Why is VPN needed?
At Riseup, we believe it is important for everyone to use some technology like VPN or Tor to encrypt their internet traffic. Why? Because the internet is being broken by governments, internet service providers (ISPs), and corporations.
Around the world, governments are using the internet for social control, through both surveillance and censorship. Many countries, such as China, Iran, and the United States practice active surveillance of the social relationships of everyone and the European Union countries require all ISPs and website operators to record and retain personal data on your behavior. With three-strikes laws, many countries now deny citizens access to the internet if accused of file sharing. Some countries even forbid the use of new communication technologies, like Skype.
Internet service providers are breaking the internet too. They happily cooperate with government repression, they practice intrusive monitoring of your traffic through deep packet inspection, they track your DNS usage, and they get people thrown in jail, expelled from school, or banned from the internet, merely from the accusation of copyright infringement. Also, ISPs typically limit you to one internet address. If you want to share your internet connection with multiple devices, you must put all the devices on a local network. This works OK if you just want to browse the web, but makes life difficult if you want to take advantage of many applications.
Corporations have discovered how to make money from the internet: surveillance. By tracking your online habits, advertising companies build detailed profiles of your individual behavior in order to better sell you useless crap. Every single major internet ad company now uses behavioral tracking. Also, to comply with national copyright, many companies only make their services available to some internet users, those who reside in the ‘right’ country.
There are many ways that Riseup VPN can help:
- protect against ISP surveillance: Riseup VPN eliminates the ability of your ISP to monitor your communication. They have no meaningful records which can be used against you, either by marketers or the state.
- protect against corporate surveillance: Most commercial websites use multiple ad networks and traffic analysis services that track your behavior as you browse the web. These companies build detailed profiles of your behavior. The Riseup VPN blocks most of these tracking companies (however, we don’t block Facebook).
- bypass government censorship: Riseup VPN can entirely bypass all government censorship, so long as you still have access to the internet. Note, however, that careful analysis of your traffic could reveal that you are using a VPN, which may or may not be legal in your jurisdiction.
- actually be on the internet: Rather than share a single public IP with many devices, Riseup VPN allows each device to have its own public internet address (even if it is behind a firewall). This allows many applications to work much more effectively.
- use peer-to-peer technology: p2p technology has many important and decentralized uses, such as secure backups, guaranteeing public access to information, internet chat, affordable content delivery, etc. Despite this, some ISPs hinder p2p traffic. At some universities, simply using p2p is enough to get your internet cut off. The Riseup VPN bypasses these restrictions and, because you get your own IP, makes p2p applications work much better.
- access the entire internet, regardless of where you live: Riseup VPN allows you to pretend to live in any country where we have a VPN server. This gives you access to restricted content only available in those countries. Riseup VPN also allows you to use services that may be blocked in your country, like Skype.
- break free from a corporate firewall: So you work for an evil corporation and you try to waste as much time as possible surfing the web? Unfortunately, the corporate firewall probably prevents you from visiting many websites (riseup.net is on the list of banned sites for many corporate firewalls). Riseup VPN will let you entirely bypass these restrictions and gives you access to the whole web.
- secure your Wi-Fi connection: Any time you use a public Wi-Fi connection, everyone else using that access point can spy on your traffic. Riseup VPN will prevent this.
The Riseup VPN shares some limitations common to all personal VPNs:
- legal warning: If you live in an non-democratic state, it may be illegal to use a personal VPN to access the internet.
- location info: Using a VPN on your mobile device will secure your data connection, but the telephone company will still know your location by recording which towers your device communicates with.
- Device Security: A VPN helps secure your information while in transit on the internet, but it does not secure your information while in storage on your computer or on a remote server.
- An insecure connection is still insecure: Although Riseup VPN will anonymize your location and protect you from surveillance from your ISP, once your data is securely routed through riseup.net it will go out on the internet as it normally would. Therefore, you should still use secure connections (TLS) when available (ie https over http, imaps over imap, etc).
- VPNs are not a panacea: although VPNs accomplish a lot, they can’t fix everything. For example, it cannot increase your security if your computer is already compromised with viruses or spyware. If you give personal information to a website, there is little that a VPN can do to maintain your anonymity with that website or its partners. For more information, see VPN anonymity.
- The internet might get slower: the Riseup VPN routes all your traffic through an encrypted connection to riseup.net before it goes out onto the normal internet. This extra step can slow things down. To minimize the slowdown, try to choose a VPN server close to where you actually live.
- VPNs can be difficult to configure: Although we have taken steps to make it as easy as possible, any VPN introduces extra complexity to your networking setup.