Author Archives: admin

You Should Use a VPN for Travel and Here’s Why

Everyone is tech-obsessed these days and it’s no different when we travel.

For many, a smartphone is the only device they need for their vacation. Business travelers and tech enthusiasts also opt to bring their laptop, tablet, or smart speaker. And while these devices open up amazing possibilities, there are also risks to be aware of.

While most think of precautions such as travel insurance, and putting their cash and valuables in a safe place. All too often they don’t think about how to protect themselves from cybercrime.

Public Wi-Fi: Convenient but Risky

You may have noticed hotels have Wi-Fi with lax security measures put in place. The hotel staff often use a simple Wi-Fi password and give it to all their guests. In other cases, the Wi-Fi is completely open, requiring only a room number, code, or click-through to go online. Either way, the Wi-Fi at hotels isn’t safe for anything beyond casually browsing the web. It’s particularly unsafe if you plan on entering your private data.

And that’s just one example. Free Wi-Fi is available everywhere from cafes to museums and airports. It’s convenient but any Wi-Fi offered to the public has risks associated with it.

You may be wondering why public Wi-Fi isn’t safe. The reason is anyone who is connected to the same network as you can potentially access your unencrypted data. Thus, your usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, browser cookies, and other data can be gathered by malicious individuals with the tech know-how needed to do so.

Making Wi-Fi Safe While Traveling

One solution to the pitfalls associated with public Wi-Fi is to avoid doing tasks that involve sharing your private data online. The problem with this approach is it’s easy to forget about security concerns when you need to get something done. Additionally, you could be targeted in a way you could never anticipate.

For most travelers, the most practical and effective way to protect your data is to use a VPN.

A VPN is an encrypted tunnel for your data that’s placed between your device and the internet. Essentially it turns any unsecured internet connection into a secure one.

About VPNs and Why They’re Used

VPN is short for virtual private network. Although VPNs were originally intended for business applications, it quickly become a technology all internet users can benefit from. After all, individuals have many of the same needs as businesses.

People use VPNs for two main reasons: to protect their online privacy and to enhance their security.

Starting with privacy, people are more concerned than ever about data that’s shared with third parties when they browse the web and use apps. Tech giants like Facebook and Apple have found ways to grant their users better privacy than ever, but one still needs to trust that they’re living up to their credo. Generally, people are slow to place their trust in most corporations today.

VPNs give users the true online anonymity they’ve always craved. It allows them to change their IP address (which is one of the most common ways to identify an internet user and their location). Thus, if they’re tracked with a VPN enabled their activity won’t be associated with their physical location.

The other reason VPNs are so popular is its ability to make the internet secure so that private data can’t be stolen by malicious individuals.

Smartphones are a primary internet device for literally billions of people worldwide. Today you’ll find Wi-Fi access in virtually any public place where people gather. The catch is that public Wi-Fi is less safe than hopping on the internet at home or work.

VPNs use state-of-the-art encryption so your data can’t be accessed or stolen by third parties.

Choosing the Best VPN for Travel

The first point to consider is if the VPN service you’re considering is well-supported in the countries on your bucket list. For example, some VPN services work reliably in China while others can potentially be blocked.

Check which protocols the service provides its users with. OpenVPN is often considered the best all-around protocol and people have reported it’s been working well in China in recent months. Having the ability to switch to different protocols is also useful to international travelers. If a protocol doesn’t work you can test the others, and in many cases at least one will do the job.

LetMeBy has tested many of the popular VPNs out there today. These are the most-recommended services for general travel:

If you’re traveling to China, you’ll also want to add VyprVPN to the list.

The company has been good about working around roadblocks in China. And they’ve been quick to adapt and offer solutions even though it can be challenging to use a VPN there.

How to Use a VPN

VPNs were once reserved for techies and business users. Now it’s easy to connect to a VPN with your phone, tablet, or laptop.

The first step is to download the app from your VPN provider.

This saves you the trouble of configuring individual apps such as your web browser to connect to the VPN. Additionally, it makes it straightforward to change settings such as selecting a new IP address associated with a different country than you’re presently in.

Next, launch the app. The login screen will appear. Enter your username or email and password provided by your VPN provider and you’re in. Yes, connecting is that easy.

