HideMyAss VPN

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Internet censorship in Cuba

Cuba is well known for a number of things, from cigars, salsa and Cha Cha dancing to the now retired Communist leader Fidel Castro. What you may not know, is that the vast majority of Cuba’s 11 million residents aren’t able to access an open and free internet.

According to Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom on the Net, only 5% of Cubans have access to an open internet, placing Cuba just ahead of Iran and behind China in the rankings.

Can you imagine not being able to use the internet on your phone or access the internet at home? I’m sure you can’t, but for the majority of Cubans this is sadly the norm. Most mobile phones in Cuba don’t even include internet connections, and you’d be hard pressed to find internet in people’s homes. This is mainly because a basic home computer costs US$722,  compare that to a Cuban’s average monthly salary of around $20 a month  and you can see why.  Those who can access the internet, are mostly government officials, academics, doctors and state approved journalists, according to Ellery Biddle, who has researched Cuba’s internet issues for six years.

Cubans who wish to use the internet legally can use one of the 600 Youth Computer Clubs  or one of 118 state-owned internet cafes, which cost around $4.50 per hour

To be able to use one of these cafes or Youth clubs Cubans must provide identification so authorities can monitor and view their interactions and communications.  Super fast internet is non-existant , those who do pay these hefty prices, experience extremely slow speeds, which basically allows them to check their email – so, forget streaming online videos!

There are only two ISPs in Cuba, CENIAI Internet and ENET (ETECSA) which are both state owned. The Cuban government installed software on all public computers to monitor internet activity which also collects data from public computers.  Cubans have very little, if any room to breath, every move they make is monitored.

One company trying to encourage open internet in Cuba, is Google. Recently, according to the Cuban blog 4yomedio.com,  its Chairman Eric Schmidt and a number of open internet advocates visited the country with the aim of “promoting the virtues of a free and open Internet.” No other details about the unofficial visit were given, but it clearly demonstrates Google’s desire to bring about internet freedom in a tightly controlled, and restrictive country.

For now, accessing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is hit and miss (they have both been blocked in the past) but as in Pakistan, YouTube remains blocked.

However, there are several ways that Cubans bypass government censorship, one of which is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network.)  Hide My Ass! have the largest number of servers around the globe, and for those in Cuba, whether you live there or are visiting the country, your best bet would be to connect to one of our US servers. Once connected, all your online activity is hidden, nobody can snoop on your online activities, who you communicate with or what you post online.

At HMA! we believe that everyone has the right to a free and open internet. We deplore any government that restricts its citizens from being able to voice their opinions, and communicate with the outside world. Take back your right to a free and open internet with HMA!
Visit our website for more information about HMA! Pro VPN

China cracks down on instant messaging services

The Chinese government have tightened their grip on social media to stamp out ‘rumours’ and ‘harmful’ material online by passing new rules requiring organisations and companies as well as celebrities to use their real name before using WeChat (or Weixin as it’s known in China), and other IM service providers. And those who don’t abide, are for the chop! Yes, sadly the political views of Chinese netizens are not welcome in the People’s Republic of China.

Those with other public accounts who want to share political news will need prior approval before publishing it.  The Xinhua News Agency told The Economic Times that new account holders “would need to sign a contract promising to “obey the law and uphold the socialist system.”  For the time being, it looks like the new rules don’t apply to instant messaging between WeChat users.  Of course, this new rule has nothing to do with controlling and blocking their right to freedom of expression and a free, open and internet. No, nothing at all…

According to Xinhua news, those who want to use WeChat to share political news will have to hand over their real ID, and go through a background check before they can gain access to it.
But it’s not all bad news, – they can still use their nickname – err yeah, great, I’m sure that will make their day!

This news has rightly angered many social media users who do not see this new regulation as a means to “clean up the online environment and rein in rumormongers.” Murong Xuecun, a popular Chinese blogger told The New York Times “The real reason is there’s lots more freedom of speech and public information online these days, and that’s a fatal blow to a regime built on lies.”

