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ExpressVPN review

October 26, 2019 - Reading time: 9 minutes

Introduction

With the current hype around ‘Express VPN’, I’ve been looking forward to reviewing their VPN service for a long time. It is one of the most reviewed VPN providers on the internet averaging a 95% critic rating and is consistently recommended by many security professionals as their ‘go-to’ VPN provider.

There is little public company information available from ‘Express VPN’; nothing about their founder, team size, support team, location etc can be found. Even with the help of my colleagues, the only information we obtained was that ‘Express VPN’ is a small private US company, legally registered in the State of Delaware in 2011, thus making it one of younger VPN providers in the industry.

The company maintains a high level of anonymity about its company offices and internal team workings. Whether this is a positive or a negative is difficult to tell, but this level of secrecy may prove useful if it ever came under scrutiny from authorities.

VPN Servers

‘Express VPN’s relatively new entry to the industry means that they haven’t been around long enough to build a large list of VPN locations. However we have noticed that they are adding new locations at a very speedy rate. During the writing of this review their service have already added two new locations and I bet by the time this review is published they would have added a ton more. At the time of this writing they currently offer over 40 countries and support everything from the popular locations for TV streaming (NetFlix, Hulu, iPlayer etc..) to locations safe for torrenting, ( e.g. South Korea and Romania). ‘Express VPN’ offers the same straight forward approach as ‘Hide My Ass’!; you pay one price and get access to all locations.

Upon a careful investigation into their server network, I found that ‘Express VPN’ are carefully selecting server ISPs who are known to be very customer privacy oriented. You will find that none of these server ISPs will reveal any information about their clients, nor would they hand over information to authorities. I haven’t seen this extra attention to detail amongst any other VPN provider and, needless to say, it was very reassuring.

All ‘Express VPN’ servers support an impressive range of encryption protocols; OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP and PPTP. Check out this guide If you would like to know the differences between different encryption protocols and find which one would best suit you and your needs.

Speed

Reviewing the VPN server speeds has never been a straightforward procedure. Those who are experienced with VPN providers know the speed is always dependent on the physical distance between the user and the selected VPN server location. Essentially, the further away a VPN server is from you, the slower you may find your connection speed.

I tested a range of locations, consisting of the most popular (UK and US) to the more obscure (South Korea and Egypt). Their popular locations are heavily supported, meaning they have, on hand, many servers to support the demands.

With lots of people using VPN to stream media this is very important; I tested Netflix HD and iPlayer HD streaming using ‘ExpressVPN’ from a range of connections and never experienced any buffering or lag. When connected to the distanced countries like Egypt, I did experience a reduction in speed. I expect a lot of people would see this as a disadvantage, however you need to reevaluate the main reasons why someone would connect to the lesser known online countries. You would want to connect to these countries to be protected by their laws which have greater protection for their user privacies. This means that you don’t have to worry about government spying or DMCA abuse complaints. This is a benefit that I would happily take over a slight reduction in speed; it is a very small compromise to make for complete VPN anonymity .

Installation & Configuration

I won’t go into detail on installing ‘Express VPN’ as it is as straight forward as installing any other windows application. What will be highlighted is the use and interface of the application.

Hands down, this is one of my favourite VPN clients. The UI is very minimal and allows you to get connected to any country as quickly as possible. A great design feature is the listing of VPN locations by country and not by individual servers- which can be in the thousands. If I wanted to connect to the United Kingdom, I’d want the application to just connect me to the least loaded server and present with any other options. ‘Express VPN’ has executed this task flawlessly: quick VPN connections. Power users who like the additional extras and advanced features may feel a bit underwhelmed here, compared to plethora of extras offered by’ Hide My Ass!’. Luckily, as a consumer you have the choice to decide what is more important to you.

Pricing

‘Express VPN’ has positioned themselves as a premium VPN provider and are priced higher than most other providers. Even so, you are paying for a product that is all round polished to a high standard. Speed, security and ease of use are core areas of a VPN service, which many providers struggle to maintain. Paying a few dollars more to have a peace of mind with a privacy tool is something I wouldn’t compromise on and why I see ‘Express VPN’ as very good value for money.

The 12 month package with ‘Express VPN’ is the best value for money, pricing the service at $9.99 monthly. If you feel this is maybe too expensive then your other best alternative is ‘Hide My Ass!’ which offers a comparable service but is much cheaper.