Conclusion

Mobile data can be expensive when traveling abroad and since people are so used to accessing their devices frequently, Wi-Fi is a must. Public Wi-Fi gives travelers free access to the internet whether they’re in Honolulu, Rome, or Hong Kong.

The cost associated with using public Wi-Fi isn’t measured in dollars. Public networks are conveniences with a low level of security. Thus, it’s crucial to be mindful of the risks and take precautions.

Using a VPN while traveling not only protects your private data. It also gives you peace of mind. And with so many things on your mind while making the most of your time off, that’s a much-needed gift.

How Your Phone is Tracked and How to Hide Your Location

Ever get stunned by an ad that seems to know more about your life than it should?

At times it can seem like tech companies are listening to our conversions. However, the reality is nobody has time for that. There are much more efficient ways to gather data.

It’s true that businesses are very interested in your preferences and habits. By pinpointing the places you visit, learning the products you buy and opinions you have, advertisers can tailor their message just for people like you.

Often their goal is to build profiles of their typical customers. And to do that they gather information from many sources.

They leverage the tech built into your phone, sophisticated software, and the power of the internet. Websites use tracking codes, browser fingerprinting, and cookies that are stored on your laptop or phone. Some companies even purchase personal information from other businesses that specialize in gathering data.

How Apps and Websites Determine Your Location

Smartphones offer us amazing utility and convenience, but with that comes potential doorways to our private information.

Phones have GPS technology built-in and software developers use this to determine where you are. When you launch an app, it may ask for permission to access your photos or your location. You may have to agree for the app to function correctly, but in other cases it’s optional.

Websites often don’t need to ask for permission to determine your IP address and the country you’re based in.

You may have noticed websites sometimes ask to access your location data and you can accept or deny the request in your browser. A good example is when you’re searching for a retail store location that’s near you. Many people go for it as it’s more convenient to grant access to your location data than to enter your zip code or postal code.

Bluetooth Beacons Are Watching

Advertisers use hidden Bluetooth beacons in supermarket shelves, advertising posters, and malls to track you. It’s a simple device that transmits a continuous signal that phone apps can detect.

It notifies them when you have walked into a store or gone past an advertisement so it can be counted as a visit or ad impression. Beacons are also used to determine how effective an ad is.

Recommendation: Make it a habit to turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t using it.

IP Targeting: An Invasion of Privacy?

Ad tech is extremely sophisticated in terms of delivering a tailored message to the right geographic area or even household.

Geotargeting serves ads to wide location such as the United States or the city of Toronto.

IP targeting is much more specific to the point it may be perceived as intrusive. Advertisers can deliver specific ads to a list of households that fit criteria they have set, such as age, education, income, or even interests.

Recommendation: Use a VPN service whenever possible to hide your IP address. For more info about VPNs as well as best providers, go here.

Mobile Towers Can Determine Your Whereabouts

If you think turning off your phone’s GPS will effectively hide your location from all parties, think again. To receive service, smartphones transmit personal identifiers to cell towers owned by major network operators.

In other words, the technology your phone provider uses needs to track your location and verify that you’re a paying customer.

Thus, by simply owning a smartphone people have accepted tracking devices in disguise into their life. That’s because there’s currently no way to decouple the customer authentication process from the connectivity process.

The good news is there are startup companies such as Invisv working on solutions which may give smartphone users true location privacy in the future.

Recommendation: To keep your location data private and prevent it from being transmitted to cell phone and Wi-Fi towers enable the “Airplane Mode” feature on your phone.

Ad Trackers Build Profiles Associated with Your Devices

High-tech businesses sometimes use methods such as cookies, tracking URLs and tracking pixels to monitor consumer behavior. If their tech is sophisticated enough, they can piece together the data that is harvested and automatically build a profile that outlines your buying habits, interests, etc.

If you’ve ever wondered how websites and apps show you ads that are a little too relevant for comfort, this is how they do it. It’s called ad personalization.

Luckily Apple and Google have included settings on their phones that allows you to turn off ad personalization. It’s just a matter of drilling down into the settings.

Recommendation: Disable personalized services and ads in the settings on your iOS or Android phone. Additionally, you may want to disable cookies in your internet browser. To learn the steps required to do it, have a look at this page.