There are almost 400 million active WeChat users, who use it to not only chat online, and share political news and information, but use it to text, play games and make mobile payments.  China clearly sees social media as an enormous threat to its dictatorial regime and is determined to stamp out ‘harmful’ content.  According to Public Radio International The State Internet Information Office only want to “further promote the healthy and orderly development of public information services, protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations, and safeguard national security and public interests.” Yes, of course, they do…!

Fortunately many internet users in China have found ways to circumvent blocks placed on websites, by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network.) When you connect to VPN server, you’re given a new IP address, that allows you to surf the net safe in the knowledge that your government cannot spy on your online activity.

If you are planning a business trip to China, bear in mind that you will not be able to access some of the internets most popular websites, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Dropbox, and Twitter. However, there is a way around this, and that’s to use HMA! Pro VPN – (yes, shameless plug.)  I recommend that you purchase it and get it set up on your device, iPhone, Mac, Android, PC, etc. before you arrive in China to make sure everything is working perfectly.

VPNs give Chinese netizens access to a free and open internet, so they can read other articles rather than dreary pro-government material, and access social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Spread the word to your friends living in China, and help them bypass government censorship using HMA! Pro VPN.  Feel free to give them our email address info@hidemyass.com and a member of our support team will assist them.

Whether you live in China or other countries such as Russia or Turkey whose governments decide what information you can access or what you can post online, it’s great to know that HMA! Pro VPN is here to help you bypass these tyrannical internet dictators, and stupid blocks placed on your favourite websites.

If you would like more information about HMA! Pro VPN please feel free to contact us or visit our website for further details.

Be the first to test run the new HMA! Mac client

We are very excited to release the Beta version of the HideMyAss! VPN client v2.0.15.4 (for Mac) and get it into the hands of our users.
New Features and improvements:
  1. All major icons have been revamped giving a sleeker, more contemporary look and are optimised for Retina displays
  2. HMA! Pro VPN now supports the Menu Bar, allowing you to control your VPN connection; connect, disconnect and change IP
  3. Users’ can now unhide the app when it’s minimised
  4. We have also made proxy settings more user friendly, giving you an even better experience using HideMyAss!
Please note, that we have now frozen support for version OS X 10.6 with version 1.17. Customers using OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) can continue to use the existing version (v1.17) which is downloadable from our website.
We always welcome any comments or questions you may have so, please, feel free to let us know on our Google Beta Community page.

The security risks of BYOD

Today, we can work where we want, with millions of us using smartphones, tablets and laptops accessing public Wi-Fi to keep abreast of the latest goings on at work, to shoot off urgent emails and send files. But have you ever asked yourself whether the Wi-Fi network you use in that coffee shop, in that restaurant or airport to conduct your work, is secure? The Telegraph recently reported figures from online security firm ZoneAlarm that 64 per cent of Brits are not concerned about connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi, and a massive 85 per cent of us still use public Wi-Fi without taking the right security measures. Those are alarming figures, but why do we play Russian roulette with not only sensitive company data, but that of our own private and confidential information?

When using public Wi-Fi we open the door to cybercriminals, who can steal data from your device within seconds. That data could include banking details, user names, passwords, highly confidential corporate information, customers personal details, the list goes on.

One thing to remember is that routers can have a range of 100 metres, so although you may be satisfied that everyone in the coffee shop looks ‘normal’ the cyber thief may actually be operating down the road from you. There are a number of ways how you can stop your data on your device from getting into the wrong hands, for example, verify with the coffee shop or hotel staff what the correct network connection name is. It’s imperative to know it’s a genuine connection, as many cybercriminals setup fake hotspots, waiting for you to connect to their network. Using a legitimate coffee shop Wi-Fi is one step in the right direction, but thieves can still attack hotspots as they provide no data encryption.The scary thing is that you won’t even know that you’re being hacked as there are no warning signs, no alarm bells.

More and more, small businesses are being targeted by cyber thieves. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but perhaps the biggest one, is that the majority of small businesses take little to no security measures to protect and secure their business, making them a honey pot to cyber thieves. Another reason they favour small businesses is because many of them have larger clients on their books, so they see them as a stepping stone to a bigger meal ticket down the road.

