Archive for the ‘VPN’ Category

U.S. Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed From China App Store

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Two U.S. senators have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China (via CNBC). Reports that Apple had pulled the VPN apps first arrived in July, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

In the open letter dated October 17, Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Cruz write that China has an "abysmal" human rights record when it comes to freedom of expression and free access to online and offline information, and say they are "concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the internet".

Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas, left) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
"While Apple's many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the internet privately does not enable people in China to 'speak up'."

"To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China's new regulations targeting online anonymity."
The senators go on to note that Cook was awarded the free speech award at Newseum's 2017 Free Expression Awards, where he said: "First we defend, we work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And second, we do it by speaking up ourselves."

In the bipartisan request, the senators then ask Cook to explain Apple's actions by answering a list of questions, including whether Apple was personally asked to remove the VPN apps by Chinese officials, and if the company expressed its concerns to the Chinese authorities before the country's anti-freedom laws were enacted.

In addition, the senators question what Apple has done to promote free speech in China and whether it has pushed for human rights and better treatment of oppressed groups in the country.

During an earnings call, Cook spoke about his decision to remove the VPN apps. "We would rather not remove apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law where we do business." Cook went on to say that he hopes China will ease up on the restrictions over time.

Apple has yet to respond to the letter.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store As Russia Signs Law Banning Their Use

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Russia has banned VPNs and other software that enables users to gain anonymous access to websites. The new law was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday and will come into effect on November 1st (via TechCrunch).

Leonid Levin, chairman of the Duma's committee on information policy and technology, was quoted by state-run media as saying that the new law is not targeted at "introducing new bans for law-abiding citizens" but aims to prohibit access to illegal content.

However, privacy advocates see the law as another way for the Russian government to restrict access to political content that it disagrees with. In 2015, it became mandatory for all user data from Russian citizens to be stored in Russian-based servers, and last year another law was passed making it necessary for internet service providers to retain traffic data for up to a year.

Recently the government also threatened to block access to the Telegram encrypted messaging platform unless the company that runs the app provides more information about itself.

Elsewhere, virtual private networks took another blow over the weekend, as reports emerged that Apple has removed the majority of VPN apps from the App Store in China, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

The action was first revealed by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China. The company said in a blog post that "all major VPN apps" including its own had been removed from the App Store.
"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties," ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.
The company shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed because "it includes content that is illegal in China". A few hours later, Apple issued a statement to TechCrunch explaining its decision to pull the apps from the App Store:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
Earlier this month, China reportedly started blocking some features of the WhatsApp messaging service, as authorities continued to tighten controls over the country's internet.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Russia, VPN

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Swiss Encrypted Email Provider Launches ProtonVPN With Free Subscription Tier

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Encrypted email provider ProtonMail today launched its own VPN service called ProtonVPN, which includes a free user tier in its pricing plan.

The Swiss-based company said it had been testing its VPN service for four months with the help of over 10,000 members of the ProtonMail community, and the group was ready to make ProtonVPN available to everyone starting Tuesday.


The Proton group said they were motivated to create ProtonVPN to combat increased threats to online freedom, such as the recent repeal of Obama-era rules designed to protect consumer internet browsing history, calls by British Prime Minister Theresa May for increased online surveillance, and the attempts by the US FCC to dismantle net neutrality.
"In the past year, we have seen more and more challenges against Internet freedom," said ProtonMail Co-Founder Dr. Andy Yen, "now more than ever, we need robust tools for defending privacy, security, and freedom online.

"The best way to ensure that encryption and privacy rights are not encroached upon is to get the tools into the hands of the public as soon as possible and widely distributing them," said Yen. "This is why, as with ProtonMail, we're committed to making a free version of ProtonVPN available to the world."
The group says it has worked to make the best possible VPN service by addressing many of the common pitfalls with existing VPNs. Features therefore include a Secure Core architecture that routes traffic through multiple encrypted tunnels in multiple countries to better defend against network based attacks, no logs, as well as seamless integration with the Tor anonymity network. Headquartered in Switzerland, the VPN is also outside of E.U. and U.S. jurisdiction and is not a member of the fourteen eyes surveillance network.

The free tier includes servers in three countries and usage on one device, but bandwidth speeds cannot be guaranteed. The Basic tier costs $4 a month (billed as $48 a year) and includes access to all ProtonVPN servers, high speed bandwidth, and usage on up to two devices, while the Plus tier ($8 per month/$96 per year) offers the highest bandwidth, connection on up to 5 devices, Tor servers, and Secure Core access. The Highest tier ($24 a month/$288 a year) includes a ProtonMail Visionary account.

ProtonMail began crowdfunding in May 2014 and launched in March 2016, led by a group of scientists from CERN and MIT who aimed to deliver an easy-to-use end-to-end encrypted email service with freely available open source code. Earlier this year, the team launched a Tor-based site to make ProtonMail available to users in regions under the oppression of strict state online censorship.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Opera Desktop Browser for Mac Officially Launches With Built-In VPN

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Norway-based company Opera Software has brought its VPN feature to the masses with the release of Opera 40 desktop browser for Mac.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel from the user's computer to the VPN server, which hides browsing activity from other users on the local network and enhances security and privacy online. It shields a user's real IP address, allowing them to bypass firewalls, block tracking cookies, and access geo-restricted content regardless of their true location.

opera-vpn-press-image
"If people knew how the internet truly works, I believe they all would use a VPN," said Krystian Kolondra, SVP of Opera browser for desktops, in a blog post. "By making our browser VPN free and easy to use, we hope to make it an essential tool, just as the lock and key is to your house."
We know that people are concerned about their privacy online and that the interest for VPN is increasing. However, two major obstacles are blocking people from using it: VPNs are too complicated to use, and they require a monthly subscription. Opera resolves both issues by introducing its free and easy-to-use service right into the browser.
Opera's VPN supports AES-256 encryption and auto-selects the best server to route users' traffic through, based on speed, latency, and traffic congestion. Currently the service has server locations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands.

VPNs typically come in the form of separate plug-ins or client apps, making Opera one the first major browsers to include one as standard. The feature comes after the company's acquisition of U.S. VPN company SurfEasy last March. Opera has been testing the VPN in developer betas since April, and says that neither it nor SurfEasy logs any information about a user's browsing history.

Opera 40 also includes an automatic battery saving feature, Chromecast support, video pop-outs, a newsreader with RSS support, built-in ad-blocking, and an overhauled browser engine.

The Norwegian firm is on the verge of a $600 million deal with a Chinese consortium which will transfer ownership of its apps to a group that includes anti-virus company Qihoo 360.

Users can download Opera 40 browser from the company's website.


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