After the sole developer of Incognito, arguably, the best Linux live CD for anonymous internet browsing, announced that he could not carry on with his work in the project, another anonymous live CD, Amnesia, decided to merge with Incognito Linux live CD, and hence, the (Amnesic) Incognito Live System was born.
Version 0.5 of The Amnesic Incognito Live CD is now out and includes lots of goodies for anonymous internet surfing, encryption and erasing your online tracks, such as:
Claws Mail 3.7.5 with OpenPGP support.
Pidgin automatically connects to irc.oftc.net with a randomized nickname.
At shutdown time, only prompt to remove CD; just halt when booted from a USB stick.
Forbid any IPv6 communication with the outside.
Added some wifi drivers: Ralink rt2570, rt2860 and Broadcom STA.
My hats off to this great live CD for anonymous internet surfing!
For those who fear that the Chinese or British secret services will seize their computers one day, a live CD is the sure way to avoid leaving any tracks on your computer.
I have been using AceVPN for three months now and this review is based on this length of time. Before getting into a Virtual Private Network for anonymous internet surfing purposes, you should understand that a VPN will make it more difficult for TLA agencies such as the CiA and Mi5 to spy on you, but a VPN is a single hop proxy, if they want you bad they will most likely have you.
For serious anonymous internet surfing you should use Tor, which unfortunately it is slow for most activities other than posting at bulletin boards.
At the moment there is a 50GB monthly bandwith cap on AceVPN, I think this is a very reasonable amount of bandwith, the average surfer will probably download half that and since P2P programs are not allowed on AceVPN I can hardly see anyone going over the limit.
The Good Stuff
Every time I have emailed AceVPN, around five times, I always got a useful reply in under 24 hours. AceVPN at the time of writing this, has servers in the US, UK and France and claims to be planning new servers at other countries.
One of the USA VPN I was using got blocked by Hulu, a US only TV website, apparently they do not like people from abroad being able to watch their films through a proxy. AceVPN has a secret list of VPNs to access US only sites such as Hulu TV, Pandora radio and Crackle TV, if you email AceVPN support and tell them you want to watch Hulu and they are blocking your proxy, they will send you a new non public configuration file with new servers for the VPN.
AceVPN uses OpenVPN to tunnel the data as opposed to the more unsecure PPTP, and besides Windows, AceVPN also works in Mac, Linux/BSD and the iPhone, any device where you can install OpenVPN should work.
You can choose the UDP or TCP protocol for tunneling. Normally you should choose the UDP protocol, this is que fastest method to download data through the VPN, the TCP protocol is provided because some ISPs and private networks block all UDP traffic to stop certain applications from accessing the internet.
The Bad Stuff
When you sign up for AceVPN they will send you a very hard to remember cryptic password that you can not change, you will need to enter this every time you want to access the VPN, better write it down somewhere, I personally have it saved on a .txt file on my Desktop.
AceVPN has servers in several countries but in order to choose what server you want to connect to you will have to manually edit the OpenVPN config file in Notepad and comment out the servers you want to avoid, there is no control panel to do this.
Torrents and P2P programs are not allowed at AceVPN, even if some users use it, as per terms and conditions this is forbidden.
AceVPN is great value for money and it stops your ISP from logging your internet activities making the life of those who spy on others much more difficult, AceVPN is also one of the cheapest VPN available and the wide choice of servers located in different countries guarantees that if one goes down you can still connect somewhere else.
Be aware that during my time with AceVPN one of their USA servers was seized by the FBI, this was due to a DMCA request according to AceVPN management.
While AceVPN claims not to keep logs, the FBI is known to have great computer forensic facilities and only God knows what kind of personal private data from innocent people they managed to retrieve from that server.
I will be greatly surprised if these professional meddlesome informers resisted the temptation of not looking at other users accounts, I will say it again because people’s lives may be at stake, never forget to use full disk encryption as a security back up. A VPN will make the spooks job more difficult but not impossible, privacy advocates are a high target for TLA, people who have a private life scare the shit out of them, they are not used to that, be ready for an early morning raid from people wanting to know what you do in your spare time, whether you use VPN or you don’t, the Obama deception is here, this is not a joke, the CiA means business, your little VPN will not be enough to stop them, think bigger.