If you don’t beef up your business security, you could end up decimating your client business relationships, or worse still, end up losing your business. According to an article in PC World “one in five small businesses falls victim to cybercrime each year. And of those, 60 percent go out of business within six months after an attack.”

Another security issue of using public hotspots is that cyber thieves can also transmit malware on your device when you’ve connected to it. BAE systems Applied Intelligence telecoms sector director Rajiv Shah Telecoms told Arnnet.com “If an employee then connects a compromised device to the corporate network this can be a backdoor route to let a determined criminal mount an even wider-ranging attack.”

Lack of security in your business is a big concern, but fortunately there are security steps you can take, one of which is to purchase a VPN – of course HMA! Pro VPN, which will give your company a solid layer of protection when using devices at public hotspots. When you use a VPN on your smartphone, laptop or tablet all your data is encrypted, cyber thieves and hackers cannot steal any of your personal information, your ISP cannot see what you get up to online; and your government cannot snoop on your online activities.

Others security measures you can take include installing anti-virus software on all your devices, use secure passwords, not only on your laptops, smartphones, but on your network Wi-Fi, and backup your files and data as a safety precaution.

With more and more Wi-Fi hot spots popping up around the globe comes the increase of Wi-Fi hacking. Taking the right steps to protect your data is crucial if you want your business to survive. Remember, educating yourself and your employees about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi could save you $$$’s or, even your business!

Click here to find out more about HMA! Pro VPN.

How to remove ‘canvas fingerprinting’

A huge number of websites are embedded with a media web-tracking technology , one that has hit the headlines recently is AddThis, which allows web pages to track our online activities, and monitor what we share on Facebook and Twitter, etc. Our data is collected, such as system fonts, and also reveals the browser we are using. This information is sold onto advertising companies who in turn, direct ads, news articles and other content they think will be of interest to us.  Research carried out by a group from Princeton University, and Belgium’s KU Leuven University found that 5 per cent of the top 100,000 websites, including whitehouse.gov use canvas fingerprinting.

For a list of affected sites visit the KU Leuven site.

What does it do?
Canvass fingerprinting is an ingenious piece of technology, but it’s also pretty scary and is invading our right to privacy. If you browse internet sites, you will have undoubtedly seen ‘enable cookies’ pop up on the web page, cookies allow companies to monitor your browsing activity as well as providing you a better-browsing experience. Cookies can be controlled by using the incognito mode or private browsing mode on your computer, but this will only remove the information from your computer and not the server.

You can turn cookies off, but bear in mind that you may not be able to enter other sites. Check out this Wiki article which explains how you can disable cookies on a number of different platforms.
Whereas cookies can easily be controlled, canvas fingerprinting, whilst not impossible to remove, takes a little more effort to manage.

Each of us have our own blank canvas, and our internet browser, it could be Chrome, Safari,  Internet Explorer or Firefox, draws an image on our canvas. I have one; you have one, it’s unique to each computer, so companies can recognize each person, individually. The image, complete with information, is sent back to the website, a number is assigned to your computer, so ads can be delivered to you.

Advertising companies want to know your spending habits,  what you’re interested in – it’s a huge money maker, so they deliver tailor-made marketing ads and information to you using this technology. By directing ads to us that they hope we will be interested in, they in turn charge the advertisers more money – so everyone is happy, right?  Well, maybe some of you may find these ads of use (do you really?!) but also, many of us see this as an invasion of privacy, especially when this new-sly technique is a lot harder to remove and also detect.  It’s not visible in plain sight that has made many people very concerned that yet another company is collecting our data in such an underhanded manner.  We all love to share, tweet, post on Facebook our thoughts, and opinions and jokes, and of course pictures of cats, but now it appears that we are paying for this ‘privilege’ with our data.

