Category Archives: VPN

How to Unblock TikTok at School or Work

TikTok is one of the most downloaded apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, but not everyone is feeling the love. In fact, India banned it citing national security concerns.

Granted, your teachers or business leaders are likely more concerned about your productivity, and not greater concerns such as alleged theft of user data as reported by India’s technology ministry.

TikTok is often labeled as an entertainment app for Generation Z, however this is changing. You’ll find business leaders, academics, doctors, and brands on there more than ever. Just because the platform has a fun, youthful vibe doesn’t mean you can’t learn there.

Unfortunately, managers are unlikely to acknowledge that accessing TikTok doesn’t have to be about fun and games. Generally, it’s seen as a distraction. And since it’s relatively easy for the network admin to block all access to TikTok via the company or school network, leaders are quick to take this action.

How TikTok is Blocked

Network admins can ban domain names or IP addresses associated with an app they don’t want you to access. So, for example, an admin can block all internet traffic to https://www.tiktok.com/.

Unblock by Using Your Data Plan

The key point to remember is they can only prevent you from using TikTok with their network. Therefore, a simple workaround is to turn off Wi-Fi and launch the app via your mobile data plan.

The drawback to this is of course TikTok can eat up your monthly bandwidth fairly quickly.

Using a VPN to Access TikTok

A VPN is best way to gain access to apps that have been blocked. A Virtual Private Network changes your IP address and your location. Rather than connecting to the internet directly a VPN creates a halfway point that gives you privacy features, security via encryption, etc.

Some high-end routers have VPN capabilities, however since your looking to use TikTok at school or work, the solution you’ll need is a VPN service.

You can read about the best VPNs here. If you’re short on time, the providers we recommend most often here at LetMeBy are below:

Wrapping It Up

There’s so much more to TikTok than dancing teens, pranks, and lip synching to trending hip hop tunes. It’s becoming more educational, and it’s a resource that may prove useful at school or work. Also, it provides a big opportunity for marketers looking to reach young people.

Until educators or your boss catch on that it’s more than a time-wasting app, you’re going to have to bend the rules a bit. And the best way to do that is to use a VPN, but only when you really need to.

Is Facebook Listening to Your Conversations? Not Exactly

Have you ever gotten that eerie feeling that someone is watching you? Of course, right? It’s a common phenomenon. Michael Jackson even wrote a song about it:

I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy

Facebook can give you that same impression when the app displays an ad that relates to something you just discussed privately on your smartphone.

Imagine you just got off the phone with your local florist. You launch Facebook out of habit, and the first ad you see is 1800Flowers.

The most obvious explanation is that Facebook must have spied on your conversation.

So, is Facebook listening? Likely not how you think they are (via recording audio), and it’s complicated. First, let’s look at why conspiracy theories about this abound, then examine the evidence.

Many Don’t Trust Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

Research company Toluna found that Facebook is the least trusted tech company by a considerable amount. Forty percent of said they didn’t trust Facebook with their personal information.

Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by congress on numerous occasions. They’ve blasted him for failing to curb the proliferation of fake news, not fact-checking political ads, Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, etc. Each time he appears in congress people the public is reminded that Zuckerberg is generally viewed with suspicion by government leaders.

Audio Transcription Tech Raises Concerns

In August 2019 Bloomberg wrote a piece about Facebook contacting an external company to create software that transcribes audio conversations in their Messenger app. The transcription tech was tested on users that opted in, and the possibility of human review of conversations was part of the terms associated with using it.

To the average reader this was confirmation that Facebook is indeed spying on its users’ private conversations. Years of conspiratorial speculations rose to the surface, as this news was exactly what Facebook’s critics needed to add legitimacy to their theories.

It was Senator Gary Peters that asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook listens to conversations and then generates targeted ads with that data. Zuckerberg replied, “You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads. We don’t do that.”

Facebook has attempted to set the matter straight via their Newsroom. They’ve stated that ads are generated based on people’s profile information: their interests, job title, brands they follow, etc., and not what you’re talking out loud about.

Is Spying on Users Practical or Even Possible?

Despite anecdotal claims that Facebook must be listening, the data doesn’t add up.

Wandera, a mobile cyber-security company, conducted a test to determine if audio picked up with the phone’s mic influences which ads are displayed.

They put a Samsung and Apple iPhone in a room, then played an audio loop of pet food ads for 30 minutes per day, for three days. They placed another set of phones in a silent room so they could compare the results.

No pet food ads appeared on any of the phones. And more tellingly, there were no differences in data consumption, battery use, and background activity.

Experts have pointed out that it would take an incredible amount of server resources for Facebook to listen to over 150 million daily active users in the U.S. alone.

Alternatively, if Facebook were to scan audio for keywords coming into the microphone it would take a considerable amount of your phone’s CPU processing power which would be impossible to hide.

Another reason Facebook would almost certainly never even consider doing this is it’s illegal to collect audio recordings of people.

Do You VPN?

People that simply don’t trust Zuck or Facebook can use a VPN to mask their location, IP address, etc. Read about LetMeBy’s top VPN picks to learn more.

A Reality Check

The truth is there are much more efficient and effective ways to gather data about users than harvesting audio.

