Data Retention and Censorship in the Free World- Is VPN the Ultimate Answer?
Dan Gurghian is one of three managing partners and founders who stand behind ibVPN, a privately owned company based in Romania that offers affordable VPN and SmartDNS services to clients world-wide. In this interview he explains the differences between VPN and SmartDNS, and reveals a painful truth about content censorship in China. Share
What make ibVPN unique compared to its competitors?
There are many providers offering similar services. We are unique because we aim to offer a high quality service at a reasonable price. We offer access to most of the VPN protocols available today, and have servers located all over the world. We also offer a 24/7 support, which is highly appreciated by our customers. We have been in this business for 7 years and have been constantly improving our service to adapt to new technologies and market demands, so we have sufficient experience to provide a good solution and deliver applications that make our customers’ life easier.
What are the differences between a VPN and a smart DNS?
VPN was designed with privacy in mind, while SmartDNS is designed for media streaming, without privacy related features. Using a SmartDNS, you can stream content at a high speed, but without encryption. They are 2 different solutions. Our most popular package allows access to both of them, so you can stream content and remain protected at the same time.
What is the difference between securing a computer and a Smartphone or Tablet?
Securing the device is related to the operating system. You can further secure the device. We have different applications for different operating systems, which are adapted to the requirements of the operating system. With our solution, you can start simply by securing the router, which will automatically secure all the devices being used on that network. If you are mobile, you should have an app as well, to secure you when you’re using a public hotspot. ibVPN has applications for all devices and operating systems, and toolbars for all major browsers.
How do you explain the duality between privacy regulations, government surveillance programs and government censorship?
We have been lucky to be located in Romania, which is one of the few EU countries who rejected the EU data retention directive, a common EU law that prohibits the retention of data.
We do not keep logs of our clients, and that in itself is a complicated issue because it exposes us to a lot of risks. Letting someone into a network of servers is like opening your home to a stranger. We are not aware of what our users are doing, but we do have the security measures to know if someone is performing illegal activity. For example, if we identify someone is using our servers for spamming, we will immediately close the server that they are using. Having a good security on the servers and stopping abuses is our number one priority; otherwise, those types of actions could potentially affect all the other users as well.
Going back to your question, I think the internet should be open for everyone, but in certain countries, some of the major websites like Google and YouTube are blocked. In my opinion, these are very important websites for a democratic society. Even using a VPN is against the law in some countries, because it enables people to unlock the door and see the real world. As the popularity of VPN’s is on the rise, traffic filtering technologies are also becoming more advanced, with new solutions that block access to the free internet from entire countries.
If you go to work for 2-3 weeks in china, you’ll be blocked from everything you’re familiar with, but connect to a VPN and everything will be back to normal. China is only one example. I recently travelled to Turkey and the internet was highly filtered there as well.
Companies based in these countries that are involved in global business relations have a very bad starting point. They will always be behind, so for them, a VPN is an absolute must. The way I see it, there should be an easy way to bypass these undemocratic restrictions.
How do you see online security in 5 years from now?
Currently, only about 20% of internet users are even aware of the possibility of using a VPN. As censorship becomes a predominant practice by governments, VPN’s will become a standard practice and continue to grow in importance. There are also websites who are restricting content, or delivering different content based on your location. As long as this kind of restriction is applied, the VPN market will continue to grow. For example, we have a lot of customers from the UK who are working abroad, but even though they are paying for subscriptions, they are not able to watch content from their own country. In the future, broadcasting companies will need to provide a SmartDNS or VPN solution along with their subscriptions.
With all that in mind, what are the main things customers should be aware of when selecting a VPN service?
First and foremost, it’s important to have the ability to test the service, to see if it covers your needs, so a free trial or a money back guarantee policy is a must. While on a free trial, it is advised to contact the customer support team, to see how your questions regarding security and privacy are being addressed by the VPN provider. In addition, a good VPN will enable access to a large network of servers, and have apps for different operating systems, like we do.
Finally, you should look into the company background and see how long they have been in the business. Younger companies might not have the experience necessary to deliver a high quality service as some of the older companies would.