As an added selling point, ‘Express VPN’ also offers a 30 day money back guarantee (free trial), which is great if you sign up for their 12 month package and then change your mind. It allows customers a little leeway if they regret their decision, though it is doubtful you will.

Customer service

‘Express VPN’ have a good customer support team. As mentioned earlier I don’t have numbers on the size of the their support team or even where their support offices are based, but I found my support tickets were responded to, on average, in around an hour, which isn’t bad at all.

They also have a telephone number that seems to push for a call back rather than answer any calls, but that didn’t seem like too major of a issue. Who uses phone support nowadays anyways?

Logging is currently a major concern for many users when picking a VPN provider. I suggest that readers read our article on what logging means in the VPN industry; there is a huge misconception on this and it is important you understand the differences before you pick a provider. Based on our analysis ‘Express VPN’ does not log user activity that could be detrimental to your privacy.

Conclusion

‘Express VPN’ is a great and refreshing experience that provides an all round professional VPN service, setting a very high standard for the VPN industry. The simplicity of their VPN client and high speeds makes ‘Express VPN’ an already strong core product. My personal opinion with the slightly high price is that it justifies the quality of service. You’re unlikely to experience slow speeds and everything is built with attention to detail, meaning that you waste less time trying to get things to work and spend more time doing the things you want behind a VPN.

Express VPN Rating : 4.7 out of 5

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What is an IPSec VPN?

October 15, 2019 - Reading time: 3 minutes

In today's business world, the need for access to company data reaches beyond the walls of the office. In order to protect the exchange of data without compromising productivity, your network can be private and secure with one of our adaptable IPSec "Virtual Private Network" (VPN) solutions; but what is an IPSec VPN?

An international group organized under the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) developed the Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) protocol suite to provide security services at the network level. An IPSec tunnel through the Internet protects all data traffic passing through, regardless of the application. IPSec technology is based on modern cryptographic technologies, making possible very strong data authentication and privacy guarantees. IPSec makes possible a secure VPN carved out of the insecure Internet to safely extend your private network through the public Internet. As a standard, IPSec is supported by a number of VPN vendors to allow interoperability.

What is a Mobile User VPN?

A Virtual Private Network can also be used by individual users to access an organization's network from a remote location using the Internet.

For example, a field based service engineer could have access to the call control system and update his call logs from his home PC using a browser to access The Pirate Bay. A teacher could prepare lesson plans at home and then connect to the school network and place the information on a server ready for a class the next day.

So how does it work?

Put simply, to make a VPN, you create a secure tunnel between the two networks and route IP through it.

Here are some diagrams to illustrate this concept:





The Client Router is a UNIX/Linux box acting as the gateway/firewall for the remote network. The remote network uses the local IP address 192.168.12.0. For the sake of a simple diagram, we left out the local routing information on the routers. The basic idea is to route traffic for all of the private networks (10.0.0.0, 172.16.0.0, and 192.168.0.0) through the tunnel. The setup shown here is one way. That is, while the remote network can see the private network, the private network cannot necessarily see the remote network. In order for that to happen, you must specify that the routes are bidirectional.

From the diagram you should also note that all of the traffic coming out of the client router appears to be from the client router, that is, all from one IP address. You could route real numbers from inside your network but that brings all sorts of security problems with it.


Registrations for Pirate Bay Are Still Closed

September 19, 2019 - Reading time: 43 minutes

The Pirate Bay is known as one of the foremost pirate sites on the World Wide Web. A lot of people love the Pirate Bay proxy because it provides them with a regular stream of reliable, entertaining and informative content that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

But the site has faced and overcome a lot of different challenges in the past without much damage to its overall objective which is to provide media and entertainment for all.

However, its most recent challenge seems particularly difficult to overcome considering how much of an effect it has on the platform’s overall operations. About three months ago, The Pirate Bay closed user registrations in order to prevent spamming.

What is the Pirate Bay?

Shortly after its 2003 inception, The Pirate Bay quickly became a reliable hub of uncensored data. It gave people the power to upload and access all sorts of information, while successfully buffering takedown requests from the powers that be.

For 16 years, The Pirate Bay proxy has been a safe haven for anyone and everyone in the web who wants free access to files, and you only had to create a (free) account in order to upload something.

User Registration Issues

The problem with user registrations reared its head earlier this year causing the site to close them down altogether while figuring out a long-term solution to the problem. The last time a “new” user registered onto the site was back in May 22nd and since then it’s been radio silence from the site on this front and it doesn’t seem like a change is coming at all.

