1. They are not toys :
Online safety is one of those subjects which ends up in the book of most computer nerds. Depending on your interests or dedication you might end up with the urge to experiment with Anonimity software. You might have heard about Tor trough the News, end up on forums or websites with users who claim the right to free speech, or somehow you discovered about the 4 most dominant systems: VPN, Tor, I2P, Freenet. All of those have passed some computers calculating their ways trough my days, But one thing anybody should always keep in mind is the following: "They are not Toys". There is a severe dark side to Tor, i2p and Freenet which might get you into some serious trouble.
If you are a common internet user conerned about having a safe and non-suspicious internet record concerning your daily browsing: You do not need any strong anonimity system. If you are paranoid: Make sure to know that these systems might make things worse.
2. VPN - You probably would never need anything else, or even it :
A VPN is the most standard way of creating a small barrier between you and a website or server which you visit. It is the most commonly used system to hide your real network device from the end point of you connection. A VPN client opens an encrypted connection to a Server which in turn routes your connection requests to a website or server. Under percfect conditions a server hosting a website will not know your real IP adress or origin, while the encryption makes it realy hard for you Internet Provider to know what you are looking at. It would also be illegal in most nations for anybody to crack or spy on your network activity under any circumstance and this adds an extra layer of protection which needs to be cracked by attackers. On top of that you could also nota that a VPN is the least suspicious way of achieving an extra layer of security with a lot of users on a world wide basis.
If you want to use a VPn service to log into your social media accounts, bank account, or any private or protected data then make sure that you are using a commercial, well known VPN provider with a high amount of users and not a free service offered by common people or unknown organisations. If you ignore this advice then be prepared to lose all your profiles and money to unknown crackers.
A VPN might also be handy for people with a high dose of curiosity who tend to follow links around on websites while knowing that they might end up on websites or servers with dangerous or bad content. It would add a small layer of protection against accidents where you end up opening something which you yourself never wanted to see, or anybody should know.
3. Heavy Duty anonimity systems - Primer :
Any computer nerd could eventually end up on their websites, read about them, or encountered forum or chat users who promote these. They all claim the same thing: It protects freedom of speech, it prevents government censorship, and protects your privacy... Some even go so low as claiming them to be simply "cool" to use. That last statement severely fights one single truth: They are not toys.
Any heavy duty anonimity system has been designed to hide you in an encrypted network system which tries to prevent attacks, decryption, and tampering with the connection by any person who might be out to get you. The purpose of anonimity is being anonymous, and most users make two final and severe mistakes: they turn it into a pseudonymous connection, or use a browser containing the WebRTC / Peerconnect Leak. The first mistake means that they connect to forums, chats, social media systems in or trough the anonimity networks and create a nickname , a pseudonym. From that point on you could be identified trough that pseudonym and its login sessions. The second mistake is unavoidable trough browsers like Chrome as a java script running on any website could simply request your real unhidden public and local ip adress.
Another simple truth is the fact that a common internet user with a common life has nothing to share on these networks which could ever be seen as important enough to even be published in or trough those systems unless they are living in a dangerous nation which abuses its own people.
While living in a free nation, ask yourself one simple question:
"What do these people have to hide while claiming to be a decent and common person ?"
4. Heavy Duty anonimity systems - An honest view:
Tor has become a commonly known name because of its importance in modern News media, constantly under attack, constantlyreported for the criminality happening trough it, and sometims with happy news because it helped a poor person living in a corrupt nation. It is a system with two sides to it. You could use it as an advanced proxy systems to the commen daily internet, or a system which connect to Union websites hidden deep within its network. Manny common users and misguided nerds never touch or use those Union sites which makes them spread false claims about how clean and secure it is. Many use it as a Toy without understanding what they are using so they connect to normal IRC channels just to have a cool cloak name, idiots use it to publish meme's and stupidity as an Union site, and criminals roam its depths to publish dangerous content. In short: The first two groups create a dangerous atmosphere around Tor as if it is nothing but a play toy.
My advice to nerds and curious people is the following:
Do not use browsers like chrome or any browser which has no protection against Webrtc/Peerconnect leaks, Do not let it fool you into beleiving it to be a safe toy, and do not use it for stupidity. The deep and hidden websites inside of tor are a secret, the only ones you will ever find are traps, dangerous sites with infectious Java scripts, or traps to lure you into looking at illegal content just to initiate a Webrtc leak. You might regret ever attempting to find its secrets not listed on public and easy to find pages. Most information you would ever find contains not one single secret or speciality. A simple non hidden google or wikipedia search would show you more and better information. Another possibility is ending up with a short rush and shock after which you close tor and end up having a paranoid fear for a few days because you had seen something which you never wanted to see. It is not a toy!