Facebook has a complex algorithm that considers the information you post or input when determining which ads to show you.

It can be so stunningly accurate in determining what products or services you’re interested in you’d swear they must be listening to you. However, what really happened is the algorithm made an educated guess and managed to hit the bullseye.

There are valid reasons not to trust Facebook due to lack of privacy but spying on your conversations is not one based on the evidence.

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.

Clever Hacks to Get YouTube TV in Canada

YouTube TV launched in the U.S. in 2017. There’s been speculation that they would expand outside of the U.S. and offer their streaming service to Canadians along with others like Hulu. However, YouTube TV hasn’t made an official announcement about this.

So, Canadians that are tired of hoping and waiting may want to grab the bull by the horns. Yes, you can get access to YouTube TV in Canada today! All you need to do is jump through some hoops before signing up and follow the tech savvy steps in this guide.

Is It Worth the Effort?

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and CBS All Access are available in Canada. Thus, one might wonder if getting YouTube TV in Canada is really worth it.

For those who want a comprehensive replacement for cable TV, it is. This a great opportunity to get sports, news, and special interest programming you don’t have access to on Netflix.

Channels on YouTube TV

Google has obtained deals with the five major TV networks in the U.S.: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and The CW. About 40 cable channels owned by the parent companies of those networks are all onboard. This includes content from The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal, Brave, USA Network, Discovery, CNN, Cartoon Network, Fox Sports 1, BBC, ESPN and more.

Like traditional cable TV, it’s also possible to add additional premium channels. Some of these channels include AMC Premiere, Showtime, and NBA League Pass.

How to Gain Access to YouTube TV in Canada

YouTube TV has a variety of methods to verify if the user is based in the U.S. Therefore, to pass these checks and successfully get a YouTube TV account, you need to ensure their site can’t tell you’re based in Canada.

1. VPN Location Magic

First, you’ll need a VPN. By using a VPN, you can access the web with an IP address associated with a physical location in the U.S.

To do that, sign up with a VPN provider, and choose a plan. These services are very inexpensive these days. And typically, if you’re willing to commit to a plan for a year or more, you can save quite a bit.

Recommended VPNs are listed below. For more details, read full reviews of the top 3 VPN services here.

2. Get a U.S. PayPal Account

If you use a Canadian credit card, you’re rolling the dice. You may be able to rig YouTube TV’s payment system to accept it, but that doesn’t work with every credit card provider.

The most reliable method is to set up a U.S. PayPal account.

To ensure success, be sure to follow these tips:

  1. Before you do anything, enable your VPN. And make sure the service has assigned you with a U.S. IP address. This will give you access to the U.S. version of PayPal.
  2. Use a valid email that isn’t already associated with a PayPal account.
  3. When signing up, put in your real street address and credit card info, as you normally would.
  4. You’ll need to choose a zip code and find the U.S. city that is associated with it. The full process is below.

Your Canadian postal code needs to converted to a zip code. To do this, remove all the letters from it. For example, a postal code of M4B 1G7 is changed to 417. Next, to make it valid, add zeros to the end so it’s five digits. So, your new zip code should look something like this: 41700.

Keep in mind the zip code you got from the above process must be real for it to work. To verify if it’s valid, go to the USPS website and enter it. If it’s invalid, replace one of the zeros with a one. That should do the trick.

Finally, enter the U.S. city from the address found in the USPS link, along with your real street address. Now you should be able to complete the PayPal sign-up process.

3. Create a U.S. Gmail Account

This part is really simple!

  • Go to Gmail.com and click on the option to get a new account.
  • Make sure that you select the United States as your location.
  • Validate your account with your mobile phone number.

4. Change Your Location in Chrome

Although you’re now using a VPN to hide your location, Chrome can still spill the beans and reveal that you’re actually based on Canada.

The final step in hiding your whereabouts is editing the settings in Chrome’s location services.

Important: you’ll need to repeat these steps every time you launch your browser

  • Launch Google Chrome
  • Press ‘Ctrl,’ ‘Shift,’ ‘I’ to open Chrome’s backend framework on a PC. Mac users will want to hit ‘Command,’ ‘Option’ and ‘I.”
  • Click the icon made up of three little dots in the top corner of the new panel that just launched. Go to ‘More Tools,’ and then select ‘Sensors.’
  • You’ll now see an option called ‘Geolocation’ with a dropdown menu next to it. Select a location in the U.S. such as ‘San Francisco’ or ‘Mountain View.’
  • Great, now Chrome will think that you’re in the U.S.

5. Access Your YouTube TV Account

Whew, you’re nearly there. All you need to do is test that everything worked.

  • Go to the YouTube TV website.
  • Sign in with your U.S. Gmail account.
  • Choose to pay for the service with PayPal, then sign in the PayPal account you just created.
  • If all is good you should see a $1 charge and refund in your PayPal account (this is part of the validation process).

You Did It!

Congrats! You now have YouTube TV, just like the fortunate folks in the States.

As the process is pretty involved this guide is intended for PC and Mac users.

If you’re even more ambitious and tech savvy you can also get YouTube TV to work on Google Cast, Android, iOS, and Apple TV. To learn more about support for these platforms check out the guide on MobileSyrup (and scroll to the bottom of the article).