The TPB team did release a statement claiming that their reason for closing registrations was to eliminate malware torrents and the order came from one of the site’s moderators, although the actual act of disabling new user registration was done by an operator known only as “Winston.”

The initial plan, according to reports, was to limit the number of torrents that a single user could upload onto the site in order to prevent site-wide spamming. According to The Pirate Bay, operations would resume and it would be business as usual once this problem was solved.

Clearly, The Pirate Bay hasn’t yet found a reliable solution to the problem because a whole summer has passed since it accepted its last new user registration and it doesn’t seem like an end is in sight for this ban.

As for the Winston character, all that we know is that he’s in charge of taking care of the platform’s backend operations. So far, there has been no word from him on the matter.

The good news is this temporary ban on new user registrations has significantly improved the spam situation. The site is no longer swamped with malware torrents.

The interesting thing is that if you visit the Pirate Bay website, you’ll notice that the registration button is still there, which means they haven’t completely eliminated this function as part of their overall business model.

Now, if you actually try to sign up by inputting your credentials (username and password) into the provided forms, you’ll just be met with a message that says, “Wrong code x. The username and/or e-mail address is already in use.”

Everyone who has tried to sign up as a new user on the site this past summer has dealt with the same issue.

The Future of the Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay remains one of the most popular online destinations to date. Current users who were already registered don’t seem to have a problem with how things are going.

Perhaps that’s because the lack of new users hasn’t affected their experience of the website. After all, only a few of the site’s current users are known for uploading regular content.

Of course, if you look at Pirate Bay online forums, you’ll find a few complaints here and there. But overall, site users seem pretty satisfied with the platform so far. Plus, anyone that complains seems to get the same response that there’s no word on when user registrations will open again.

All everyone has to do is stay patient and enjoy the site as is.

Besides, all of the users who regularly upload content are active on the site which means new torrents are coming in as usual. Not only that, but users no longer have to worry about spam and malware torrents anymore because that hasn’t been an issue since new user registrations were disabled.


ISPs Block the Pirate Bay in Spain

September 15, 2019 - Reading time: 43 minutes

As many of us will recall, The Pirate Bay platform was blocked by Vodafone due to an order issued by the Spanish government back in 2015.

Keep in mind that The Pirate Bay is one of the world’s most popular torrent websites, but it’s not the only one. That’s why the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sports is now aiming to completely eliminate the use of over 60 torrent sites by forcing ISPs to block these platforms altogether.

This is sad news for users who rely on The Pirate Bay and Pirate Bay proxy websites to get high-quality content that is otherwise unavailable to Spanish audiences due to different reasons.

What is the Pirate Bay?

The Pirate Bay leads the pack as one of the most used torrent sites and one of the first to be recognized as such and thus “banned” by the authorities.

However, it’s not just the Spanish government that is gunning for the Pirate Bay. There are numerous legal authorities from around the world who are working to limit user access to The Pirate Bay.

Of course, their efforts to completely take the site down have been successfully rebuffed by the Pirate Bay team, as shown by its long operation history and its ability to attract numerous users from around the world.

Still, regulators often include The Pirate Bay in the list of platforms and websites that face complaints and lawsuits from copyright owners. These actions are usually aimed at eventually closing the website down in order to protect the interests and rights of recognized content distributors.

One of the most prominent of these complaints came in 2015 from the Spanish government, who forced Vodafone to make the Pirate Bay domain unavailable to its users. Considering that Vodafone is one of the major ISPs in Spain, this was meant to deal a large blow to the Pirate Bay platform.

Attempted Blockages

Between June 2014 and November 2018, Spain’s Ministry of Culture and Sport has been attempting to block all domains that are connected to The Pirate Bay, especially those that end in .com, .net, .org and .se.

Additional obstructions have been initiated by the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the National Court as a response to complaints from a number of organizations including but not limited to:

·         Commission of Intellectual Property (AKA the Anti-Piracy Commission)

·         Promusicae (AKA Productores de Música de España)

·         Association of Intellectual Rights Management (aka AGEDI)

Although the Spanish Ministry of Sports and Culture has named any specific targets, the understanding is that their aim is to eliminate websites or platforms that are associated with the Pirate Bay and so far that number is at 60.

Most of them are Pirate Bay proxies or clones that use similar branding, otherwise, the platform itself doesn’t have that many known alternative domains.  

According to the Ministry of Culture and Sports Director of Cultural Industries and Cooperation, blocking websites that operate under the Pirate Bay banner is a way to show that the Anti-Piracy Commission is effective at eliminating pirates who constantly break the law by sharing copyrighted content illegally.

