What even is a VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network. As such, users can send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to a private network. Not incidentally, applications running across a VPN benefit from the functionality, security, and management of a private network. (Wikipedia: virtual_private_network)
VPNs enable employees to securely access a corporate intranet outside the corporate office. By securely connecting geographically separated users, VPNs are typically employed by far-flung multinational organizations to create a singular cohesive network. Indeed, VPNs allow individual internet users to secure transactions, circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship, or protect personal identity and location (via proxy servers). Their capabilities are so powerful that some internet sites will block access to known VPN technology (especially in a bid to prevent circumvention of their geo-restrictions).
A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, virtual tunneling protocols, or traffic encryption. A VPN available from the public Internet can provide some of the benefits of a wide area network (WAN). From a user perspective, the resources available within the private network can be accessed remotely.
Typically a paid service, VPNs help keep web browsing secure and private over public Wi-Fi hotspots. They’re particularly adept at getting past regional restrictions for video- and music-streaming sites. Moreover, they help users evade government censorship restrictions (though that is a tricky proposition at times). For instance, Iranian protestors relied heavily on VPNs to communicate and send videos about the protests. However, they frequently must change to a different VPN every few minutes to stay ahead of the censors (at right, a mobile device from Iran with multiple VPN access points).
Likewise, China blocks many websites they don’t want their citizens to access as well. This is especially true for Twitter and YouTube, highly popular sites that allow users to post nearly any content they desire. However, many Chinese internet users are able to visit these sites using a VPN. The latter enables access to such content via an offshore encrypted server that can’t be monitored by the government.
Since Chinese internet service providers only filter out connections to the likes of Twitter and YouTube, users can still connect to sites that offer VPN services. VPN acts as a proxy, accessing the banned sites on the users’ behalf and allowing them to effectively bypass the restrictions, as well as avoiding government snooping. However, the Chinese government has ordered all national telecommunications firms to block VPNs, starting from February 2018.
While Russia doesn’t block access to as many sites as China, it still practices significant internet censorship. Even though access to Facebook and Twitter is allowed, Russia still maintains a long and growing internet blacklist. And now Russia is following China’s lead by restricting VPN services, with the stated intent of clamping down on anonymous access to unlawful content.
These events come as a little surprise given China’s and Russia’s track records. China in particular has introduced a number of restrictions on VPNs in recent years. These clampdowns were vigorously enforced for a period of time and then relaxed.
For now, VPNs serve as the most effective obstacle to government censorship. They remain the first rung of defense against those who would promote centralized control of the internet.
So what does XTRABYTES offer?
“VITALS is a proprietary network that provides VPN-like functionality to the STATIC nodes. More specifically, it interconnects online STATIC nodes using a private virtual network, thus ensuring interference-free direct paths between these nodes. Why a private virtual network? Consider the benefits a standard VPN offers: greater security, improved privacy protection, better connectivity, and access to restricted resources.”
For now, this is all that can be revealed about the soon-to-be-patented technology of XTRABYTES, so stay tuned.