All your grades and reports are encrypted on the school’s server, so why is most of your Web work out in the open for the wide world of hackers to view? The simple fact of the matter is that using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can not only allow your Web journeys to be anonymous but everything you type and every place you go is secret and secure.
That’s because a VPN is built around a technique called tunneling that uses a Web browser’s Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security. Everything is encrypted using the powerful 256-bit AES cypher so it stays secret. The problem is that using a VPN requires special hardware at the host, can slow down a connection and cost a lot to operate.
That is until now because the latest version 40 of the Opera browser has a VPN built in. Rather than charging upwards of $60 a year or imposing data limits, it’s free to use as long or often as you like. The back-end of Opera’s VPN is provided by SurfEasy, which has connection infrastructure throughout the world and at any time you can turn it off.
The VPN add-on works with Macs, PCs, Androids and iOS systems, but you need to most recent version of Opera. To use it, all you do is type Control-Shift and N to get to a private Opera online session. The VPN logo shows up next to the address bar. Click on it and then Enable to get things started.
The interface not only shows your current IP address but shows how much data you’ve used. For most VPN’s this is because you need to pay per megabyte or month, but here’s it’s strictly informational. At this point, everything you click on or download is encrypted and is only rendered readable on your computer. Think of it as your own private Web and you get an idea of its potential for schools.
The performance is surprisingly good for all the encryption and decryption that takes place behind the scenes. Over the course of several weeks, I used Opera’s VPN for a variety of curriculum, email and online video sites with no discernable slow-down.
For my online connection, that translates into an increase in latency from an average of 15.6- to 19-milliseconds. My online connection downloaded data at 56.8Mbps, down from an unimpeded 61.4Mbps. Uploading data with and without the VPN turned on was unchanged at 26.6Mbps. All of this likely to not even be noticed.
There is one glitch, though: you’ll need to affirmatively click to accept the use of Adobe Flash every time you hit a Web site that uses it. It’s a small price to pay for adding such security for free.