According to the court order, internet service providers are required to block access to any and all the listed domains within 72 hours. We don’t yet know which ISPs are affected by this order but we do know that it’ll probably affect your favorite the Pirate Bay proxy.

Wide Spread Internet Blockades

So far, the Anti-Piracy Commission has well over 479 sites that it’s targeting according to the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Interestingly enough, about 92.69% of these websites have since removed any and all incriminating content from their platforms after receiving the official notification, which means the ban no longer applies to them.

Standing Tall

The Pirate Bay hasn’t backed down and did not remove any of the so-called infringing content from its site, so it still faces judicial blocking orders from the authorities.

Several Hollywood studios have issued complaints about other popular torrenting sites in Spain which has led to yet another order being issued.

The list of targeted websites in this scenario includes:

·         Pepecine.me

·         Descagasdd.com

·         Cliver.tv

·         Pelispedia.tv

·         Repelis.live

·         Cinecalidad.to

·         Seriespapaya.com

·         Seriesdanko.to, and;

·         Exvagos1.com

From what we know, none of these websites are a Pirate bay proxy.

Earlier in the year, Spanish lawmakers issued a court order aimed at getting the country’s top internet service providers to block seven of the major torrent websites, including the ever-popular Lime Torrents and 1337x.

Both websites are notorious among lawmakers for infringing on copyright laws and sharing illegal content and now they’re facing the full brunt of the law.


What is the State of the Pirate Bay Years After Several Guilty Court Verdicts?

September 9, 2019 - Reading time: 43 minutes

A decade ago, four men who were believed to be the operators of the Pirate Bay platform, were found guilty of operating the torrenting site and subsequently sent to prison. One of the accused, Per Sunde, stated that the site would continue without them and that’s exactly what happened.

The Fateful Day

It all transpired on the 3rd of March 2009, when Peter Sunde, Carl Lundström, Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij awaited trial for the Pirate Bay case. During the previous night of March 2nd, the site was temporarily down, causing many of its users to lament in worry that the site would be no more now that its creators were behind bars.

Luckily, webmaster Fredrik (TiAMO) brought it back just as he had before even though he was in custody. Fredrik literally repaired the Pirate Bay website in the few minutes he had in the courtroom before sentencing began. The site, and many other Pirate Bay proxy sites have been online since then.

Of course, this act of defiance made matters worse for all three defendants and it’s also what turned them into heroes of the internet underworld, if you will. Lundstrom, who was once a financier fell by the wayside rather quickly, but the other trio held their ground and felt emboldened by the events of the trial.

All three vowed that they would accept their sentence, even while it seemed unfair, and they refused to pay any fines. Sunde was even heard saying that he would rather destroy all his belongings before the authorities saw even a penny of his money. But then again, they couldn’t afford to pay in any case.

Nevertheless, the Pirate Bay continues to exist and thrive today, just as Sunde promised all those years ago in the face of adversity. If you go to thepiratebay.org, you’ll find the site just as it was a decade ago and you’ll be able to access all of the content that’s shared by users on the platform. The trial has in no way stopped the site from operating, despite many attempts to do so.

The Court Case

For the convicted creators of the site, life would become a little more complex over the years. in response to an appeal by the three now three defendants, the court agreed to reduce the sentences of Sunde, Neij and Lundström, on condition that they would agree to pay higher fines to the plaintiffs who represented the entertainment industry.

Svartholm, on the other hand, was noticeably absent from this part of the trial due to medical difficulties. All four of the defendants ended up serving jail time after all, although Sunde, Neij and Svartholm vowed to not go down without a fight.

Also known by their aliases, brokep, TiAMO, and Anakata, the trio continued to maintain their original position, refusing to pay the required fines. For that, they did time in prison.

Now, for copyright holders who consider Svartholm, Neij and Sunde thieves, this act of defiance was met with much disapproval, to put it lightly. However, the trio was perceived as heroes in the online pirate world.

Since then, there has been no mention of their involvement in the Pirate Bay and it’s safe to assume that they’re no longer involved in operating the site.  Still, it’s pretty amazing to consider the fact that the site continues to operate 10 years after facing this level of remarkable adversity.

The Pirate Bay Today

The Pirate Bay and Pirate Bay proxy sites continue to be some of the most popular online torrenting platforms in the world, despite repeated attempts to block and eliminate them.