Canvas fingerprinting, is more resilient than cookies but not impossible to remove
You cannot simply remove canvass fingerprinting by deleting cookies, or not accept them because it resides on your browser. But the good news is that you can avoid this type of detection.  You can use NoScript, a Firefox web extension, and also download privacy extension Chameleon.
Check out Design and Technology blog Gizmodo for other ways to control canvas fingerprinting.
It’s also a good idea to use the widget AdBlock Plus and stay in private or incognito mode whilst browsing the web, and also don’t forget to use HMA! Pro VPN whilst connected to the internet which will add an extra layer of privacy protection.

For more information about canvas fingerprinting, check out this article from PC World.
Of course, it’s your data, it’s your decision as to whether you block or accept canvass fingerprinting and also cookies, but it’s good to know that you have a choice.

For more information about HMA! Pro VPN visit our website.

To block or not to block…

We’re seeing more and more governments toying with the idea of blocking websites that promote violence, and are ‘harmful’ to their citizens. Personal views, opinions of bloggers and freedom of expression advocates who dare to criticize governments are not welcome. This has resulted in a number of countries such as Turkey and Russia to crack down on political opponents, and place blocks on a number of websites, introduce methods to track and monitor people’s surfing habits placing a stranglehold on the right to a free and open internet.

Recently Ukraine moved dangerously close to copying Russia to shut down media companies in a bid to protect the country’s security and national interests, and without a court order. A number of press organizations including Reporters without Borders, heavily criticized the government calling the draft law “draconian.”  According to some news outlets, including the Global Journalist reported that the government has now removed it from the draft bill. A great win for an open and free internet, however, HMA! will be keeping a close eye on this situation.

Malaysia has also been thinking about imposing a website block, on Facebook. Around 2,000 cases of abuse reported by Facebook users prompted the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek to listen to Malaysians, saying “If the people are of the opinion that Facebook should be closed, we are prepared to look into the matter.”

A number of suggestions on how to control abuse, have included Facebook users to register their accounts with governmental authorities, but this would require co-operation from Facebook in the United States which would be very difficult to implement. Many organizations are worried that if this did go ahead, free speech would be killed.

However, the Minister has now changed his mind and has said that the government has no intention of blocking the social media site. Again, HMA! we be closely monitoring this situation.

According to internet freedom watchdog Freedom House, a New Press law is currently in committee in The Parliament of Turkey, which would force internet news sites to register their names with government authorities, mirroring the law which came into effect in Russia on 1 August.

Freedom House recently released a report “The Struggle for Turkey’s Internet” which describes the country as a “battleground state,” meaning “it is a place where a young population, improving technology, and international connections could result in a free Internet the world might envy, or where government tactics might provide a model for shutting down a vibrant online sphere.”

Where there’s internet censorship, there is HMA! Pro VPN. At HMA! we strongly believe that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, and we greatly oppose governments who place blocks on websites denying their netizens the fundamental human right to access sites that they should have 100 per cent access to.

Internet users’ around the world use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to get around website blocks, and bypass government censorship.

Once you have purchased an HMA! Pro VPN subscription, it will only take a few minutes to set it up on your Mac, PC, Android, or iPhone and then you’re ready to surf the net, access all your favourite websites, post on forums and blogs, and communicate with the outside world. When you select one of our VPN servers you are assigned one our IP addresses, your original IP is hidden from your ISP, so you are free to browse the internet without the worry of your government or ISP snooping on your online activities.

For more information and to find out other ways a VPN can help you, visit our website.

New HMA! Pro VPN Mac OS and Windows software

Mac OS X software update
We’re very pleased to announce the launch of the new Hide My Ass! Pro VPN for MAC OS X v2.1 – thanks for all your feedback, which has made this release possible.

  • 1-click installer
  • Design upgrade
  • Stability improvements
Get access to the latest version here.

Windows software update
We’ve also been working on the Windows software and v2.8.11 is now available. Click here to get access to the latest version, which has a new look!

We always want to hear from you, so let us know what you think of the new versions.

Fancy some FREE VPN?

