Image © Decorrespondent.nl
I am not the kind of person that tries to hide every trace off the internet. I am not the kind of person that refuses to use cloud based services. But I am the kind of person that browses responsibly. In order to guarantee my data is safe from people snooping around I occasionally use a VPN, and I think you should too. In my recent post I’ve touched upon a difficult dilemma in current society, privacy versus security. In this post I will further elaborate on the privacy aspect of online browsing, in particular when you are on an untrusted connection.
With all the talk on online security, it is surprising to see how a lot of situations with security flaws are used without hesitation. I hear a lot of complaints of individuals who worry about remarketing, done by innocent cookies. But have you ever used Wi-Fi on a train? 2 years ago Roy Verploegen posted a blog on the recent introduction of Wi-Fi in the NS trains, describing the poor quality of service. But the quality of the connection is not even the worst part. Free public WiFi connections are increasingly proven to be a privacy hazard. Hackers are able to gain access to your browsing metadata, and hijack your surfing pages.
Using ‘sniffer software’ hackers can ‘sniff’ through the traffic traveling to and from a wireless router to a device. This metadata can reveal identity info, including the device info of the user and server the device is communicating with. Even more vulnerable are ‘rogue Wi-Fi’ hotspots, which hackers set up at a public location. These hotspots are given generic names like ‘Free Wi-Fi’ or ‘Starbucks’, often saved in the devices of the users. These hotspots redirect the internet of the users and enables them to view and alter any unencrypted data sent and received by the user. Using ‘DNS spoofing’ hackers can let you believe you are accessing your bank, while in reality you are giving all your info to the hacker.
Image © Norton
VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which enables you to virtually join a local network (LAN) where you are not physically present. A VPN connection can be set up on your device and as you connect with the internet, you do so through a so called ‘tunnel’ to the LAN. VPN connections are often used by companies and universities to enable users to act as if they are on the private network. This is important to ensure sensitive data does not leave the company network or to enable users to access local files and applications. VPN connections are also used for watching country restricted content and hiding illegal downloads.
A VPN connection secures your internet connection to guarantee your data is safe. It does so by encrypting the data you are sending through the ‘tunnel’ to the network you’re virtually connected to. It establishes a connection between the server and your own device by exchanging trusted keys after logging in with your credentials. This allows you to browse completely anonymous on any internet connection, if you thrust the server.
Unlike Tor, your connection is encrypted to the server (exit node). Both the server and your device have the key to unencrypt your data. This allows system administrators to access your data, while externally it is completely secured. In Tor, only your device has the encryption keys. In addition, your data passes at least three servers, all with new encryption keys, until it reaches the exit node (server that sends/receives data with the internet).
Next time, worry less about re-marketing and worry more about your (internet)connection. As a lot of readers of this blog are students, make use of the university VPN when you treat yourself to a latte macchiato. Or, if you want to go a little more professional check out this list of the best VPN providers.
We talk all the time about how we live in a wireless world, but when it comes to your most important connection, your home or business internet, we are still depending on a complex series of cables that lead to our homes and offices.
You probably all have seen the campaign of the Dutch telecom provider Hi with it’s advertisement about ‘Bye Bye Wifi’. It suggests that WiFi networks are no longer needed because the 4G network can reach way higher speed levels.
4G technology is the fourth generation of wireless technology available from mobile service providers. This technology, also sometimes called “ultra mobile broadband,” is designed to provide greater data transfer rates and more secure connections. Various wireless devices can take advantage of 4G technology, including phones and tablets. 
Ultra mobile broadband refers to faster rates of data transmission available on a wireless network. 4G technology may provide data transmission rates between 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and one gigabit per second (Gbps). By comparison, 3G or third- generation networks offer data transmission speeds averaging around 200 kilobits per second (kbps), which is significantly slower than those that 4G technology makes possible. Current household connections in the Netherlands are most of the times between 10Mbps and 150Mbps, which means that in some of the cases 4G will be a much quicker alternative. 
But the question that will emerge right now is if 4G is able to completely replace our current home connections in the future? Currently the speed in the Netherlands isn’t really that high (Vodafone offering 30-50Mbit, Hi (KPN) offering an average speed of 20MBit).  Also the entire coverage of our country is still a problem, not everywhere there is 4G available. And last but not least, bundles that are offered are high priced. In my opinion the 4G technology is currently not able to replace our home connections, however I do think that in a couple of years this will be a trend. Especially for people who now only have access to a slow internet connection (like ADSL, 10-20Mbit connection), 4G will be a very attractive alternative. What do you guys think about this? Can we cut our cables?
Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?
As discussed in the class of the 23rd of September, mobile device and mobile internet usage are exploding. However, aviation ruling has not changed much in the mean time. As many, I could not have helped but wonder about the necessity of not using electronic devices during takeoff or landing. I can understand it to be a good thing for the pilot to hold off on these, but there has never been hard data on negative consequences of passenger’s electronic devices-use during these critique moments of flight. Or are there? And might there be possibilities of this changing for the better, and enabling internet on board? Maybe even in-flight online shopping?
Myths & Truths of in-flight smartphone & tablet-use:
To delve further in this topic it is good to bust some myths you might think are true and get into the real cause of this communications technology-ban in airplanes.
Myth 1: Interference with airplane equipment: This one is the most commonly known. However, aeronautical communication technology works with wavelengths below 500MHz, while consumer electronics work on wavelengths from up to 2GHz. Interference in that sense, is not possible.
Myth 2: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not want to test every device on possible interference: Also a myth. All mobile devices share the same communication components. Whether you are using an iPhone, Blackberry, or even a Nokia, it all works the same. So, separate testing is not a thing.
Myth 3: Everybody in the plane using it at the same time is the problem: Also wrong. Electromagnetics don’t work in the sense that they become stronger with more users using it at the same time, so this won’t cause problems.
A more viable hypothesis is the one stating that cell towers can overload due to the speed of movement of the mobile device users. This is actually technically true, but this is luckily also a technicality that can be managed by enough capacity. 
The Real Truth: Since all of these myths can be busted, what is the real reason for the ban on the use of electronic devices during takeoff & landing? It is your attention! Since only 8% of airplane accidents happen during the cruising-stage of a flight, and respectively 42% and 50% during takeoff and landing, the FAA simply tries to make sure you pay attention during these critique moments of flight… But, since us 2013-citizens almost live in our smartphones and tablets, is this reasoning still strong enough?
Oh yeah, something about the end of all of this might be near?
After delving into the myths & truths about the use of electronic devices on airplanes, let’s now take a look at the future. A lot seems to be changing. This Thursday, the advisory committee of the FFA voted to recommend easing the rules on device use on-board. If the FAA does accept this recommendation, which would then happen this Monday, some things are going to change. If the FAA accepts, it will be allowed to use your smartphone, tablet and laptop during takeoffs and landings, making calls or browsing the Internet is still a ‘no-go’. Just switch on airplane mode and you will be fine. 
A thing I have to admit, I have been doing for a lot of flights myself already. I mean there is not much better than watching some episodes of Lost while you are in the most critical parts of your flight, right?
Impact on mobile shopping?
After the allowance of using electronic devices during takeoff and landings, the next step seems to be in-flight internet. Even though it is only a small percentage of airlines are currently adopting it, it is a growing trend to offer Wi-Fi on longer flights. The impact of this on online shopping seems to be interesting to research. Will passengers shop for goods available on their destination? Will hotels be able to target last-minute bookings from passengers? Will it be possible to do tax-free shopping and pick this up at your destination airport? What would you like to buy, in-flight?