I2P is a anonimity network based on java and routes all your network trough the computer of people who offer a part of their connection as a node. It is a very slow system which needs many hours of runtime before you could ever connect to any or most of its hidden websites while making you suspicious trough you connecting to the network. If your are not planning to study its contents, analysing how it works, or learning about the deeper working of such networks then you, as a common person, should not bother with it. Once booted it claims to be able to provide torrenting or P2P downloading of files. Now ask yourself one simple question:
"Why would you download a movie or mp3 trough a heavy duty anonimity network ?"
Most answer to such a self asked question probably end up with some twisted answers. A claim to "advanced" anonimity attracts dangerous people with dangerous activities. On the other side of the story you might find a few of the many clean i2P sites, but they contain nothing which a common person living in a free nation would not be able to find on Wikipedia or trough Google. It is not a toy!
FreeNet is one of the most shocking heavy duty anonimity tools you could find. It has a clean and propper website which promotes the tools as a security system fighting censorship and freedom of speech. The only way to use it is to offer up some personal hard disk space in which all sorts of data from the network will be stored. Data from things which you yourself did not even visit or look at. It has two modes of operation. Connecting to strangers or connecting to friends. The first mode makes it connect to anybody in the network which has a node and allows such connections, the second one is the most anonymous mode where you can not enter the network without "internal" connections, knowing people inside of the network.
Within an hour you could be connected to the network trough the first mode as described above which allows you to surf its "hidden" websites. In an instant you could be reading about linux, reading a strange blog containing nothing special, watch a few picture from a forest, look at a few pin-up models, or find multiple indexing systems which try to list all of freenet its contents. That last option leads to one conclusion: It is a hornets nest. Within two hours time you could be looking at a list of freenode websites with cryptic names and many of them lead you towards highly illegal content which might get you into some serious legal problems. It is a shocking truth. Be highly carefull when investigating, studying, analysing, or crawling this network. It is not a toy!
5. Closure :
I realize that blogs like these might anger the less social or knowing fans of such systems, and there are people with honest and good reasons to use the most heavy duty tools but most users do not need these at all. I go even further and severly emphasize that any parent living in a modern western nation should keep his children and teens as far away from these as possible. I noted it troughout this blog entry: they are not toys. The worst thing that could ever happen are people getting into some serious problems because they where unable to understand what they where using, what they contain, and what they could lead to. The dangers are real. Using them makes you suspicious. using them might make you paranoid, or more paranoid than ever before. Accidents might happen en do happen. If you use them then use them wisely. If needed memorize what type of "hidden" and highly illegal websites you should avoid based on their naming schemes.
One final question:
Why would as person living a common life, in a free nation, with a common internet usage patern need such systems to post a blog like this ?
In case of freedom of Speech or information i take nota that this Blog is exactly that. It is my unfiltered opinion. uncensored and unrestricted. truthfull and opinionated. It has no need to be hidden, it runs on a free service offered by the amazing Weebly hosting company. It embodies that which true freedom of speech and information is.
This is the base for Eichhorst his face, painted in The Gimp. This was my starting point for the finished digital painting which i posted about in an earlier Blog entry. One can notice a reference image added as a layer which I used to make sure everything remained somewhat correct. The Facial features in the finished image are not exact nor are they even correct at times as a result of painting everything from scratch. With the normal brush, paint brush, and the smudge tool i gradualy layered color upon color, smudge trough smudge. The result was then color corrected towards a pseudo realistic end result resembling some 1990's oil-painted comic book frames. The way i use the smudge tool in a program like The Gimp is based upon The Joy Of Painting, a show i first watched around the year 2004. Eveything i do is self taught trough years of practice, assimilating certain ways of doing things trough watching or reading about drawing and painting (like the smudge tool) and experimentation. Though as mentioned in the previous Blog entry about this digital painting: I was not able to finsish this the way i wanted it to be due to computer screen related problems.
Something which has been bothering me for a long time concerns the fact that the Belgian Media (news and television) became very twisted concerning the 'generations" and their digital, or non digital media. Bit by bit it is becoming a rather distorted view on reality. A realistic view on the subject would be the following :
1) 1988~1988 : Born during this year in Belgium.
The Strain is an interesting show about Vampire like creatures that want to take over the world. It inspired me to open up The Gimp and paint some Fan Art. Little did i know that it would become a challenge. I began painting this on a decent monitor with a mediocre resolution (1280x720) but that monitor decided to break and left me hanging with an unfinished raw image containing the base of the face. After setting up a backup CRT screen i continued painting the concept. My luck turned. A replacement flatscreen was handed to me. What a horror did i paint: Stray pixels, stray colors, blury edges connected to pixel clear edges... On the old CRT screen nothing ever seemed wrong with the image. It took me a full day to correct, but not solve.
This is a song i once made using an old DAW. I have some fond memories concerning Music Maker 2007. I once bought this version as a brand new and relevant piece of software. It featured a fantastic user interface but also came with full blown VSTI support. This song only contains audio produced by some top notch free VSTI which where not delivered with the DAW.