In our last Securing Your Mac guide we covered Apple’s FileVault that provides full disk encryption since Mac OS X Panther (10.3). There’s plenty of advantages in using FileVault on your Mac — it keeps prying eyes from getting to your data if your laptop gets stolen and gives your some peace of mind while traveling as well. This time around we’re taking a look at securing your online data and traffic. Whether you’re trying to view TV shows online on Netflix that are region-locked or don’t want your ISP to see your traffic, a VPN has a host of advantages.
For those new to the topic, what is a VPN? Simply put, a VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection over the public internet so no one can monitor your traffic (if all things are done correctly). So for example if you visit What Is My IP Address? it’ll bring up a list of information such as your ISP (Comcast, AT&T, etc) along with a geographical location. Now if you were to revisit the website with a VPN enabled, your ISP and location would be totally different, meaning your traffic is encrypted and secure.
In covering VPNs, we had a chance to talk to David Lang and Arthur Baxter of ExpressVPN. While David covers the public relations, Arthur Baxter is their Network Operations Analyst and deals more with the technical side of things. That being said, they covered a lot of important points and awesome uses for a VPN.
Hey there, Arthur Baxter. Thanks for giving us a chance to interview you! Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do at ExpressVPN?
Thanks for having me. My title at ExpressVPN is Network Operations Analyst. It sounds fancy, but it basically means I’m in charge of reviewing current systems, offering recommendations regarding improvements, spec’ing system designs, and a few other tasks.
Everyone at ExpressVPN is wildly passionate about Internet Privacy. In fact, our company mission statement is: “Make it easy for everyone to use the Internet with security, privacy, and freedom.”
So let’s jump in, why do you think using a VPN is important, even to the average computer user?
We think everyone should have a VPN—regardless of your level of technical expertise. Even if you’re just using the Internet to check your email, read the news, and watch videos online, the added security alone on a public network or even at home makes it worth the price. When you add in the fact that you can actually get cheaper airline tickets and hotel deals based on your IP address, the VPN basically pays for itself.
Additionally, it’s become more apparent just how little governments around the world value the privacy of their citizens. Look at what’s happening in Australia, Turkey, Germany, and even the UK, and with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which virtually every privacy advocate has spoken out against. If people were more aware of how Orwellian the Internet is becoming, they’d be terrified.
Where do you guys stand on keeping logs and records of VPN usage and the like?
ExpressVPN NEVER keeps traffic logs, and we never keep any logs that might enable someone to match an IP and timestamp back to a user. We take privacy very seriously. That’s why we work entirely on the basis of shared IPs, meaning that a single IP does not trace back to an individual user.
Additionally, we run our own zero-knowledge, logless DNS which most VPN companies don’t have the capability of doing. That’s another benefit of going with a premium VPN company instead of some free, fly-by-night VPN that just popped up 6 months ago.
It’s well-known that governments can monitor your Internet traffic. How does a VPN stop governments from spying?
Most Internet service providers (ISPs) are legally required to allow government and law enforcement agencies to monitor your traffic, without your knowledge and consent.
A VPN encrypts the traffic between your computer and the server of the VPN service, which makes it impossible for your ISP to see what you are doing online. So your ISP can’t see what websites you’re visiting, who you’re chatting with, or the files you’re sharing. A good VPN will also mix your traffic with that of thousands of others, making it extremely challenging for even the most sophisticated organizations to invade your privacy.
Which do you recommend: connecting to VPN servers inside or outside of the US?
It doesn’t really matter if you’re browsing on a server in the US or in some other country, because a VPN always connects you to another IP address in the location of your choosing.
Which server you choose to connect to depends more on what kind of content you want to access. Choose a US server if you want to access content intended only for an audience in the United States, and choose a server in Australia if you want to surf like an Aussie.
How else do you suggest people stay safe on the Internet?
Ad blockers, along with, anti-tracking and site-securing extensions, go a long way in keeping people safe online. They’re easy to install and easy to use.
There are plenty of free browser extensions these days to help protect your privacy. We actually wrote a blog post about this recently, featuring the most trustworthy and easy-to-use tools available these days.
Alternatively, look at our list of supported devices that you can use ExpressVPN on.
What VPN methods do you support? This may be important for our readers.
ExpressVPN comes with OpenVPN as the standard protocol. But we also support L2TP or PPTP as well.
As an editorial note, this was not a paid for promotion. ExpressVPN originally reached out to us for a review, however, we ended up doing this interview instead as it fit better. Thanks for reading and be sure to look forward to more of our Securing Your Mac articles.