How to set up a VPN

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, September 7, 2015

A VPN is a virtual version of a secure, physical network—a web of computers linked together to share files.

A VPN is a virtual version of a secure, physical network—a web of computers linked together to share filesBut VPNs connect to the outside world over the Internet, and they can serve to secure general Internet traffic in addition to corporate assets. In fact, the lion’s share of modern VPNs are encrypted, so computers, devices, and other networks that connect to them do so via encrypted tunnels.

You have at least four reasons to start using a VPN.

First, you can use it to connect securely to a remote network via the Internet. Most companies maintain VPNs so that employees can access files, applications, printers, and other resources on the office network without compromising security, but you can also set up your own VPN to safely access your secure home network while you’re on the road.

Second, VPNs are particularly useful for connecting multiple networks together securely. For this reason, most businesses big and small rely on a VPN to share servers and other networked resources among multiple offices or stores across the globe. Even if you don’t have a chain of offices to worry about, you can use the same trick to connect multiple home networks or other networks for personal use.

Third, if you’re concerned about your online privacy, connecting to an encrypted VPN while you’re on a public or untrusted network—such as a Wi-Fi hotspot in a hotel or coffee shop—is a smart, simple security practice. Because the VPN encrypts your Internet traffic, it helps to stymie other people who may be trying to snoop on your browsing via Wi-Fi to capture your passwords.

Fourth and one of the best reasons to use a VPN is to circumvent regional restrictions—known as geoblocking—on certain websites. Journalists and political dissidents use VPNs to get around state-sponsored censorship all the time, but you can also use a VPN for recreational purposes, such as connecting to a British VPN to watch the BBC iPlayer outside the UK. Because your Internet traffic routes through the VPN, it looks as if you’re just another British visitor.

When choosing a networking protocol for your VPN, here’s a quick rundown, including the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the least secure VPN method, but it’s a great starting point for your first VPN because almost every operating system supports it, including Windows, Mac OS, and even mobile OSs.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) are more secure than PPTP and are almost as widely supported, but they are also more complicated to set up and are susceptible to the same connection issues as PPTP is.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN systems provide the same level of security that you trust when you log on to banking sites and other sensitive domains. Most SSL VPNs are referred to as “clientless,” since you don’t need to be running a dedicated VPN client to connect to one of them. They’re my favorite kind of VPN because the connection happens via a Web browser and thus is easier and more reliable to use than PPTP, L2TP, or IPsec.

An SSL VPN server is designed to be accessed via Web browser and creates encrypted channels so that you can safely access the server from anywhere.

OpenVPN is exactly what it sounds like: an open-source VPN system that’s based on SSL code. It’s free and secure, and it doesn’t suffer from connection issues, but using OpenVPN does require you to install a client since Windows, Mac OS X, and mobile devices don’t natively support it.

In short: When in doubt, try to use SSL or OpenVPN. Keep in mind that some of the services highlighted in the next section don’t use these protocols. Instead, they use their own proprietary VPN technology.

How to create and connect to your own VPN.

If you want simple remote access to a single computer, consider using the VPN software built into Windows. If you’d like to network multiple computers together quickly through a VPN, consider installing stand-alone VPN server software.

If you need a more reliable and robust arrangement (one that also supports site-to-site connections), consider using a dedicated VPN router. And if you just want to use a VPN to secure your Internet traffic while you’re on public Wi-Fi hotspots and other untrusted networks—or to access regionally restricted sites—consider subscribing to a third-party hosted VPN provider.

Set up a simple VPN with Windows

Windows comes loaded with a VPN client that supports the PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. The setup process is simple: If you’re using Windows 8, just bring up the Search charm, type VPN, and then launch the VPN wizard by clicking Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

You can use this client to connect securely to other Windows computers or to other VPN servers that support the PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols—you just need to provide the IP address or domain name of the VPN server to which you want to connect. If you’re connecting to a corporate or commercial VPN, you can contact the administrator to learn the proper IP address. If you’re running your own VPN server via Windows, you can figure out the server’s IP address by typing CMD in the Search charm, launching the Command Prompt, and typing ipconfig.

