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August 16, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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There are a number of ways to use a proxy to surf the Internet or to use P2P applications with a greater degree of anonymity. Services such as VPNs and SOCKS proxies are becoming increasingly popular, although many such services have long been in use for obfuscation, or for allowing business employees to enter company Intranets from the comfort of home, with some degree of security. A number of pay services are available, which will enable you to obfuscate your IP by routing packets first through a secure tunnel to their network before heading into the wild.

First things first - what’s a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a network which is created, using the Internet in this case, that ensures through encryption that only users who are authorized can access it and that the data won't be intercepted along the way. Typically secure VPNs use a process of placing a packet within another packet (encapsulating) and sending it over the internet - this is known as Tunneling.

Security over a VPN

Tunneling is used to create a connection between you and your VPN service, which is protected by a level of encryption, depending on the supported protocol. Once connected to a VPN, it is often possible to browse the internet from the service. As you have tunneled into this network, any site you browse will regard your IP as originating from the gateway of the VPN service. In this way, the actual IP you are connected through from your ISP cannot be seen by any websites you visit (or any other protocols supported through the VPN).

Protocols that drive a VPN-type service

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is one common technology used to create a secure connection between you and your service which will route your request out to the internet. PPTP supports 40 and 128-bit encryption.

SSH (secure shell) Tunneling also is often also used to tunnel data over the internet securely through an SSH-encrypted connection. SSH supports anywhere from 128-bit encryption to very advanced encryption schemes.

Lastly a SOCKS proxy server allows applications using TCP to relay data through the SOCKS protocol; this includes pretty much all software applications including P2P apps and web browsers. Many applications include a proxy configuration setting within them; however, for those that do not, there are SOCKS clients which will do this once properly configured. These clients allow applications to connect to one's SOCKS proxy server and route all their data through them. This routing allows one an amount of anonymity as your data will appear to be originating from the SOCKS proxy server's address and not your own.

RELAKKS VPN compared with two other similar services

Due to the excitement generated over RELAKKS VPN Tunneling service endorsed by the PiratPartiet, it's time to compare them to a couple other popular services. So first off, what is RELAKKS offering? An encrypted VPN tunnel between an individual’s computer and RELAKKS' servers through which you can surf the internet or use your favorite P2P clients anonymously. This could be a useful tool which places RELAKKS’ servers between individuals and potential grievances. RELAKKS' policy is:

"For Swedish authorities to force RELAKKS to hand over “traffic data” including your RELAKKS IP at a specific point in time, they will have to prove a case with the minimum sentence of two years imprisonment."

Next there is Secure-Tunnel.com, which provides a service using a highly encrypted 1024-bit SSH Tunnel between you and their SSH proxy servers as well as offering a SOCKS 5 proxy. Once configured, your applications send data over the encrypted SSH Tunnel to their proxy servers. As a plus they use hosts file and registry modifications to facilitate integration with most Usenet providers as well.

Any information about you can be traced only as far as their proxy servers. What are Secure-Tunnel's policies regarding your data?

SecureTunnel.com reserves the right to disclose Customer information in the following cases:

3. When required by law or by order of a court. The Customer shall not use, or suffer, or permit another person to use the Service in, or in relation to, the commission of an offense against the laws of the United States or of any State or territory of the United States.

The Customer shall not engage in spamming, hacking, blog spam, port scanning, or other illegal activities while using secure-tunnel services. Customers found to be in violation shall be charged $250 per hour for research, cleanup and legal fees associated with damages.


Finally there is Findnot.com which offers an array of services including VPN via PPTP, SSH Tunneling with 128-bit encryption and finally a Socks 5 proxy service with over 30 listed servers in a half dozen different regions, though only half of those seem to be functioning and speeds vary heavily from server to server.

What are Findnot's polices regarding your data?

Q) What about FindNot.com getting subpoenaed for payment information?

A) Good question but for whose payment information are we being subpoenaed? We can't cross reference IP addresses to user names at a certain time and date, no logs remember. Most trouble starts with an IP address not a name. They start with an IP address and try to work a trail to convert that to a name and address so they can harass, sue, or do something worse depending on the situation. Remember there is a lot of identity theft, electronic stalking, harassing etc going on out there not just lawsuits.

We keep logs for a maximum of 5 days to protect the system from being used for abusive purposes. Official requests for information/subpoenas normally require more than 5 days. Usually it would take someone more than 5 days to even figure out where we are, and then serving a subpoena would require even more time. We have never actually been served with a lawful subpoena.

We accept anonymous payments such as mailed in cash and postal money orders. Findnot.Com is not an American or EU company. We do not place you at risk for any privacy violations that seem to come from these jurisdictions. We do have servers in these locations but they have no sensitive data on them that could violate your privacy or security.


What the most important difference between these services is may not be the price the features nor the speed, but how they treat your information.

Editor's note: A special thank you to LordFoul for writing this article. LordFoul is an active member of the P2P and Slyck community, who is well known for contributing his extensive insight and knowledge.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Studies/Research
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Reviews

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