We’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to our customers who recently took part in our user survey. So many of our users would recommend us to a friend whilst others have discovered HMA! through word of mouth.

With this in mind, we want to reward our customers when they share HMA! Pro VPN with their friends with FREE VPN!

Spread the word to your friends and family members so they too can benefit from using HMA! Pro VPN. Maybe they live in a country whose government blocks social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter, maybe they’re a regular user of public Wi-Fi, or perhaps they want to surf the internet anonymously away from snooping eyes – let them know that Hide My Ass! can help them.

Go on reward yourself!
Our ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme gives you free VPN time for inviting your friends to Hide My Ass!
For every month of VPN purchased by your friends you will earn one week of free VPN time for yourself. So, for example, if your friend purchases a 12 month subscription, you’ll get 12 weeks free VPN! What’s not to love about that?!

How to earn Free VPN time
  • Share your unique referral link – Anyone who purchases HMA! Pro VPN with your link will count toward your referrals. Use the link in email footers, blogs, or wherever you like. Get creative (but not spammy)!
  • Email your link – You can directly email your friends, family and coworkers to personally invite them. Post to Facebook and Twitter – This lets you invite all your friends in one fell swoop!
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter – This lets you invite all your friends in one fell swoop!
Once you’ve invited your friends, you can check in on your referral status here, and encourage them to start using HMA! Pro VPN.

Invite your friends today and reap the benefits with ‘Refer a Friend’!
For full details of our ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme please click here

Will Netflix block VPNs?

http://i.imgur.com/w2YNkCH.png?1In May earlier this year, Hulu, the hugely popular movie and TV streaming service blocked a number of VPN users from being able to access its network.

The question on the lips of thousands of Netflix customers in Australia at the moment is whether they will be blocked from accessing the American version of the streaming service. At the moment, Netflix isn’t available in Australia so many Australians reportedly pay for a Netflix subscription and use a VPN to bypass the geo-restrictions put in place. This means that they can ‘virtually’ reside in America, and watch Netflix as Americans do.

However, according to Torrentfreak some members of major entertainment studios including Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox and Sony Pictures who are represented by The Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) want Netflix to block users or even ban users who use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to gain access to the service.

Why is this happening? Well, it basically boils down to licensing costs and how rights are handled for TV shows and movies. For example, studios who hold the rights in America lose money when users access content outside of the States, and they aren’t happy about it. Not one bit.

Banning VPNs is wrong!
Of course, it’s impossible to ban all VPN access as Hulu discovered, but it’s also wrong.
For example, an American, who travels to Australia, wouldn’t be able to access their Netflix account even though they have paid for it. That doesn’t seem quite fair, now does it? And if Netflix did bow to down to pressure and block VPN users they would also be blocking Netflix users in the States who use VPNs to protect their private and confidential information. One or two ISPs in the United States have been found to throttle bandwidth and download speeds on many video streaming sites such as Netflix, so many Americans use a VPN to bypass this so that they can stream TV shows and movies without any speeds issues.

A VPN isn’t all about accessing geo-restricted content, it secures devices when using public Wi-Fi and protects your data from prying eyes and also allows you to surf the web anonymously. Privacy tools should be encouraged, not discouraged!

Netflix users have paid for the service; it shouldn’t matter if they are in the US, UK or Australia, they are legitimately paying for it, not illegally downloading the material from a torrent site. TV and movie studios would be wise to remember that!
For more information, please visit our website.

Iranians use VPNs to bypass governmental website blocks

Iran is well known for censoring the internet, prohibiting access to hugely popular social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Since being sworn in as Iran’s leader last year, President Hassan Rouhani is widely seen as an advocate for an open internet. Last year in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour when asked whether he would reduce censorship in Iran, Rouhani said “All my efforts are geared to ensure that the people of Iran will comfortably be able to access all information globally and to use it…I believe that all humans beings have a right, and all nations have a right to use them.”

A year on, and Rouhani, seen as the “moderate” President, is still determined to push this through. Recently he called on some of the countries most hard-line clerics to relax their attitude towards the web, saying that an open internet is essential to be able to educate the nation’s youth, to give them greater “knowledge and science” capabilities.