This simple trick comes in handy when you’re setting up your Windows PC as a VPN server, and then connecting to it so that you can securely, remotely access your files from anywhere.

Windows has a built-in VPN client, but you’ll need to provide the connection information (namely, the IP address) for the VPN server you want to use.

Quick note: When setting up incoming PPTP VPN connections in Windows, you must configure your network router to forward VPN traffic to the Windows computer you want to access remotely. You can do this by logging in to the router’s control panel—consult the manufacturer’s instructions on how to do this—and configuring the port-forwarding or virtual-server settings to forward port 1723 to the IP address of the computer you wish to access. In addition, PPTP or VPN pass-through options need to be enabled in the firewall settings, but usually they’re switched on by default.

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BBC iPlayer watched by more than 60m outside the UK for free

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, August 25, 2015

More than 60 million people are watching the BBC iPlayer for free outside of the UK by masking their location.

More than 60 million people are watching the BBC iPlayer for free outside of the UK by masking their locationAnalysts estimate 65 million people regularly access the BBC catch-up TV service using virtual private networks (VPNs) or proxy servers.

In China alone that figure is thought to be around 38.5 million.

The iPlayer is meant for UK TV viewers only and is funded by the licence fee as a global iPlayer was closed last month.

The report from GlobalWebIndex said that despite VPNs being thought of as “fairly niche tools which are the preserve of the tech-savviest individuals”, around 25% of internet users worldwide now use them, primarily to access better entertainment content.

The research company surveyed more than 45,000 internet users across 34 countries, including China, the US, France, Germany, Ireland, India and Brazil.

It found that while the iPlayer is “geo-restricted to be viewable only by people resident in the country”, the BBC service does in fact have “a huge global audience”.

“The implications for iPlayer are stark,” said Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex, writing in the report.

“However, rather than seeing this as a threat, there’s much good news here for the BBC.”

The report highlighted that 75% of the 65 million already pay for subscription services like Netflix or Hulu, so there was “clear potential” for the BBC to create “new revenue streams”.

“If even a relatively small proportion users could be converted into paid users, the additional revenue it could create for the BBC would be significant.”

A global iPlayer subscription service, which allowed viewers in Europe, Australia and Canada to watch programmes like Doctor Who, was shut down last month.

GlobalWebIndex also found the domestic iPlayer to be the most popular on-demand service in the UK by far – with 45% of internet users aged 16-64 accessing it in the past month, and just 4% being unaware of the service.

Netflix is the second most popular service, attracting 24% of web users.

The BBC’s most recent iPlayer figures revealed there were 222 million requests for TV programmes in May, with Peter Kay’s Car Share the most popular show.

The GlobalWebIndex figures would suggest that 29% of these requests may have come from TV viewers outside of the UK.

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Cars can be hacked using digital radio broadcasts

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Saturday, August 15, 2015

Several car infotainment systems are vulnerable to a hacking that could potentially put lives at risk.

Several car infotainment systems are vulnerable to a hack attack that could potentially put lives at riskCar infotainment systems can allow drivers to see vehicle status updates, play music and videos, view maps and in some cases run third-party apps, but NCC Group said the exploit could be used to seize control of a vehicle’s brakes and other critical systems.

The Manchester based company said that it had found a way to carry out the attacks by sending data via digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio signals.

It coincides with news of a similar flaw discovered by two US researchers.

Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller showed Wired magazine that they could take control of a Jeep Cherokee car by sending data to its internet-connected entertainment and navigation system via a mobile-phone network.

Chrysler has released a patch to address the problem.

However, NCC’s work – which has been restricted to its labs – points to a wider problem.

NCC Group was able to transmit the DAB signal using a laptop and a box made from easy-to-source parts. NCC demonstrated part of its technique to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme at its offices in Cheltenham.

By using relatively cheap off-the-shelf components connected to a laptop, the company’s research director, Andy Davis, created a DAB station.

Because infotainment systems processed DAB data to display text and pictures on car dashboard screens, he said, an attacker could send code that would let them take over the system.

Once an infotainment system had been compromised, he said, an attacker could potentially use it as a way to control more critical systems, including steering and braking.

