Tag Archives: privacy

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.

You Can Hide Your IP on Steam… But Is It Safe?

There are many reasons to desire greater anonymity when playing your favorite games on Steam. You may want to hide your personal info from malicious gamers, hackers, or conceal your activity from your ISP (Internet Service Provider).

The issue is that hiding your IP on Steam can be done for both valid and rule-breaking purposes. So, it’s best to proceed with caution and read their updated terms of services. In short, there are actions you can take while your IP is hidden that are fine, while other actions can violate their terms.

For example, changing your location with a VPN service to get access to pricing and deals only available in other countries is not allowed.

Why Use a VPN with Steam?

These are the reasons to use a VPN, whether there are risks or not:

  1. To experience greater privacy in-game and with Steam’s social features
  2. To get access to better deals via another countries’ store
  3. Block geo-restrictions on gaming content

Safe to Use a VPN with Caveats

A Reddit user asked Steam support if it’s okay to use a VPN with Steam in general. It turns out it’s fine, but you have to remain very conscious of what you do while it’s on.

Here’s their official answer:

Hello,

Playing games or operating Steam while using a VPN is not strictly prohibited.

However, it may affect gameplay and the Steam client itself.

A Steam account will only be restricted for actions that violate the Steam Subscriber Agreement or Steam Online Conduct Rules, so please keep in mind that purchasing games while your VPN is active is a violation of our Terms of Service.

If you have any further questions, please let us know – we will be happy to assist you.

Changing Your Geographic Location on Steam

If you’ve examined the risks and still want to change your country on Steam to access a different country’s store, here’s how you do it.

  1. Enable your VPN from a trusted provider.
  2. After launching the Steam app and logging in, click on your avatar or profile name.
  3. Select ‘Account Details’ from the dropdown menu.
  4. Click the link that reads “Update Store Country.”
  5. Confirm that you want to change your country, then enter a new mailing address. The new address should match the billing address for the payment method you’re using. You don’t need to worry about your billing address being the same if you use Steam Wallet or a gift card.

Warning: Changing your address too frequently can put your account in a temporary cooldown period. This will prevent you from changing your country again until the period ends.

Conclusion

If you use choose to use a VPN with Steam, it’s vital to carefully consider how it affects all your actions on the platform.

Using a VPN to circumvent Valve’s rules and policies is risky. As is forgetfulness, as you’ll need to take special note of whether your VPN is enabled or not when accessing content or making purchases.

If protecting your privacy is the goal, it should be worth the few extra steps and precautions.

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.