Conclusion

Although being tracked is part of modern life, there are plenty of ways to regain your privacy and hide your location. More often than not it comes down to turning off your phone’s features when you don’t need them, such as Bluetooth and its GPS.

For trackers that can’t be avoided so easily, VPN services allow you to choose a VPN server location that differs from your actual location. Any solid VPN provider has apps you can install on your phone, devices, and laptop so your privacy is fully protected.

Better personal privacy requires mindfulness and set up, but decoupling your technology from your location is a liberating pursuit. Enjoy your life and travels knowing third parties can’t pinpoint exactly where you are!

How to Unblock Facebook in China

Yes, Facebook is blocked in China, along with the other major English-language social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.

And yes, it’s a frustrating inconvenience for visitors from overseas. After all, you’re likely accustomed to an open internet. This is especially true for the multitude that use Facebook as a glorified address book and don’t have all their contacts elsewhere. If you rely on it and other online services for business, it’s a real problem.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of maneuvering around the great firewall of China, let’s examine the facts behind this limitation.

No Facebook: The Why, When and Where

Censorship of Facebook started in July 2009 after the Ürümqi riots occurred in China. Xinjiang independence activists used Facebook as a part of their communications network. Thus, officials concluded that the social media site was a threat and have been blocking it ever since.

Before proceeding it should be noted that Facebook can be accessed in Hong Kong and Macau. Additionally, there’s been reports that after 2013 the social media site is available to some in China.

1. Accessing the Web in China: How-to

Luckily there’s a number of strategies you can use to get your Facebook fix in China.

But first, you’ll need to consider how to obtain access to the internet in general. Here’s a list of possible solutions:

Wi-Fi: Major urban centers in China have Wi-Fi access everywhere. The Wi-Fi gets incrementally scarcer as you go further inland. As you need to be able to receive a text with a PIN to gain a connection, this option will be out for some.

Rented Phone: If taken care of before departing for China, service providers will ship a ready-to-use phone to you which is a convenient option. Also, you can opt to pick it up upon arrival. Unlike roaming, rates are fixed, reasonable and the service is guaranteed to have extensive coverage.

China SIM Card: If you’ve got the time and would rather approach this as a local would, get a SIM card. You’ll need an unlocked phone and a passport to make it happen. Either locate a kiosk that offers China SIM cards (often found at major airports in Beijing, Shanghai, etc.). Or, visit to a telecom company such as China Unicom or China Mobile store to buy one.

International Roaming: Your local carrier probably offers international roaming that includes a set number of minutes and data. This route can be costly. So, as a rule of thumb it should be the last resort.

2. Get on Facebook in China: How-to

It’s best to plan ahead and get your VPN account set up before traveling to China. If you don’t, it will be either be a real pain or an impossible task.

Decision-makers in Chinese government are well aware that people use VPNs to get around their restrictions. Thus, websites belonging to major VPN services are typically blocked in China.

Now, you may be wondering: what’s a VPN?

A virtual private network provides a buffer in-between your internet connection and the web.

So, your real IP address is replaced with another IP associated with a different location of your choosing. This means the ISP and websites you visit can’t tell you’re in China. All you need to do is select a city in the US with VPN software.

1. Sign up with a VPN service provider.
2. Download VPN software supplied by the service on each device you plan to use in China.
3. Launch the app, configure the settings, and test it by choosing a server location.
4. Once you’re in China you should be good to go. Click on “connect” and browse the free internet!

Best VPNs for China

LetMeBy’s recommended VPNs are a little different for China. VyprVPN has been vigilant about working around China’s roadblocks and deserves a spot here. Now, the top three:

PureVPN
NordVPN
VyprVPN

To read full reviews of the VPNs that are recommended here you can also visit this page.

Here’s the Catch

It’s necessary to consider that a VPN might fail you. China is continually trying to block these services. And the VPNs keep finding new tactics to get around it. Thus, there’s a clash going on here to be aware of.

If reliable Facebook access is absolutely necessary, you may want to beef up your offense. Some seasoned travelers recommend obtaining memberships with two VPNs. That way, if one doesn’t work you’ve got a backup.

To Conclude…

Internet access limitations can be a drag for foreigners visiting China.

Apps like Facebook Messenger provide channels of communication millions use every day. Being blocked from accessing Facebook can be also mean being unable to see important messages from friends, family, or colleagues.

