Gmail in Qatar
What would your gmail look like in Qatar? How about this?
From that screen capture you can tell that I was either checking my email during a camel race in the UAE or I have proxied my internet connection to servers in the middle east. As I don't have an airline ticket stubs from Qatar Airways you can be sure this was accomplished with my computer. I'm a obviously using a vpn to hide my ip address and you can too. You may or may not know what a vpn is. If you don't, I'm happy to share. If you do and think you just don't need one I'll give you some reasons to reconsider.
Do you know your ip address? You can see it at cmyip.com. There are other sites like but this is just my favorite one. You should go there and check it out. You'll see the information that your service provider shares. Here is an example.
You can see from this that I'm in Edison, New Jersey. You might feel like you have some privacy on the internet, but you don't. At best you share everything you look at with your internet provider and they are likely going to do whatever they want with that information. This is all in the fine print when you sign up for internet service.
What is a VPN
In a nutshell, a vpn is a proxy service that hides and falsifies your origin. It also encrypts the payload of the packets you send over the internet. Typically when you request a webpage from your browser your isp (internet service provider) maps your request to the the target and returns you the requested contents. A vpn service acts as a middle man in that transaction. Your request is encrypted by agent software on your computer and sent to the the vpn server first to hide your origin. Earlier I showed my ip address from cmyip.com. Using a vpn I can appear as I'm in England. Without too much effort I can appear to be in China, Australia or Malaysia.
Yeah, but I Don't Need That
Many people know about vpns and still don't use them. Typically, they do have a small fee, but that fee is typically about $30/year. It's pretty worth it. It might be more worth it for you depending who you are and what your business is though. If you use public wifi your information is trivially exposed. This is all in the fine print when you click "ok" to join their network. You should care more if you frequently use wifi. It's not uncommon for people to use packet sniffers like firesheep for session hijacking and theft of passwords and financial data. These threats are real and happen everyday. Another case where you might consider using a vpn is if you travel a lot. When you travel you might end up on airport or hotel wifi. Hotels typically link you credit card to your room number and all of that information is potentially accessible. Lastly, you should just consider vpn for your privacy. People are constantly hunting for your data and spending habits. A vpn will hide this data and you won't be bombarded with similar ads for things you have recently bought.
How to Get Started
It's pretty simple to get started with a vpn. All you need to do is select a provider and download their software. NordVpn is a good example. It allows the software on 6 devices at a time and gives a discount for a six month purchase. There are several companies like this and for the most part they are pretty similar. You'll see Nord runs on Linux and Windows and has a mobile app that is drop dead simple to use. Having their mobile app gives you all the wifi protection that we discussed earlier. You might even find that some services run faster over the vpn because the internet provider is throttling you. In fact you can see here that Cities in Korea, Japan, Switzerland, France, and even Romania have internet fast enough to download an entire high-def movie in just seven seconds. There is a lot more to say about the business practices of cable an internet providers in America, but I'll leave it to you to do you own digging.