Depending on the power of the transmitter, he said, a DAB broadcast could allow attackers to affect many cars at once.

“As this is a broadcast medium, if you had a vulnerability within a certain infotainment system in a certain manufacturer’s vehicle, by sending one stream of data, you could attack many cars simultaneously,” he said.

“An attacker would probably choose a common radio station to broadcast over the top of to make sure they reached the maximum number of target vehicles.”

Mr Davis declined to publicly identify which specific infotainment systems he had hacked, at this point.

In many ways, modern cars are computer networks on wheels.

Mike Parris, of SBD, another company that specialises in vehicle security, said modern cars typically contained 50 interlinked computers running more than 50 million lines of code.  By contrast, he said, a modern airliner “has around 14 million lines of code”.

Such technology allows the latest cars to carry out automatic manoeuvres. For example, a driver can make their vehicle parallel park at the touch of a button.

Mr Davis said he had simulated his DAB-based attack only on equipment in his company’s buildings because it would be illegal and unsafe to do so in the outside world.

But he added that he had previously compromised a real vehicle’s automatic-braking system – designed to prevent it crashing into the car in front – by modifying an infotainment system, and he believed this could be replicated via a DAB broadcast.

“If someone were able to compromise the infotainment system, because of the architecture of its vehicle network, they would in some cases be able to disable the automatic braking functionality,” he said.

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Apple posts record third quarter as iPhone sales surge

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Apple has reported another jump in profits as demand for iPhones has soared.

Apple has reported another jump in profits as demand for iPhones has soaredThe technology company sold 47.5 million iPhones in the quarter to 27 June, up 35% on a year ago, with Mac computer sales up 9% to 4.8 million.

Profits rose 38% to £6.87 billion, while revenue was up 33% to £33.1 billion.

The third quarter is typically the slowest for iPhone sales because many customers put off buying new phones, on the expectation of a new model.

Despite the strong results, shares fell 6.7%, or $8.85, to $121.89 in after-market trading in New York.

Analysts blamed the fall on disappointment about the company’s revenue forecasts for the fourth quarter, which were slightly lower than expected, as well as the firm’s profits being too heavily dependent on the iPhone.

Apple is forecasting revenue to be between £32.5 billion and £34 billion in the fourth quarter.

Demand for its iPad tablets remained weak, with Apple selling 10.9 million, down 18% from a year earlier.

But Mr Cook also said the Apple Watch had had a “great start”, in the first indication of how well the company’s first piece of wearable technology was selling.

The Apple boss said last autumn that he did not want to reveal detailed figures for the watch, which went on sale on 24 April, to avoid giving competitors inside information.

But Apple said that revenue from “other products”, which includes the watch as well as products such as the iPod and its Beats headphones, came to £1.75 billion – about £635 million higher than the previous quarter.

Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said that revenue from the watch amounted to “well over'” that £635 million increase.

Sales of the watch in the first nine weeks had exceeded those of both the iPhone and iPad after they were first launched, he added.

And Apple said its gross margin – the difference between the amount it spends on making the products versus how much consumers pay – was 39.7%, up slightly on a year ago.

Apple also continued to do well in the China market – defined by Apple as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Sales doubled year-on-year and accounted for more than a quarter of the company’s total third-quarter sales.

The jump should help to reassure investors that demand in China remains robust despite fears the market is close to saturation point.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which smashed iPhone sales records when they were launched last year, are now 10 months old.

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Enigma machine auction sold for £150K

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Enigma coding machine which sold at an auction was boosted by a bidding war.

Enigma machine auction sold for £150KOne of the few remaining Enigma coding machines has been sold at auction for more than double its estimated price- which Sotheby’s had estimated would sell for between £50,000 and £70,000.

A Sotheby’s spokesman said a telephone bidding war between two unnamed parties had resulted in the Nazis’ cipher creator going for £149,000.

That is not, however, a record. Bonham’s sold another example of the three rotor device for £172,350 in April.

The Oscar winning film The Imitation Game probably helped inflate the sums. The 2014 film recounted the British scientist Alan Turing’s successful effort to break the codes generated by the boxes.