UPDATE: As of 01 December 2009, I am having serious problems to watch USA TV with AceVPN (it’s very slow), after various speed tests at http://www.speedtest.net I have detected that their USA servers are very slow at times, in the order of 500Kb/download.
This may change in the future but as for now be warned of this problem. Their French and UK server speed was acceptable.
It has been quite a while since I last used VforVPN and I am glad they are still online as I was quite happy with their services and customer support.
With a VPN you will avoid your ISP logging your internet activities and will make it next to impossible for outsiders to eavesdrop on your internet activities. I would recommend you to always get a VPN located outside the country where you live, aka offshore, this will make it even harder for your local Stasi, aka Cia, aka Mi5, et al, to read your emails and look at your online habits.
I still do not understand why VforVPN is so little know as it is one of the few services that will support Unix systems, my guess is that many people will be put off when they read in their about page that the person behind the company is a high school student.
The Good Stuff
Once you can install OpenVPN in your Unix system you are ready to go, VforVPN will work in Linux, Solaris or any BSD, I used it with FreeBSD so I can tell you for sure it will work with it.
If you plan on using VforVPN with Unix you will need to ask support to send you a digital certificate which in my case they did in less than 24 hours. For some unknown reason I only managed to make it work when I was logged in as root, otherwise the openvpn command would give me some error, even though the other user in the box had full rights.
One of the big frustrations I have with VPN proxies is that they will only support Windows, it is refreshing to find a provider that will not force you to use Microsoft. Some of those providers don’t even work with Windows 64 bit, when incidentally a Windows 64 bit OS is more secure than a 32 bit operating system.
You have two plans available with VforVPN, one using PPTP and another using OpenVPN. PPTP is an outdated Microsoft technology that does not provide confidentiality nor encryption; It relies on the protocol being tunnelled to provide privacy, for high security you would be advised to keep well away from the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), the OpenVPN plan is slightly more expensive but considerably safer.
During the time I used VforVPN I never experienced any downtime or speed issue, however I could not connect to the Undernet network in IRC as they have VforVPN IP blacklisted, likely to be due to somebody misusing anonymity to carry out abuse.
Connecting to other IRC networks other than Undernet worked fine. You are very likely to find many proxies blacklisted in IRC servers, including tor proxies, so I can not hold this against VforVPN.
The Bad Stuff
A high school student managing your privacy is not what you would ideally expect from a privacy service, you would probably want an individual with many years of IT experience and a proven record in the privacy business.
I can not vouch for the no logs claim of any VPN provider, there is no way anyone but them can know the truth about this. They could claim 30 days logs and keep them for 30 years or 30 seconds, that is why for truly anonymity, anything other than tor is only pseudoanonymous, but tor proxies are slow and you can’t stream video or do bittorrent or anything that demands high bandwidth and speed, at times you will need to consider a VPN provider for internet surfing.
VforVPN has some of the cheapest prices I have found, their speed and uptime was 100% during the time I used them, they replied quickly and efficiently to my emails, and their service works with Windows, Linux and even the iPhone (or other smartphones)!
You will have to trust a high school student to manage your privacy, but at least they are letting you know, if VforVPN stay in business for a few years this will not apply anymore.
At other companies you usually do not have a clue of who is managing your privacy, it could be the same or worse.
This is my independent review based on my personal experience, you are more than welcome to comment below any negative or positive experience you had with them, I never censor anyone other than spammers.
UPDATE: As of 01 September 2009, VforVPN has gone offline!
I am deleting the link I had to them as their domain name is now parked.
UPDATE 2: As of 01 December 2009, VforVPN came back online! I would avoid paying one year in advance to this VPN just in case it goes offline again.
UPDATE January 2011: Website is down, stay out of this VPN provider, not stable, assuming they still exist.