Use a VPN to bypass ISP issues and restrictions

So apparently Dhiraagu has been under some sort of attack since day before yesterday and that is the reason Dhiraagu Internet subscribers are getting patchy Internet connectivity. I am not sure what kind of attack it is under but I presume it is of the DoS variety aimed at driving down their QoS levels. From the looks of it, the attack seems to be being targetted at, or atleast affecting, the Internet proxy/filters and DNS servers at Dhiraagu. Anyway, if you are as frustrated as me with patchy Internet then here's a quick fix solution: install and use a VPN.

A Virtual Private Network working over the Internet connects one computer to another via a private virtual "tunnel" and routes data between the computers. A VPN will allow you to browse the Internet via the remote computer's Internet connection so you aren't affected by (some) issues affecting your ISP and bypasses restrictions imposed by your ISP. As opposed to using a remote proxy server, a VPN can route all your Internet traffic via the virtual tunnel allowing you to bypass all local restrictions entirely. Use of a VPN, on laptops and mobile phones, is highly recommended if you frequently connect to Wifi hotspots at restaurants, airports etc to keep your data secure from being snooped.

Free VPN Services

There are many VPN service providers, including those that offer free services. A list of VPN providers is available at Here are a few I've used and tried.

Ivacy has both free and paid services. I quite like their volume-based paid plan which currently gives 1 GB for 0.67$ and a wide range of geographical locations for an end-point. The geographical location allows you to access services such as BBC iPlayer and Hulu which are region restricted. They even have a Ivacy Firefox extension that integrates into Firefox, which is handy if you use the browser.

Ultrasurf is extremely easy to use and their client, a 1.1 MB download, runs straight without requiring any installation.

UltraVPN offers OpenVPN-based VPN access with a free registration process. They have a cross-platform open-source client allowing you to use it on Windows and Mac OS.

PacketiX VPN
PacketiX VPN is free and offers several nifty featues. Their Secure Internet Test Service gives access to a secure VPN for web usage and, for the more geek minded, their VPN Online Test Environment allows you to create a virtual VPN hub that connects together several of your devices.

ProjectLoki offers a public VPN server, connected through their free 1.1 MB client software, which you can use as a guest. Their paid services include more data transfer. They also offer special VPN server software that you can run and have your computer(s) connect to.

Happy New Year btw :-)

Battling for privacy: Keeping your computer data and internet communications secure

We live at a time where we have little or no privacy. All information about us is recorded, from birth to death. The quality and quantity of details logged may differ from society to society but the details collected about a person extend beyond the visible and the obvious.. To make things worse, we tend to rely and store private and personal information on the products of the digital revolution - mobile phones, PDA's and of course computers, all of which are subject to confistication and interception.

Let me impart some information on how to battle this belittling of the individual and gain a bit more privacy and security for your computer data and Internet communications.

Say you have a lot of documents, photos and emails that you don't want to be accessible by all. Say you want to be able to securely store data somewhere on your harddrive or USB data device. Then TrueCrypt is the answer. It is a free, opensource utility available for flavours of MS Windows and is available at

Now, aside from most of the technical mumbo-jumbo it may present to you, the utility is pretty easy to use. The concept it operates on is that it creates a special encrypted file and uses that file to store all of your data inside that single file. So all you have to do is, "mount" the encrypted file with the program and suddenly, your system should show a new disk drive. This drive is now fully secure and you can continue working; saving and editing the files on the drive as you would with any other files. When you are done working simply "unmount" the drive with the program. You can choose to carry the encrypted file on your USB storage device and even move the encrypted file between computers.

The encryption used is pretty secure and several types of encryption are available including 448bit Blowfish. The access to the encrypted files is gained by means of a passphrase, which of course has to be wisely chosen. Follow the general password rules - combination of characters and numbers and make it long.

When you delete a file using the standard Windows delete facility, you expect the file to be gone for good. However, files deleted using this method can be easily recovered in full by anyone with access to your system/drive! Enter Eraser. This is a nifty free, opensource utility for MS Windows that specializes in deleting files securely. It is available at

It supports several deletion methods, including two US Department of defense standard deletes. To make the deleted data nonrecoverable, the utility writes over the data to be deleted with random garbage. This is done enough of times to ensure there is no recoverable residue of the data that was deleted.

To delete a file securely, right click on the file and select "Erase". This is a habit you have to get used to, otherwise you may just end up with the standard "Delete" button deletes.

Every time you connect to the Internet, you are effectively entering into a warzone in your birthday suit. If you are in the Maldives, then your browsing data passes through either the proxy servers at Focus Infocom or Dhiraagu. The data is logged and will be used against you whenever required to.

How do you get out of this? Well, an ideal answer would be a cryptographic VPN. However, this may go beyond the technical or financial abilities of many. If you are really paranoid about the security of your internet traffic, I suggest you look into the many VPN service providers. Quite a few of the web hosting companies provide it as part of their deal. Or if you are the technical sorts, you can simply rent your own server located anywhere remote in the world and install and run a VPN server.

A VPN basically creates a virtual network on top of the network you are actually connected to, which in this case is the Internet. The data then seems to flow from your computer to the VPN server but uses the actual network to carry it. The VPN can be encrypted to make the data secure and private and prevent snoops from keeping tabs on you. If you do get around to setting up a VPN, I recommend IPSec encryption for your VPN. If not SSL can be an alternative.

Here is a couple of interesting sites/software regarding VPNs: VPN Labs , iOpus iPig, OpenVPN

When you are on the Internet, anyone from the ISP, the government to a variety of other services you connect to on the Internet may keep data on you. They keep track of your Internet traffic and effectively intrudes on your privacy and anonymity needs by checking where you go and when you go.

Tor is a free, opensource utility that can combat traffic analysis. It is available at and versions for Windows, Mac and Linux exist. Tor uses a method called "onion routing" to bounce your traffic several times with different hosts on the internet before going to the final destination. This way the origin and the destination are kept secret and helps keep prying eyes at bay. It runs in the background, silently working to secure you internet traffic as you generate it.

If your ISP makes you go through a proxy to access websites then the sites you visit, the emails you send and read, the porn you jack off to late at night and even the political sites you sneak into but know you shouldn't access, are probably all logged. If you are a Maldivian, using the Dhiraagu proxy server as your browser proxy then you are letting Dhiraagu store all communications you make on the WWW. This is true for Focus Infocom customers as well.

In this case, one of the easiest methods to add more security to your internet communications is by the use of an alternative proxy server. Now depending on your ISP and their proxy configuration you may not be able to use proxy servers running on various ports. Head over to and select a proxy server of your liking. You may need to test out a few for speed and accessibility. Generally, you should avoid proxies running on port 80 for reasons I am too lazy to type right now. If you don't know how to change your proxy server in your browser, head over to

Well, I guess that is enough "advice" for now. Enjoy!