Google Wi-Fi snooping and proXPN

Google’s debacle on Wi-Fi Snooping was recently subjected to an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and triggered several lawsuits at the same time. Government reports say that from 2007-2010, the web giant collected emails and other sensitive personal information with the use of its Street View Cars.

If you are just hearing about this news right now, then you may be wondering, what was Google doing in the first place? Why did they do it and what did they do wrong? And, how can you protect yourself in case other people do something similar?

Where it all began

Since 2007, Google employed the use of Street View cars to take pictures and gather Service Set Identifier (SSID) information, Media Access Control (MAC) addresses and other basic Wi-Fi data from networks. That was no secret at all, considering that all these data were to be used for location-based services like Google Maps.

The problem, however, was that the Street View cars did more than just collect these pertinent data. Although Google says that its programming codes were simply meant to collect the data stated above, the Street View cars were also collecting data packet information at the same time, too. This means that they also collected web browsing histories and communication data such as email addresses, passwords and other sensitive information from numerous users making use of non-protected Wi-Fi networks.

It seems that Google has been doing this since 2007 when the Street View project was implemented, but was only realized that glitch when Germany’s data protection authority requested to audit the data collection practice. It was this request from the German authorities that sparked an internal review, which eventually uncovered the problem.

Google insists that it was an honest mistake in the programming codes made by one lone engineer, and they were mortified by the mistake. Whether it was a mistake or not remains to be seen; their apology did not stop the international outrage and investigations done by regulatory bodies from all over the world. And, didn’t ease the minds of those of us concerned with privacy.  The incident raises ta very important question: Can we trust Google?

 

How much sensitive data did Google manage to snoop?

A report from Google states that the Street Cars have collected data fragments only and not entire pieces of communication or browsing data. This is because the street cars were constantly on the move when collecting data, so it was only able to collect from specific wireless networks that were in range. Likewise, the Street View cars constantly changed channels about five times each second.

Aside from that, Google was not able to collect any information from protected Wi-Fi networks within the signal range of their street cars, but only from Wi-Fi networks which were free and unprotected.

 

What did the FCC have to say?

While privacy snooping is indeed illegal, Google did argue during the investigation that it only managed to intercept data from wireless networks which were readily accessible to the public. With that, the FCC legally cleared Google, stating that it did not violate any section of the United States Communications Act.

Even with the ruling from FCC, critics continue to target the web-giant, calling on it to be accountable for its actions. It has since apologized for this fiasco, suspended the Street View project, and has taken more stringent measures to prevent instances like this.

 

How can users protect themselves?

Despite the explanation, people continue to ask questions.

How can we be so sure that the Wi-Fi snooping incident was not a simple mistake? How can we be so sure that Google did not intentionally plan this to happen?  If one single engineer can sneak in a code without the notice of other engineers (which happen to be some of the best and smartest in the world) from Google’s how do we know that there aren’t any  similar rouge programs operating on Android, on Gmail or other services, not even related to Google?

While the chances are slim, after the Street View Incident, people can never be too sure.

With that, the only possible solution is to take proactive privacy measures. One thing is to protect your Wi-Fi router, preventing security intrusions. But it does not end there.

Another way to ensure your privacy is by making use of a Virtual Private Network or VPN. VPN services employ the use of highly encrypted connection between one’s computer to the internet, protecting your online activity and identity.  The use of VPN services provide you with online privacy, preventing the government, your internet service provider or any other group or individual from eavesdropping on your online activities and gaining access to important details such as login information, banking details, identity or other sensitive documents.

 

A look at proXPN

proXPN is a personal virtual private network that provides users with privacy and safety while using the internet. proXPN encrypts all data passing between your computer and our servers, including everything over Wi-Fi and even through your ISP. This offers dramatically improved protection from Wi-Fi snooping.

Since 2009, it has provided secure internet connection on the desktops and mobile devices of more than 1 million users. proXPN uses impenetrable industry-leading 512-bit encryption to stop other parties from accessing user online activity.

proXPN offers a free basic service and an affordable paid service featuring more powerful protection features.

Users adopt VPNs to protect their privacy.

In the wake  of the failure of SOPA and PIPA, the US Congress hasn’t given up their quest to invade the privacy of all online users.  CISPA (Cyber-Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), the  proposed legislation working  it’s way through the US Congress, is really just  SOPA and PIPA by another name. Beware any government legislation labeled with the word “Protect” in it – this just means you’re about to get your privacy invaded without just cause or due process.