The best way to approach this situation is to make the necessary arrangements before traveling to China. Start by ensuring your important contacts have an alternative way to reach you in case you can’t access Facebook. Secondly, sign up with VPN services that are known to work in China before the trip, and not after.

Should Facebook Integration Be a Deal-Breaker for Potential Oculus Users?

The Oculus Quest 2 is a groundbreaking device in terms on its price point and its impressive capabilities. However, for some the fact Oculus is owned by Meta aka Facebook makes it an unnerving proposition in terms of privacy.

Is Facebook integration a valid deal-breaker for users that value privacy, or is its significance being overestimated online? Let’s take a look at the facts and then approach the conclusion that works for you. Privacy is rarely a one-size-fits-all matter, and Oculus headsets are no different.

Beef with the Facebook Login Requirement

Not long ago, pretty much everyone and their mother had a Facebook account. These days, generation Z doesn’t see it as a must-have app. Others have opted to delete their Facebook account to pull the plug on their social media presence or focus on other platforms.

In 2020 Meta decided to make a Facebook account a requirement to use Oculus headsets, and the internet went a bit mad. There were reports of people that got locked out of using their Quest VR hardware, and others simply got vocal about not wanting to use Facebook.

To Meta’s credit they recognized the backlash and started working on adding a native Oculus login option so Facebook would no longer be a necessity.

During his Connect keynote in October 2021, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that the restriction would soon be ending:

“As we’ve focused more on work, and frankly as we’ve heard your feedback more broadly, we’re working on making it so you can log into Quest with an account other than your personal Facebook account. We’re starting to test support for Work Accounts soon, and we’re working on making a broader shift here within the next year. I know this is a big deal for a lot of people. Not everyone wants their social media profile linked to all these other experiences, and I get that, especially as the metaverse expands. And I’ll share more about that later.”

And they’ve made good on that promise. When you go to the Oculus website you can choose to login with your Facebook account or Oculus account.

Does Facebook Share Personal Data with Oculus?

If you do choose to login to Oculus with Facebook, you’re likely wondering what the privacy implications are.

Indeed, some information gets shared across services. There is evidence of this when you see Facebook social options in VR. Depending on your perspective it can be seen as a way to provide useful features pulled from Facebook or an annoyance if you want to move away from the social media app.

Oculus also gives you the option to add multiple users to a headset. Thus, you can create a new user and maintain a different friend list for your VR experiences.

In December 2019, Facebook said that Oculus VR data would be used to show users the most relevant content (including ads) on Facebook if the two accounts are linked.

So, if you’re uncomfortable about giving Facebook another means to track your activity and aren’t interested in the social integrations on the Oculus platform, you’ll likely want to use a separate login for Meta whether you use Facebook or not.

This means there’s no longer a concrete reason to pass on an Oculus headset due to Facebook integration alone. If you don’t use your Facebook login with Oculus there’s no link between the apps, and your data won’t be used outside the Oculus ecosystem.

Meta’s Quest to Regain Trust

Facebook has certainly received its fair share of scrutiny over the years for its approach to privacy.

A recent poll by the Washington Post found that 72 percent of Internet users trust Facebook “not much” or “not at all” to responsibly handle their personal information and their Internet activity data.

It’s reached a point where anything that has Facebook associated with it gets a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to privacy matters.

Rebranding Facebook as Meta was an attempt to create a new start. Their founder Mark Zuckerberg has said Meta is now a metaverse company.

This puts them in a tricky position because its social media and advertising revenue that has created their success. Thus, Oculus can’t divorce itself from the Facebook name quite yet.

Is the Metaverse the Privacy Hole?

Are Oculus users that don’t trust the Facebook app ignoring the elephant in the room?

A VR headset tracks a person’s body movements, eye movements, and can even detect emotions though facial tracking. Thus, one can argue the tech from social media apps is the least of one’s worries when experiencing the metaverse.

Marcus Carter, a senior lecturer in digital cultures at the University of Sydney think it’s VR tech that people should be wary about. In fact, he went so far to say “Facebook’s VR push is about data, not gaming.”

“Metaverse technologies like VR and AR are perhaps the most data-extractive digital sensors we’re likely to invite into our homes in the next decade,” Carter said.

