Category Archives: Privacy

Want to Upgrade Zoom’s Privacy and Security? Use a VPN

The pandemic forever changed the way we connect with friends and colleagues. Video chat apps have now become an even more integral part of our digital world.

Zoom recently peaked at #1 as the most downloaded app globally. Business and home users alike have quickly adopted it.

With that shift came greater concerns about privacy, as confidential information discussed at meetings could be intercepted by malicious users or authorities.

Free Comes at a Cost

Security experts have noted that the free version of Zoom lacks end-to-end encryption, and this is generally frowned upon in the software industry. Theoretically Zoom, the police or FBI could access calls if they wanted to, although the software company denies they would ever do this except if Zoom is used for obvious illegal activity.

Zoom elaborated on the policy in a statement. “Zoom does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse. We do not have backdoors where participants can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change,” said a spokesperson.

Take special note that just because they don’t proactively monitor calls doesn’t guarantee they won’t do it. So now the question becomes, is taking Zoom’s word for it good enough for you?

A system not requiring trust, made possible with tech, is always superior to believing a company. However, to get that with Zoom you have to pay for the premium version of the app.

The Troll in the Room

Some users have reported a phenomenon called Zoom bombing. This involves uninvited guests gaining access to group chats and dropping slurs, offensive images, etc.

Zoom is addressing this problem, but it’s an ongoing threat. Thus, it raises more concerns about the overall strength of the app’s security.

VPN Upgrade Alternative

Should you stick with Zoom despite these weaknesses? Although video conferencing alternatives with better privacy and security exist, it likely won’t be feasible to convert your friends or coworkers.

Luckily there’s a quick, easy way to upgrade Zoom’s encryption to prevent privacy leaks: simply use a VPN.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a secure tunnel between your device and a remote server operated by a VPN service provider. All online traffic goes through this encrypted tunnel so apps and websites cannot gain access to data such as your IP address, location, and certain actions you take.

If you don’t need the added features of the Zoom Pro or Business plan and want the best privacy and security, a VPN is the best option. A VPN service will give you added privacy with any app or sites you visit.

VPNs that are most recommended here at LetMeBy are below. For more detail, you can check out full reviews of the top 3 VPNs services.

Conclusion

Zoom is a terrific video conferencing app overall. It’s easy to use, as the user interface (UI) is simple and intuitive.

Privacy and security concerns shouldn’t prevent you from using it, as leveraging a VPN or upgrading to a paid plan takes care of the main shortcomings concerning encryption.

How to Unblock Instagram at School or Work

Social media allows us to accomplish diverse tasks: from video chats with friends to spreading the word about your company’s services.

Use of apps like Instagram may be productive and relevant to what you’re doing at school or work, however many people scroll through content to slack off.

So, many institutions have opted to ban social media apps entirely, and network administrators are able to follow through on this by blocking access to URLs like https://www.instagram.com/.

Situations can arise where you need to check Instagram to do your work, but the network won’t allow it. And this is when bending the rules on occasion may be reasonable.

Can Insta be Productive?

Content on Instagram varies a lot and it has evolved considerably from a place to take in beautiful photos or post photos of your road trip. In fact, education, business and self-improvement are very popular topics on the platform.

Instagram can be enriching or a waste of time depending on your habits. It’s important to be mindful of the accounts you follow. While a lot of the photos on Instagram will merely be a distraction at school or work, some of it provides succinct knowledge that could actually save you time.

If used correctly, it can increase your productivity. However, few people have the discipline to pull this off.

The app has a great feature that allows you to limit the time on spend on it daily. To use it, go to “Settings”, then tap on “Account.” Next, tap “Your Activity” and you’ll see reminder and notification settings.

Unblock Instagram

Use Phone Data

If you launch Instagram and can’t view your feed, try turning off Wi-Fi and enabling wireless data.

There’s a good chance this will work because Wi-Fi uses the network which has internet access rules applied by the admin, while mobile data works independently of the local network.

Get a VPN

If you don’t have mobile data or don’t want to use up your monthly bandwidth, you can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access Instagram.

A VPN service allows you to choose a new IP that is associated with the location of your choice. This provided IP allows you to bypass restrictions set by the network admin while still connecting to the network via Wi-Fi.

It’s the best solution for people that want to hide their identity, location, or unblock apps and websites. You need to be subscribed to VPN service, many of which are fast and affordable.