Congress couldn’t get enough votes or people agreeing with them when going after IP (intellectual property) violators, so they’re taking what’s essentially the same bill and renaming it with a title designed to dupe the people into agreeing with it.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and not an American citizen, expressed opposition to the bill stating, “[It] is threatening the rights of people in America, and effectively rights everywhere, because what happens in America tends to affect people all over the world. Even though the SOPA and PIPA acts were stopped by huge public outcry, it’s staggering how quickly the US government has come back with a new, different, threat to the rights of its citizens.”

Spot on, Tim! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Users the world over are beginning to realize that protecting their own privacy is increasingly their own responsibility. Proactive tools like VPNs are becoming necessary to keeping private information away from prying eyes, whether those eyes are attached to thieves or governments.

SOPA is bad for everyone

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the new legislation coming up for a vote in Congress in late January, is nothing short of a ham-handed attempt at removing citizens basic rights to privacy.

In short, the government will be given the power to muzzle (i.e., sieze) any website domain that it sees fit, without due process, under the guise of protecting the rights of copyright holders. The law is written so broadly (e.g., poorly) that just about **any** website could be construed as being in violation of a copyright. It will be trivial for the government to shut down any website on the internet simply by forcing registrars to remove the DNS entries for it.

proXPN urges all US Citizens who find this bill an affrontery to their basic civil liberties to join the ranks of those who oppose SOPA and voice their concerns to their representatives in Washington. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has provided a simple way for US citiznes to contact their representative for just this purpose.

Why using a VPN is important

If you’re not really sure if a VPN is for you, you may want to think again.

As outlined in a recent Forbes article , WikiLeaks posted the “Spy Files” – which contain, among other items, alarming videos detailing how hackers can gain all of your login info to webmail, facebook, twitter, etc simply by connecting to the same wi-fi connection as the one  you’re currently using.

Using a VPN while on a Wi-Fi connection (really, when accessing any sensitive info) is a must.

You can download proXPN right now and secure your connection instantly.

Yes it’s really proXPN

We’ve decided to start searching for people having conversations about proXPN on forums and try to answer some questions and take suggestions where people like to talk. It’s really quite a lot of fun. Today the users over at symbianize.com doubted that it was really us proXPN posting on their forum. Well guys, I assure you it’s us 😉 Is this proof enough? Keep the good ideas coming and we look forward to meeting more users in their favorite hang outs. If you run a forum or board and want us to stop buy, just post a URL in the comments and we’ll go there!

proXPN loves symbianize.com!

Gangs Steal Bank Details In Anti-Virus Con

Hackers are tricking internet users into buying anti-virus protection and then stealing their banking details, security experts have warned.

The malicious software allows conmen to infiltrate computers.

Investigators fear criminal gangs are pocketing millions of pounds in the scam, which sees them posing as legitimate IT companies and cold-calling victims.

The software can be downloaded for about £30 – but it allows the hackers to steal personal details and combine it with credit card information from the sale to commit further crimes.

Sharon Lemon, who is responsible for fighting cyber crime at the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), said the con was “big business”.

She said: “In recent cases, we have seen gangs employing 300 to 400 people to run their operations and using call centre-scale set ups to target victims en masse.”

Ms Lemon said some gangs even fork out tens of thousands of pounds a month to pay other web companies to advertise the fake software.

The warning came at the start of an internet security awareness week organised by GetSafeOnline.org, which is supported by Government bodies, police and private companies.

Read more on this story

Firesheep Highlights Social Networking Security Risks

Using social networking websites continue to be a threat to your personal data when used over unsecured public wifi due to slack session controls that are still allowing hackers to spy on your passwords whilst you are logging in. Websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, attempt to reduce this loss by using secure connections, but it’s still not enough and hackers can immediately login to your account and take control due to the open delivery of cookie data to your browser. Firesheep, a Firefox add-on, intentionally brings these risks to public awareness (as reported by TechCrunch) shows us just how easy it is for hackers to collect your information over wifi.

Using proXPN to secure your internet connection basicly elminates this risk because your entire internet connection is protected and encrypted. You can use proXPN with notebooks and mobile devices alike. Protect yourself: Only use public wifi when you have a secure VPN connection.

firesheep for firefox