11/21/ex-facebook-privacy-manager-dishes-the-dirt-on-your-

That’s all for this week. As always, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write to us. Our cyber-security experts are here to help you stay safe secure and protected while online.

EasyVPNConnect 1.2.0 Just Released

Greetings to all our EasyVPNConnect users and thank you for making our launch a success.  We’d like to offer a special thank you to everyone who helped us beta test our custom application. The feedback you gave us was invaluable.

In addition to developing versions for Android, iOS, and macOS, we also continue to refine and improve the initial release of our MS Windows version. To that end, we have just released version 1.2.0.

EasyVPNConnect 1.2.0 fixes two problems found in the previous version and adds a new feature.  The problems fixed in this version are:

  1. Windows update breaks OpenVPN
  2. The application gets stuck on “Loading”

With this release, we are also introducing the option to participate in our beta program. This program is for people who are interested in helping us test pre-release software.  Problem fixes and new features appear first in beta versions of the software.

If you select the Enable Beta Updates option in Application Settings, the app will inform you when there is a beta update available, and it will prompt you to download and install it. Participation in the beta program is voluntary and if you ever want to leave it, simply un-select Enable Beta Updates.

If you currently have EasyVPNConnect installed on your Windows system and you have it enabled to check for updates, you will automatically be notified that there is a new version available and it will prompt you to download and install it.

If you do not yet have our application installed on your system, then head over to our download page: https://ironsocket.com/download

As always, contact us with any questions you might have.

https://ironsocket.com/support

Keeping Our Children Safe Online

Every parent wants to keep their children safe. Threats can lurk in unexpected places, though, and sometimes we get so caught up in the wonderful memories our children create, that we share those moments at a click of a button online with our family and friends. The numerous likes and loving comments are great, but are your shared memories secure?  The reality is that anything you put online will be there forever, and at some point, your data or your children’s will be compromised, breached, or hacked.  It is important to think about privacy and security when online.  We all need to develop boundaries and guidelines to follow when exploring the vast world of the internet.

When we look at our children’s security online, we’re concerned with three major categories of threat. First, and most serious, is the possibility that real-world predators may use material posted online to target our kids or to attempt to directly contact them. Second is the threat that our children may come across content inappropriate to their age, either by their natural explorations or because peers or predators lead them to it. The third possibility is that our kids my infect their own or family computer systems with viruses, malware, or other threatening software.

We can contain these threats most effectively if we treat our children as allies that help us to secure themselves, instead of adversaries that we have to keep under surveillance. If we work with our kids to avoid threats that we all know and understand we can effectively protect against them. If our kids see our concern as harassment or as an unnatural constraint on their freedom they are likely to take their activities underground and hide them, which can easily place them at even greater risk. Effective security for online kids rests on three pillars: educating them so they understand the threats, setting up systems to protect them and ourselves, and effective monitoring to be sure the systems are in use.

Have you ever wondered why most websites ask you to create an account?  The reason is very simple.  They wish to build a customer database which they then use to market and sell products.  Quite often, companies also onsell your personal information to other companies to generate more income.  While this is concerning, the real danger is that anybody can create and market a website these days.  Online predators target both adults and children for a range of scams and crimes.  Again, anything you put online will be there forever.  So next time you are asked to create an account, stop and ask if the website belongs to a reputable company, and if the risk of exposing more of your personal information is worth the service they are offering.  Be sure to teach your kids to never sign up for any website or mobile application without asking themselves the same question and seeking your approval first.

A good practice to ensure your children are safe online is to develop a list of things they can and cannot share.  Start with security settings on social media sites, where kids (and adults) are most likely to share information. The first step is to lock down their accounts so only friends can see their posts.  As their profile picture and background picture are automatically public, ask them not to use photos of themselves or your family.  Go to the “About” section and mark things like date of birth so only they can see it.  As a good starting list teach your kids to avoid posting personal identifiable information (PII), including their date of birth, address, identification cards, email address, birthplace and any phone numbers.  Remind your kids only to add friends who they know and trust outside of social media.  It is hard to ask your kids not to post “selfies,” but following and understanding these guiding principles is a good starting point.  If they do need to post pictures of themselves and their friends, then ask them to be aware of their surroundings when they take the photograph.  The background of a photo can reveal as much as the main subject.

The most common security issue you and your children will face online is malware, a malicious software designed to perform undesired actions on a computer or device without the explicit knowledge or permission of the user.  Malware may be used to gather or destroy information.  The most common type of Malware is the virus.  Never open a suspicious attachment on an email or in a message, especially if it comes from somebody you don’t know.  It is also common for kids to send and receive links via the various messaging applications they use.  Always teach them to look at the sender and establish if they know them first.  Then examine the URL of the link to look for clues as to what website it will take you.  For example, www.amazon.com is very safe and a well-known URL.  However, www.amazonx.cc looks very suspicious.  As a good guideline, tell your kids if they have any doubt, don’t click on the attachment or link.

Kids love playing computer games, including the increasingly popular interactive online games.  These online games often allow you to play against other players from around the world.  As with all things online, you can never be sure exactly who is interacting with your kids.  It may be kids their age halfway around the world, but it may be an adult in your area.  Playing age appropriate online games is ok, but remember that most come with a chat facility, which anonymous predators can use to gain personal information from your children.  There have even been reported cases of predators arranging to meet children they talk to online.  If your kids play an online game, you should disable the chat function or be sure they are not using it.  At least when they are using Facebook messenger, for example, only messages from their friends come through assuming you have the highest level of permissions in place.

It’s important to educate our kids about the dangers of sharing information online, but we also need to monitor their activity.  Checking your children’s social media activities, and then refining your agreed safety guidelines with them, should be a weekly occurrence.  You don’t need to invade their privacy by reading all their messages from their friends, but you should at least check that their messages are all from people you have agreed they can interact with online, such as family and schoolmates.  Perhaps you can spend time together playing an online game, which will give you something fun to do together and provide a better understanding of both the content and potential chat messages that your children are seeing.  Make a simple checklist and set yourself a reminder once a week to follow it.  For example:  Check Facebook posts, scan messages to check senders, check Twitter posts, check Instagram posts, check web browser history for recent pages visited, check email for subscriptions and suspicious links.  Keeping that level of security may seem a little over the top, but once in place, you can scale this back as needed.

We have spoken about the dangers of creating accounts online, posting certain content in public places, exposing personal information online, and awareness of malware such as viruses and the hidden dangers of playing online games.  Education, following basic guidelines, and checking on a regular basis can help you protect your children from cyber predators.  As parents, we want to enjoy the great memories our children create while keeping one eye on protecting your family’s data and staying safe in this digital world.  Be sure to share what you learnt with other parents as well.  As a community, we should be working together to educate each other and our next generation.  Next time you go to share a memory online, pause for a minute and consider if you are comfortable with this remaining in cyberspace forever.