To get started, learn more about the best VPNs that are recommended here most.

Use Your PC with Tor

If you simply want to browse Instagram and don’t need to post, using your PC is an alternative that is often overlooked.

If the URL https://www.instagram.com/ is blocked on all devices, you may be able to download and install Tor. This is proxy software that allows you to use the IP of another user connected to the Tor network.

Once the software changes your IP, Instagram will be unblocked. It’s free but be warned that it’s not as safe or nearly as fast as a VPN.

Typically, Tor should be a last resort, only to be used temporarily then uninstalled. This approach will only work at small businesses that don’t restrict which software can be installed.

Wrapping It Up

Use these tips responsibly and enjoy your new-found access to Instagram!

As the app can be useful at both school and work, blocking access might not be the best policy. However, it’s best to be as respectful of the restrictions even if you’re forced to bypass them at times.

Concerned About Zoom’s Privacy Woes? Here’s Your Alternatives

The coronavirus crisis has forced businesses and institutions to forever change how they operate.

Due to social distancing measures video conferencing apps got a popularity boost. Zoom in particular is extremely hot. It even reached #1 as the most downloaded mobile app worldwide.

Despite Zoom’s overnight success, experts have been warning users that it might not be the best choice for every situation.

In short there’s a tradeoff between ease-of-use and privacy / security.

Most people that aren’t tech nerds gravitate toward apps with high usability. However, if highly-confidential information is being discussed, Zoom’s convenience factor may not be worth the risk.

So, let’s have a look at the alternatives, as well as the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision based on your needs.

Zoom

The San Jose based company quickly become the new go-to video conferencing app when conducting all meetings online became the new normal in 2020.

Pros:

  • It’s easy to use thanks to the intuitive user interface.
  • Joining a meeting doesn’t require a software download – attendees merely have to click on a publicly shared link.

Cons:

  • Zoom has a history of glaring problems with privacy and security. Users have reported “zoom bombings,” in which hackers gain entry to chat rooms then drop foul, offensive messages.
  • It’s paid for by the number of hosts you need per account, so it can get pricy for larger teams.

Facetime

If you’ve got an iOS device, this great option is built in and ready to launch. It’s often overlooked, but this certainly isn’t because Facetime is a mediocre offering. Rather, it’s because only Apple users have it.

Pros:

  • It’s free and you can use it on any Apple device, from a Macbook Pro to an iPhone.
  • Apple is known to leverage strong encryption, making it generally more secure than other apps like Zoom.

Cons:

  • Only supports 32 users, and you can’t use links to gather the troops, making arranging a meeting less convenient.
  • Software works on Apple devices only, so you need to be aware of which type of phone everyone has when hosting.

Skype

The granddaddy among today’s best options, Skype was first released in 2003, then acquired by Microsoft in 2011.

Pros:

  • Skype is free, and since it’s been around for a long time, many already have an account, and have it installed on their devices.
  • Includes an instant messaging solution. You can leave a message for others to view immediately or at a later date.

Cons:

  • It’s not intended for big gatherings, webinars or enterprise use as a maximum 50 people can connect.

Microsoft Teams

Skype for Business is now called Microsoft Teams. It’s a robust app that enables you to host a video meeting with up to 250 people. It has features not available to Skype users like screen sharing and recording of meetings.

Pros:

  • Included in two different Office 365 plans, making it an attractive option for business users utilizing the Microsoft ecosystem.

Cons:

  • If you don’t work in a Microsoft-centric environment, you’ll miss out on great features and overall convenience.

Google Meet / Google Chat

Formerly known as Google Hangouts, anyone who has a Gmail account has the ability to start video chats. To better serve those who need either a personal or business solution, they split it into two products: Google Meet and Chat.

Pros:

  • Formerly a paid-only product for G-suite users, Google Meet now has a free tier.
  • Seamlessly integrated with Gmail, making it an attractive option if you use it frequently.

Cons:

  • Users that value privacy should be warned using this gives Google knowledge of even more of your data than it currently does.

Zoho Meeting

Those that prefer open-source software may want to check out Zoho Meeting, which allows you to host meetings and calls with up to 100 people at once.

Pros:

  • Highly accessible as users don’t need to create an account to join a meeting; they can connect via web browser, desktop software or mobile app.

Cons:

  • History of some shaky functionality, such as a subpar screen sharing experience, plus video and audio permission issues.
  • Like Microsoft, they offer an Office suite that is nicely integrated with Zoho Meeting, but not many use it.