Meta has stated that they’ve dramatically improved their approach to user data privacy with their move into VR. They plan to put their users in the driver’s seat by giving them the necessary tools to manage their data.

Still, it leads back to the trust issue. With such extensive capabilities at tracking our every movement, there’s great temptation for Meta or third-party developers to find ways to benefit from the data it generates.

The Verdict

Right now, it’s fashionable to bash Facebook. Despite their less than perfect track record with how they’ve handled user data, the company continues to evolve. There’s no doubt that what they’re building with Oculus and the metaverse has gone well beyond showing promise.

Many decision makers at Meta want to move on from Facebook just as much the growing number of Internet users that have had their fill of the platform. But the reality is true independence from Facebook will only be possible when Oculus and the metaverse truly becomes their bread and butter.

VPN Not Working with Netflix? Here’s How to Fix It

Have you used a VPN with Netflix then encountered an error page you weren’t expecting?

You’re not alone. Netflix wants their customers see content intended for their region only. And they’re well aware that plenty of users want to bypass that restriction.

If you reached an unplanned popcorn break, odds are this is the page that appeared:

So, is this the end of the road for using VPNs with Netflix?

Not at all! Although Netflix has made it harder to use a VPN to view content outside your region, it still works if you’re using an IP that hasn’t been identified as a VPN.

Quick reminder: To achieve anonymity VPNs replace your true IP address with an IP associated with the VPN service. So, for example If you select a US location with the VPN software it will mask your actual location and assign you with an IP address in the US that they own.

Now that everyone knows how it basically works, let’s look at how you can solve this issue.

How to Get Past the Netflix Streaming Error Page

1. Try a different server

If your VPN allows you to select a different IP located in the country you desire, try that.

It’s possible the IP you’re accustomed to using has been blocked by Netflix, but other IPs that can be selected with your VPN software work fine.

Of course, if you don’t have the option to select a different IP address directly, you’ll want to move to the next troubleshooting suggestions below.

2. Change the VPN protocol

Surprising as it may sound, sometimes you can work around the problem simply by switching to a different protocol with your VPN software.

There are a number of protocols in existence, however the ones you can utilize will vary depending on your VPN provider.

The most common VPN protocols are:

  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2

Speed and the level of security is different with each protocol, and they all have their pros and cons.

The only one you should think twice about using is PPTP as this is the oldest protocol. The speed is decent but its security leaves much to be desired compared to the other options listed.

Of course, changing the VPN protocol is only a temporary measure if you’re forced to choose a protocol that doesn’t meet your standards. But in most cases, you won’t notice much of a difference.

3. Switch to another VPN

Not all VPNs are good choices for use with Netflix.

If you keep having to jump through hoops to get streaming to work, it could be time to look at alternative solutions.

Some VPN providers are focused on keeping their service working smoothly with Netflix, while its not on the radar for others.

Also, which service works and which doesn’t can change quickly. Some power users are signed up to more than one VPN service to improve their chances of having a solution at their fingertips.

Before switching, do your research to ensure other users are using Netflix without issues. There’s a Reddit group called NetflixViaVPN dedicated to the topic of using Netflix with a VPN. It’s helpful for finding the latest information.

Also, check out LetMeBy’s reviews of the top 3 VPN services as these are the best performers all-around.

How Does Netflix Know You’re Using a VPN?

Streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix all have systems put in place that aim to detect if you’re using a VPN.

If your IP matches the IPs in their database that they’ve identified as VPNs you’ll get the streaming error page.

The good news is the best VPN services are always adding fresh IPs for their users to select as well as finding ways to allow their customers to keep using the services they love (such as Netflix).

Will Netflix Ban You for Using a VPN?

Although Netflix wants you to use their services as they intended, they don’t want lose you as a customer either.

Internet privacy aficionados have been using VPNs with Netflix for years and there are no reports about even receiving warnings from Netflix for this.

Thus, your Netflix account is safe.

Conclusion

Using a VPN with Netflix can be frustrating at times, but having access to content from different regions is a real game changer for film and TV buffs.

If you come across the dreaded Netflix streaming error page, don’t fret as there’s always a way around it. And if it’s just a question of changing your IP address, or your VPN protocol, consider it a good day.