The Enigma machines had 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible settings, leading the Nazis to believe it was uncrackable.

However, Turing was able to develop another machine – the Bombe – building on the work of Polish cryptanalysts.

This was capable of cracking 84,000 Enigma messages a month, the equivalent of two every minute.

Although it has been estimated that the Germans built about 100,000 Engimas – including five different mainstream versions – most were destroyed by the Nazis as they retreated, not knowing that their system had been compromised.

The seller of the Service Enigma Machine (Enigma I) sold at Sotheby’s was a European museum, but its identity has not been disclosed.

The Enigma’s Bakelite thumbwheels may have elevated its selling price. Both Sotheby’s and Bonham’s models featured thumbwheels made of bakelite – an early plastic – rather than metal.

The Nazis switched to bakelite towards the end of World War Two because their metal supplies had become diminished.

The fact that surviving models featuring the substance are particularly rare will have contributed to their high selling prices.

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Yahoo boss hails great progress- despite loss

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer says the company has made “great progress” despite reporting a loss for the second quarter.

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer says the company has made great progress despite reporting a loss for the second quarterThe search and advertising firm reported a net loss of £14.4 million in the quarter to 30 June, but said revenue rose 15% to £693 million.

In the same period a year ago, it reported a profit of £179 million.

“Yahoo’s transformation continues to make great progress,” said Ms Mayer.

The company’s boss, who has been at the helm for three years, has been steering it away from advertising tailored to desktop computers towards mobile and video adverts to increase sales.

Revenue from the division that includes mobile, video, native and social advertising was up 60% in the second quarter to nearly £250 million.

Yahoo has also developed a mobile search engine called Gemini that she said could deliver “a better, more intuitive experience”.

“Mobile has fundamentally changed the search landscape,” Ms Mayer said.

Total revenue after deducting fees paid to partner websites was flat at £693 million.

Search revenue rose 22%, while revenue from display ads was up by 15%.

Shares fell 1.6% in after-hours trading in New York to $39.10. The stock is down more than a fifth this year.

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Microsoft reports a loss

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Microsoft has reported a loss for their fourth quarter.

Microsoft reports a lossMicrosoft has reported a £2.21 billion net loss for the three months to 30 June after posting £5.6 billion of writedowns.

Earlier this month the company announced a £5 billion charge to write down the value of its Nokia mobile phone business.

Revenue fell 5% to £15.2 billion amid weak demand for its Windows operating system.

Microsoft posted a net profit of £3.06 billion for the same period in 2014.

Amy Hood, chief financial officer, said the company ended its financial year with “solid progress against our strategic priorities”.

Satya Nadella, chief executive, said: “Our approach to investing in areas where we have differentiation and opportunity is paying off with Surface, Xbox, Bing, Office 365, Azure and Dynamics CRM Online all growing by at least double-digits. The upcoming release of Windows 10 will create new opportunities for Microsoft and our ecosystem.”

Net profit for the full year more than halved to £8.13 billion, but revenue sales rose £4.46 billion to £62.3 billion.

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Amazon- what is it’s goal?

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, July 20, 2015

Amazon twenty years ago sold its first book creating one of the first online book stores.

Amazon- what is it's goal?Amazon is certainly an internet superpower, but it is most definitely not “hugely profitable”.

Its story is one of a brazen contempt for what you might regard as the first rule of capitalism – the duty of a public company to maximise profits for its shareholders. Throughout its history, Amazon has seen its revenues climb inexorably while its profits hover around or below zero.

Last year its revenues hit £56 billion , but it made a loss of £153 million. By way of comparison, Tesco’s revenues in 2014 were £71 billion, on which it made a profit of £2.6 billion – though this year it recorded a huge loss after writing down the value of its property.

However, the stock market thinks Amazon is worth roughly eight Tescos.

It is not that Amazon has not made money – from selling books, then all sorts of other goods, then acting as a platform for all kinds of other businesses to sell their products.

It is just that it has relentlessly ploughed that cash back into capital expenditure- mostly aimed at improving the delivery infrastructure at the heart of its business.

