Streisand & Peter

The real tech nerd builds their own VPN. Although, I admit, I’m not quite the nerd I once was. Five years ago I used Streisand scripts on a Linux server hosted in AWS, so I could work remotely while appearing to be elsewhere; combined with a Skype number with a local area code, only my manager really knew where I was at any given time. Today, though, I’ve opted for the simplicity of Outline hosted on a DigitalOcean droplet.

True, I could just use a commercial VPN service, but where would be the fun in that? In any case, I’ll only need this for a few weeks, then I’ll revert to form. I’m not really sold on the bold marketing claims of commercial VPN providers, which lead many less tech-savvy users to buy into expensive subscriptions for general day-to-day internet use. For accessing geo-blocked content or obscuring your identity, I get the point of ordinary private individuals using VPN, but most other privacy claims are spurious, in my opinion.

Anyone using VPN for malicious or malevolent purposes, or generally to get up to no good, is going to be lulled into a false sense of security. Despite having access to only very limited site usage stats on this blog — nothing more than number of views, visitors and their country of origin — it doesn’t take a lot to work out who is probably using VPN. If these are the educated assumptions of an amateur sleuth, even without access to IP addresses, imagine what a digital forensics expert would discover with the tools at their disposal.

The biggest threat to your safety and the security of your data online is you. All those grand claims you hear in the sponsorship message at the start of every YouTube video; yes, it’s mostly bunkum. Your best first line of defence against malware, hackers and privacy intrusion is common sense, bolstered by a healthy dose of scepticism. Don’t click on the unexpected link in your spam folder. Don’t visit that dodgy website. Don’t believe everything you read or hear.

Why am I using a VPN then? Simply to ensure uninterrupted access to services I need to use when abroad, and as a work around for those unfortunate occasions I lock my own IP address out of the websites I manage. As, I say, I’m not quite the tech nerd I once was, growing more and more incompetent by the day. Less the Streisand effect and more the Peter principle.

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