However, this also means that users are stuck using a site that the same graphics and features it had a decade ago. Of course, users aren’t complaining because the Pirate Bay is a reliable torrenting site with a long history backing it, unlike flashy newcomers like ExtraTorrents and KickAssTorrents who’re constantly plagued by problems.

Not only that, but the Pirate Bay is like the digital version of the legendary “hydra.” The site’s main domain remains intact to this day and so are many of its renditions which mirror much of its branding and operations.

Conclusion

So far, there’s no indication that authorities will ever be able to stop the site completely when they can’t even find it in the first place. We don’t know about you, but we think it’s safe to say that the Pirate Bay is the most invincible torrenting website ever created.


EZTV is Now Hit by the Pirate Bay Overblock

September 5, 2019 - Reading time: 43 minutes

In a mistake that can only be described as a royal blunder, a popular Internet provider of Dutch origin known as Ziggo recently blocked user access to EZTV, one of the country’s most widely used torrent sites.

This situation started back when a Cloudflare IP-address was released with EZTV being placed next to a popular torrenting website known as The Pirate Bay. This made it seem like EZTV is a Pirate Bay proxy, which it isn’t.

However, the BREIN anti-piracy group came to the rescue by requesting Cloudflare to move EZTV and place it on a completely different IP-address.

About Pirate Bay

Remember that the Pirate Bay is a widely blocked website and numerous internet service providers have received court orders to block their users from even accessing the site. The Netherlands is one of those countries who’re forcing ISPs to block known torrenting sites.

The overall case is currently pending at the Supreme Court, but the latest updates suggest that ISPs have been ordered to completely block user access to torrent websites.

Supreme Court Ruling

A 2017 landmark court ruling forced the Ziggo ISP to block all access to the Pirate Bay, its many domain names and IP addresses as well as any known Pirate Bay proxy websites.

The BREIN anti-piracy group continues to add to the list of blocked IP addresses and domains to the point that there are literally hundreds of websites on there now.

For the longest time, this didn’t cause any issues with these torrents until recently. About a month ago, numerous users of a popular torrent forum reported seeing a Pirate Bay blockade from Ziggo which was aimed at EZTV.io. However, since EZTV wasn’t included in the court order, this came as a surprise, despite the fact that there’s infringing content on the EZTV website.

Every time an EZTV user tried to access the torrenting website, they’d get a Ziggo message that said they’re attempting to visit a Pirate Bay proxy. The message further expressed that Ziggo has been requested to block user access to the website as per a September 22nd court order.

The Problem of Overblocking

Apparently, Cloudflare is used by both The Pirate Bay and EZTV which is why both torrenting sites ended up on the same IP address. That’s why, in an act of overblocking, EZTV ended up on the same filters used by Ziggo to block out famous torrenting sites.

When speaking to a local news website known as Tweakers, Ziggo confirmed that they had made a mistake but also said that they wouldn’t be able to do anything about the situation. Their hands are tied.

Unfortunately, the court order did not specify what should be done in the event of such complications and risks. That means Ziggo is basically forced to continue blocking a website even if it was a mistake to do so in the first place.

According to Ziggo, they communicated with BREIN about the issue early on but the anti-piracy organization didn’t update their list until much later. That’s why EZTV remained on the list of blocked websites for months after. Eventually, EZTV was unblocked after BREIN informed Cloudflare to relocate EZTV onto another IP address.

It’s unclear at the moment why Cloudflare would accidentally place a torrent site on the same IP address as another completely unrelated site. After all, it’s not like EZTV is a Pirate Bay proxy.

Perhaps it’s because EZTV uses Cloudflare in the same manner as the Pirate Bay. That’s why someone at BREIN thought it was a good move to list them both under the same IP address.

Now, while BREIN did try all that was in their power to unblock EZTV, there is denying that EZTV is still an illegal torrent site. That’s why BREIN eventually warned EZTV to halt any and all infringing activity on its site to avoid future blockades.

Pretty soon, the Supreme Court will finalize the Pirate Bay court case once and for all and they’ll not only make an example of the popular torrent site. But the authorities are expected to come for other illegal operators as well.

Conclusion

It’s important to note here that Cloudflare is known for overblocking as it has done so in the past. For instance, a well-known Internet back-end provider known as Cogent wrongly blocked tons of different pirate sites and this also happened as a result of a court order.

However, the problem was eventually resolved by separating the sites into two different IP-addresses.

Clearly, Cloudflare has to work on ensuring that its employees understand the current situation on Internet blockages in order to prevent overblocking incidents.


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