That means that it has been able to satisfy consumer desires ever more quickly. There is now even an Amazon button you can press every time you run out of household staples and then get them delivered without going near a computer or phone.

Better, faster service means shoppers gravitate to Amazon in whichever market it enters, generating more revenue which can in turn be ploughed into new conquests rather than returned to shareholders.

In recent years, more of that cash has gone into a whole new business, Amazon’s cloud computing service AWS. It is now generating substantial revenues – and to the surprise of many, turns out to be profitable, though again the surplus is likely to be directed towards further growth.

Investors now seem to accept this constant diet of jam tomorrow, which somehow never arrives.

But in his company’s first decade, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos had to defy the market, refusing to change course when the word on Wall Street was that the business was heading for bankruptcy.

He must now rank alongside the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, not just in longevity but in a steely determination to pursue his vision, no matter what critics or the conventional wisdom may say.

The man with a braying laugh which threatens to shatter glasses has more easygoing charm than many of his peers in the technology world, but he does not seem to mind making enemies.

In recent years, those have included British bookshops and taxpayers. Last year Amazon paid just £11.9 million in tax while booking £5.3 billion in revenue from the UK through its Luxembourg subsidiary.

But despite talk of consumer boycotts the competition regulators seem quiet – indeed Amazon was the big winner when the US found Apple and publishers had conspired to push up digital book prices.

Jeff Bezos’s original vision – the Everything Store as it was described in a history of the firm – has been realised in spades. It is hard to imagine that Amazon will not be a force in our lives 20 years from now – and who knows, it may even be making big profits and paying lots of tax.

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Mozilla blocks Flash by default on Firefox browser

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Adobe’s Flash is being blocked by default on the Firefox web browser.

Mozilla blocks Flash by default on Firefox browserMozilla which develops Firefox, imposed the block because recently unearthed bugs in Flash were being actively used by cyber-thieves.

The bugs were detailed in a cache of documents stolen from security firm Hacking Team that was hit by attackers last week.

Adobe said it took Flash’s security “seriously” and was planning bug fixes. Flash is widely used on many websites for both multimedia and interactive elements.

On its support pages, Mozilla said the block would remain until “Adobe releases an updated version to address known critical security issues”.

Attackers were known to use vulnerabilities in Flash to install malicious software on computers and steal data, it added.

The vulnerabilities in the documents stolen from Hacking Team have been quickly added to so-called exploit kits which are used by many thieves when they craft

Mozilla also gave advice about how to adjust Firefox’s settings so Flash would only run with the permission of a browser’s user rather than all the time.

Mozilla said users should only activate Flash on sites they trust. To check your seetings in Firefox- go to :
Tools-> Add-Ons-> Shockwave Flash and check your setttings.

Firefox is the third most popular desktop browsing program, according to figures gathered by analysis firms that monitor browser market share.

The block comes soon after Facebook’s newly appointed security chief Alex Stamos publicly called for Adobe to kill off Flash.

“It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day,” he said in a tweet.

In a later message he said Adobe setting a date would help everyone plan and prepare for the day it no longer worked.

Flash, and other Adobe products, regularly feature among the top 10 applications favoured by criminals keen to compromise computers and steal saleable data because they are used on so many devices.

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Google reprots increased sales and profits

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Google’s has reported that it’s profits rose 17% to £2.62 billion.

Google's has reported that it's profits rose 17% to £2.62 billionGoogle also announced that in the three months to June from the quarter last year- it’s profits were boosted by an 11% rise in revenues to £11.8 billion.

The search company’s all-important golden goose AdWords advertising revenue was also up 11%, to £10.7 billion.

In a statement Google’s finance chief Ruth Porat highlighted ad growth on mobile and YouTube.

Google’s shares jumped 7.5% in after market trading as traders welcomed the better than expected results.

The share price had already risen 3.5% during normal trading hours.

Advertisers pay Google only if a user clicks on one of their ads. “Cost per click”, or the average price of online ads, fell in the quarter, but was more than offset by the increase in ad volumes.

Google’s ad revenue has been under pressure as consumers access its services on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, whose advertising rates tend to be lower.

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