On its website, Private WiFi sells virtual private networks that it says can stop government eavesdropping. "You do not want the government to know what you are doing? "Then it's time to get a VPN," the company says.
Another such company, HideIPVPN, promises something similar. "The NSA and the FBI are spying on you. A VPN can limit what they know! ”
The Virtual Private Networks, the VPNs , can disguise the location of computers and encrypt Internet traffic, allowing their owners to bypass firewalls or prevent eavesdropping. The companies that sell these networks are using the scandal NSA as a marketing tool, and promise to protect their customers from the prying eyes of government spies. However, new revelations about NSA actions. by Edward Snowden have raised many doubts as to whether these services really deliver what they promise.
On Wednesday, the NBC News reported that the British service GCHQ, spotted a member of Anonymous from his tracks on the virtual private network he was using.
When the hacker clicked on a link sent to him by a secret government official, authorities were able to locate the hacker's IP address and determine his name and location.
It is unclear exactly how GCHQ managed to discover the identity of the hacker, who was known only by the online name pOke. NBC News assumed that the secret service either violated the virtual private network or asked the company itself for the name and history of the hacker.
Privacy activists have responded to the news by warning that virtual private networks may not be so private. “If its provider VPN keeps your logs and gives the user data to the authorities, what's the point? ” said Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher on privacy. Another well-known researcher, Jacob Applebaum, to his followers at Twitter : "Stop using #VPNs to protect your privacy."
Virtual private networks are not only used by hackers trying to cover their tracks. They have been used for years for a variety of reasons, including bypassing the Chinese government's firewall and securing direct connection to public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Many start-ups have recently started marketing virtual private networks to individual consumers, costing from $ 5 to $ 15 a month. Always with the promise of privacy.
But before using such a virtual private network, consumers should consider whether the provider maintains IP address files. "If they have such records, they may be forced to hand them over," Soghoian told authorities.
In 2011, for example, the FBI arrested Cody Kretsinger, a 23-year-old Phoenix man, for allegedly helping LulzSec hack Sony's website.
Kretsinger had used a virtual private network provider called "Hide My Ass." But the FBI was able to locate an IP address owned by the VPN provider. Then things were simple, he forced the company to hand over the logs by court order, which led to Kretsinger's arrest. Last year, Kretsinger was sentenced to one year in prison.
Following Kretsinger's arrest, the company Hide My Ass "We are not going to allow illegal activities, and as a legal company we will work with law enforcement if we make a court decision," she said in a blog post.
"It is very naive to believe that by subscribing to a VPN service you are free to commit illegal acts without consequences," the company continued.