Recently, the Iranian government granted 3G and 4G licences, a popular move with young Iranians, and also increased much-needed bandwidth on home connections.
However, this has raised concern for some of the countries most conservative clerics including Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makaram Shirazi who sees high speed internet as “haram” meaning forbidden by Islamic law and violates “human and moral norms.”

One stumbling block which could setback or even decimate Rouhani’s vision, was the news of 11 Iranians who were recently arrested in the country after messages criticizing the Islamic republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were found. In Iran WhatsApp, Viber and Tango are monitored for content that criticizes the government and its leaders. Freedom of speech is not tolerated. Period.

Happiness is also not permitted in Iran. Back in May, a group of Pharrell Williams fans produced their version of his hit song “Happy”, which attracted tens of thousands of online viewers on YouTube. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an Iranian court found them guilty of producing a “vulgar” video conducting “illicit relations” and they received a suspended sentence of six months prison and 91 lashes. However, Rouhani, who has a Twitter account, stood up for the Happy fans tweeting “Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviours caused by joy.”

Rouhani’s government has been given one month to ban social networking apps, or else the judiciary will take matters into their own hands. What this means exactly hasn’t been revealed, but it can only mean upset and frustration for the millions of people who use the platforms. Currently, in-house fighting between Rouhani’s administration and Iran’s judiciary is taking place, with neither party , currently willing to back down. Unfortunately, the decision to press forward for internet freedom is not Rouhani’s. Filtering and censorship of the internet is controlled by Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace – a bunch of right wing conservatives who strongly disagree with Rouhani’s vision.

Many Iranians bypass websites blocks, but how?
A study recently published by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, found that nearly 70% of Iranians, aged between 15 and 29, use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to bypass websites blocked by their government.
VPNs give Iranian netizens and other web users such as those in China access to a free and open internet, allowing them to access news, and allows them to freely communicate with the outside world using Facebook and Twitter.

Bypassing governmental blocks is easy with HMA! Pro VPN – and in fact, bypassing this kind of censorships was the main reason our service was originally establised. Just select a server from our vast country list, (choose a server in a country where you know the webpage is not blocked) and you’ll be surfing the net in no time at all as you should be able to – no restrictions, no blocks whatsoever.

If you, a friend, family member or work colleague is planning a trip to Iran or you know anyone who lives there who would benefit from using a VPN, tell them about HMA! Pro VPN. It’s always best to be prepared, so I highly recommend that you purchase an HMA! Pro subscription and get it set up on your iPhone, PC, Mac, or Android before arriving in Iran. Feel free to give them our email address info@hidemyass.com and a member of our support team will assist if any help is needed.
Purchase HMA! Pro VPN and stay connected!

For more information about HideMyAss! please visit our website.

We’ve added 16 servers, 3,142 IP addresses, and 9 NEW countries to the Hide My Ass! VPN Network

We have a huge server update for you. Since our last update, we’ve added 16 servers, 3,142 IP addresses, 9 NEW countries, and 1 NEW virtual location to the Hide My Ass! VPN Network.
  • Oman, Salalah (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Lebanon, Beirut (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Syria, Ad Darah (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Iraq, Baghdad (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Afghanistan, Kabul (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Palestine, Bethlehem (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Bahrain, Manama (252 IPs) (New country)
  • Bangladesh, Dhaka(252 IPs) (New country)
  • Yemen, Sanaa (251 IPs) (New country)
  • Netherlands, Amsterdam – Virtual USA (Loc 1 Servers 1-2) (249 IPs) (New virtual location)
  • Austria, Vienna (Loc 1 Server 2) (122 IPs)
  • USA, Florida, Miami (Loc 2 Servers 1-2) (253 IPs)
  • Australia, New South Wales, Sydney (Loc 1 Servers 3 – 4) (251 IPs) 
    If there’s a country or a location that you would like to see a server in, please let us know by commenting on our blog.
    Visit our main site for more information on our VPN server network.