GoTo Meeting

Like Skype, GoTo Meeting has been around for a long time: since 2004. This is a paid-only app, and they offer different plans depending on how many participants you need to support.

Pros:

  • Flexible plans available, with the ability to accommodate very large groups. The entry-level solution allows up to 150 people to connect, while the enterprise version supports 3,000.
  • Supports multiple meeting facilitators, as well as useful features such as screen-sharing and the ability to record meetings.

Cons:

  • Reports of audio issues that can arise, and the only way to solve it is to restart the app.

Wrapping It Up

Zoom is an attractive choice today as its widely used, so people are familiar with how to use it which is key.

For everyday video conferencing it’s great, however if privacy is important for a particular meeting you may want to explore other options.

Zoom is working hard address privacy and security issues. However, it’s been noted that its weak encryption is not going away any time soon.

There is certainly no shortage of Zoom alternatives, and business-users in particular may be better served by those covered.

Why Brave Browser is Safe and Secure

Brave has been picking up a lot of steam lately.

The crypto community loves this browser. It’s being quickly adopted because Brave has cleverly integrated blockchain tech to create a totally new ad ecosystem. Both publishers and users are awarded with BAT (basic attention token). Also, underneath the hood its secret power is enhanced privacy.

For users of Chrome, this new browser isn’t much of a change in terms of use. Brave could be described as a privacy-hardened version of Chrome. After all, it’s built on top of Chromium, Google’s open source browser project.

So, Brave has killer privacy features (as explored in a previous article here). But is Brave Browser safe? Is it secure? Let’s jump into it!

Brave Browser Safety

Although not a household name like Google, Brave Software’s leadership has a history of achievement and trustworthiness.

Brave’s CEO Brendan Eich invented JavaScript, a programming language that is ubiquitous on the web. Also, he was a co-founder of Mozilla before moving on to Brave. So, Firefox, another popular and reputable browser is also associated with Eich.

It’s said that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Studies have proven that people trust their private data with Mozilla more than Google. This is expected as user privacy is a part of Mozilla’s core philosophy. Brave Software was born from the same ideals as Mozilla, so in time Brave browser is likely to gain at least the same high-level of trust.

Success and Trust Go Hand-in-Hand

Software won’t remain safe and secure without the dedication and talent of great developers. And clearly, it’s only possible to gain and hold on to talent when adoption of that software is healthy.

Before Brave came to the scene, those seeking an alternative to Chrome flocked to Firefox.

At its peak nearly half of all web users used Firefox. And it is still more popular than Edge, Safari or Opera according to browser use statistics. Due to the good track record of Firefox, Brave has a real shot at challenging Chrome’s dominance.

Rooted in Chromium

Rather than building a totally new browser and reinventing the wheel, Brave Software took an already great browser and made it their own. Brave is essentially Chromium with added features most people want built-in, and intrusions on privacy taken out.

Google built the codebase of Chromium initially, and as an open-source project, developers all over the globe continue to improve it.

There are two main factors that contribute to the safety of Brave.

First, Google is one of the best software companies in the world right now. That means the code was built from the ground up by top-notch developers. Second, due to the open-source nature of the project there are a lot of eyeballs on the code. This means security issues can be quickly spotted and patched by the community.

Brave Security

With a new update around every 42 days, Chrome is the industry leader in browser security. Inevitably every browser is judged against this gold standard.

And Brave isn’t far behind, which is impressive for a new, growing browser. A new version of Brave is released every 8 to 9 weeks.

The frequency of updates is about what you’d expect from Firefox. So, if you’re a Firefox user, you’ll feel right at home.

The Verdict

Although Brave is new and many still haven’t heard of it there’s no reason to shy away from using it.

As you likely came here questioning if Brave is safe, the fact Brave Software’s CEO was also the force behind Firefox should put your mind to rest.

Mozilla and now Brave Software provide an alternative to browser offerings by tech behemoths like as Microsoft, Apple and Google.

Those seeking the best privacy possible have a good reason to look beyond the obvious choices. Protecting your privacy and turning a profit are currently at odds with one another in the industry.

Download Brave browser here. To add to what you’ve learned, read more about Brave’s privacy benefits.

Should You Use a VPN When Downloading Torrents?

Have you ever wondered if someone is watching when you download a torrent?

