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Why 2013 is the Year You Start Using a VPN

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Why 2013 is the Year You Start Using a VPN

As an internet user in 2013, you have to deal with a whole bunch of privacy and security considerations that weren’t such a big deal a decade ago. Today, political leaders, governments, corporations, and other institutions are making subtle attempts to compromise the privacy we as internet users used to enjoy. This isn’t happening all at once, but the next few years should prove to very interesting and will no doubt define the future of the internet.

Remember SOPA and PIPA? These congressional acts were quickly protested by some of the largest corporations in America. A group named The Internet Defense League was created to quickly organize massive action online and combat such legislation should it come up in the future. However, we have not seen the last of these political attempts to encroach on individual privacy online—this is just the beginning.

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Within the last 12 months, a new policy called “The Six Strikes Policy” was based as a joint effort by the Motion Picture Association of America and the three largest Cable companies to not only track and private internet records, but to also penalize private internet users who download copyrighted files. This means that if you’re a bittorrent user or if you download any music/movies/pictures or other content online, you may be at risk.

Listen, I’m not trying to scare you. What’s important is that you’re informed of the debate surrounding internet privacy and that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. By far the best way to protect yourself online is to start using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. If you don’t know what a VPN is, that’s fine; it’s really not that complicated to understand. Essentially, a VPN connects your computer to a remote server somewhere in the world. Once you establish a connection between your computer and this remote server, you can start to surf the internet through the remote server. Not only does this change your IP address, it also encrypts your browsing data, making you “invisible” in a sense.

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Using a VPN is a great way to regain control of your online privacy, and it can help you achieve a level of desired anonymity that isn’t otherwise possible these days. VPN connections are also 100% legal and most, if not all, Fortune 500 companies use VPN connections to protect their data and to allow employees to safely access corporate servers while they’re out of the office. So if you’re worried about the legality of a VPN, don’t! If Microsoft, Google, KPMG, and the other big boys can use them, so can you!

Lastly, VPNs aren’t just for those who are paranoid about protecting their privacy. There are many other great benefits that come with using one. Let’s say you’d like to do some online banking or some internet shopping at a cafe over a public hotspot connection. Connecting to a VPN would encrypt your data so your online banking and credit information would remain safe and protected.

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You can also use a VPN to change your IP address, which may be important for those of you who are traveling or living outside of the United States. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, HBO Go, and others are protected by “geotargetting” which means that only users with an American IP address can access these services. If you’ve ever wanted to watch Netflix in Europe or access Pandora while you travel, it’s possible with a VPN, as you can easily switch to an American IP address, giving you the ability to sign up and start using these web applications. Pretty cool, right?

VPN technology has been around for over a decade and it isn’t going anywhere. As the debate over privacy carries on, it’s wise to start looking into how a VPN can help protect you from prying eyes.

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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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