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6 Reasons to Use a VPN

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6 Reasons to Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to browse the Internet without fear of being spied on by neighbors, hackers, or the government, as the case may be. While you might think that only those with something to hide would be interested in using a VPN, that’s definitely not the case. Think of all the information you put out there on a daily basis without even thinking about it: Your Facebook status, your credit card numbers, your passwords…the list goes on. You might think that the websites you’re using are secure, and while that may be the case, it’s the security of your network that you need to worry about.

There are also some ways you can benefit from using a VPN while utilizing WiFi connections other than your own, as well as if you were to travel abroad. Choosing the right VPN allows you to essentially view the Internet as if you’re in your home country, without any restrictions that may affect local ISPs. Bear in mind that you utilize a VPN in this manner at your own risk, as many countries can be extremely strict when enforcing their Internet censorship policies.

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If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to use a VPN, decide for yourself after reading up on the following benefits of a Virtual Private Network:

Access restricted content abroad

So you took a trip to another country, but it’s raining and you’re jet-lagged. You go to load up some Breaking Bad on Netflix, only to realize that Netflix is completely blocked in the country you’re currently staying in. And so are a ton of your favorite websites. With a VPN, you can use your American IP address anywhere in the world, thus tricking Netflix and other websites into thinking your actually in the States. Hey, it’s not like you’re downloading movies illegally.

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Access restricted content at school or work

How many times have you tried to visit a legitimate site for work- or school-related research only to find it’s been blocked by your organization’s “Acceptable Use” policy? I can recall a time when I worked in a high school in which Khan Academy was blocked. I’m not advocating for you to circumvent your school or company’s gateway for illicit or immoral means, but using a VPN can allow you to access important information that is completely necessary to your current task.

Use public WiFi

Public WiFi is about as unsecure as you can get. If you’ve ever logged into the free WiFi at Starbucks, you ran a huge risk of having all of your information stolen by some guy sitting in his car in the parking lot. Not only that, but if you really weren’t careful, you may have logged into a different WiFi network altogether, inadvertently handing your information directly over to a spoofer without him having to do any work at all. With a VPN, your information is encrypted, so it is indecipherable to anyone trying to eavesdrop.

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Private file sharing

Again, I’m not saying you should be downloading and uploading stolen files such as copyrighted music and movies, but a VPN allows you to send and receive files to friends without anyone else seeing what you’re doing. Surely there times you need to share files that you don’t want others seeing. By using a VPN, sending private documents or personal photo albums can be done without the thought crossing your mind of your information being leaked to the world for all to see.

Browsing isn’t logged

Once again, this sounds a little shady, but think about it. Imagine you were accused of a drug-related crime, but weren’t able to prove your innocence. The authorities subpoena your Internet browsing history, and find that you had previously looked up the recipe for crack cocaine. It’s not going to matter that this was for a research project in chemistry class; it’s only going to make you look worse in front of a judge. If you had used a VPN, your browsing history would be completely untraceable, and you’d have a much better chance at convincing the court of your innocence.

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Right to privacy

Above all else, privacy is (or at least, should be) a basic human right. Everything discussed above should be private in the first place. But unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s not. Even those who have nothing to hide should be wary about how their Internet browsing habits may appear when viewed out of context by outsiders. Remember: Nothing you do online is private, but with a VPN you can minimize the chances of your private information becoming public knowledge.

Featured photo credit: Instructablesnternet gratis en el aeropuerto Matecaña, Pereira, gracias a UNE – Mario Carvajal via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

    What Does Private Browsing Do?

    When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

    For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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    The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

    The Terminal Archive

    While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

    Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

    dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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    Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

    Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

    However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

    Clearing Your Tracks

    Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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    dscacheutil -flushcache

    As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

    Other Browsers and Private Browsing

    Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

    If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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    As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

    Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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