The answer is categorically yes, even if you haven’t noticed any evidence of it. The snooping is indeed as undercover as it comes.

What you likely have noticed is irritating popup ads for VPNs on torrent sites. Then there are the flashing warnings that your IP address is exposed.

Sure, it’s an attempt to put the fear of god into you so you sign up with a VPN provider.

Nonetheless, is there some validity to covering your behind with a VPN when downloading torrents? Let’s explore that.

BitTorrent: Not Always Unethical

Before proceeding it should be said that LetMeBy.com doesn’t condone piracy. Moreover, it’s assumed the motives of the reader are pure.

Despite its reputation, BitTorrent distributes free content belonging to the public domain. Plus, it’s a protocol much like e-mail or www. So, don’t believe those who broadly label it as “bad.”

And then there are those many gray areas. Perhaps you want to download a video game ROM when you already own a physical copy. Or maybe you’d rather download MP3 files rather than ripping the music CD yourself.

Regardless, you have the ability and right to protect your privacy.

How BitTorrent Works

Downloading torrents isn’t as anonymous as it might seem. To understand why, we need to take a look at the basic mechanics of it.

The BitTorrent protocol is a peer-to-peer method of file sharing. It’s decentralized so there is no single point of failure.

So, when you start downloading a torrent you become an active participant in that system. Right from the top you help to serve the file. Thus, others can get the data you have so far. Then when the download is complete the file starts to seed, making you both an uploader and host of the content.

Who Can See Your IP Address?

During the process described above your IP address is accessible to others connected to the same torrent. So, it’s indeed plausible that an entity could monitor and record the IPs that connected to a torrent. Also, with apps like uTorrent you can view the IP of users quite casually by clicking on the Peers tab.

Savvy companies with big budgets use automated software to spy on users downloading their digital products without paying.

Another potential risk to your privacy is your internet service provider. This is the entity that can find out exactly who you are based on your IP. Although these companies rely on their users to maintain their business, they’ve clearly sided with other big business when it comes to copyright violations.

An online survey of 1,000 conducted by PCMag found that 25 percent of respondents named ISPs as the biggest threat to their online privacy.1

Those in the Crosshairs

Copyright holders are most concerned about stopping the original uploader of a torrent, followed by subsequent uploaders. Furthermore, since all downloaders are also uploaders by design, there is no way to shirk responsibly for proliferating copyrighted material.

The film and TV industries in particular have been vigilant about preventing unofficial distribution of their video.

Torrents and the Movie Industry

Napster first pulled the genie out of the bottle in the music industry. And it hasn’t been the same since.

The film industry was similarly slow to adapt to technological change. Initially, increased demand for digital downloads and streaming were often met by unofficial channels.

But in this case, studios have done better in terms of enforcing copyright. Along the way film studios managed to utilize incredible technology to defend their turf.

Trackers are now embedded into popular movies which automatically find users who download their material unlawfully. Copyright infringement notices are sent via e-email thanks to cooperation with the user’s ISP.

Thus, downloading movies from torrent sites carries greater risks than many imagine.

Recently 3,400 Canadians faced the legal consequences of illegally downloading movies in Federal Court. The crackdown was launched by a Toronto law firm on behalf of U.S. movie production houses hoping to enforce their copyright claims.

Defendants have paid anywhere from $100 to $5000 to settle these claims.2

How VPNs Protect Users

When you use a VPN (virtual private network), your traffic is encrypted and secured to ensure that no one can spy on your activity—even when you’re torrenting.

Your actual IP address is replaced with an IP provided by the service. This provides anonymity since the IP in use is not associated with any one person.

Recommended VPNs

As there has been a surge in demand for VPNs, there is no shortage of services to choose from. Luckily even the best VPNs are affordable, so there is no reason to go for anything less than top-notch.

Read full reviews of the best VPN providers here. Or if you’re short on time, click on one of the links below. These are currently among the top choices out there:

Wrapping it Up

Don’t kid yourself. ISPs and corporations with copyrights to protect have a very dim view of torrent use. Downloaders are treated with the same suspicion whether their activity is legitimate or not.

This is yet another reason to consider employing a VPN for all your internet use. You may have fared well so far, but there is no telling who is watching your activity waiting for an opportune time to take action.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/354396/the-best-vpns-for-bittorrent
  2. https://globalnews.ca/news/4933339/lawsuits-movie-downloading-uploading/