Review cheap VPN provider SMOZ VPN

SMOZ VPN is a new budget vpn provider with servers in Canada, USA, UK, Spain, Italy, Russia and a four other European countries. I have been using SMOZ VPN for one month, I got the account for free in their opening give away but they did not know I was about to review it, this is an impartial review and they don´t have any affiliate program that pays me for writting this.

I had high expectations from SMOZ VPN because, although the brand is new, their parent company, VPNSecure, has been around for quiet a few years and having used them in the past I was upbeat with VPNSecure quality of services and support. SMOZ VPN is a cheap version of VPNSecure with less servers than their parent company but the same support and the same 24 hours log retention privacy policy. I also spotted the staff names of the people that provided me support in VPNSecure answering SMOZ VPN questions.

SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider
SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider

I give SMOZ VPN Windows client a satisfactory rating, but not amazing. I liked the simplicity of being able to select any server with just a click and the clear layout informing you of the vpn server IP you are utilizing. As a downside, I did not like that you are not informed of the city where the vpn is located, you are only told the country, and in the USA you only know if the server is in the East or West coast.

The VPN client settings allows you to configure it to stop DNS leaks and to stop all Internet activity when your VPN connection drops by simply ticking a checkbox. These are two very common privacy threats and I was delighted to be able to secure myself with little effort.

You can use the VPN in Linux, Mac, Windows, Android and iPhone but not the Chromebook, the ultra secure SMOZ SSL VPN protocol is not supported by Chrome OS, Google, Chrome OS developer, is to blame for this.

Strong points of SMOZ VPN are that there is no bandwidth cap, you can use it for P2P and the subscription includes a firewall and malware protection at VPN level. Another extra point should be added to SMOZ VPN for allowing Bitcoin payments as well as Paypal, and for automatic activation of your account within minutes. Server speed was awesome, matching my home ISP 10Mbps most times, but bear in mind that they just opened for business, and I can’t tell if lack of customers was the reason for the great VPN speed.

A couple of bad points I would give to this VPN are that they don’t have any server in Asia and that a few of their USA VPN nodes were blocked by Hulu when I tried them. In the end I managed to find a US server that worked in Hulu and I don´t wish to be too hard on SMOZ VPN for having a few of their servers blocked, this is common with all vpn providers, as long one of the server works that is all I need.

Android OpenVPN client
Android OpenVPN client

You can connect as many devices as you like with a single VPN account, mobile, laptop or desktop computers, but all of them will have to be on the same network/home Internet connection. SMOZ VPN monthly prices are not competitive having into account that this is a cut out version with less than a dozen servers.

To get a cheap deal you will have to pay for SMOZ VPN yearly. A 7 day money back guarantee that covers all payment methods, including Bitcoins, will allow you try out SMOZ VPN with peace of mind.

As long as you don’t need a server in Asia and you don’t mind not knowing in what cities the server is located in, I don’t see anything wrong with SMOZ VPN. Their excellent privacy policy deleting logs in 24 hours is what makes this company to stand out of the competition, together with an impressive support team that includes live chat, I totally recommend them.

Visit SMOZ VPN homepage

Free B1 archiver with encryption the best WinZip alternative

B1 is a free Windows, Linux, Mac and Android file compressor and archiver. It supports opening of the most common file formats, like .zip, .zipx, .rar, .7z and others. When it comes to creating files B1 will compress data with its own format called .b1 or alternatively .zip for compatibility with other programs. There is no adware or toolbars during installation, you don’t have to watch out for small checkboxes pushing you unwanted software.

B1 is extremely easy to configure and use, the help manual has screenshots, it is written in plain English and a wizard will launch when you first start the program, helping you to decide what file formats should be handled by B1 and if it should integrate with the Windows shell. B1 interface is eye candy with big icons including a big “Exit” button that you will not see anywhere else. A small detail that represented a time saver when I wanted to close the program by reducing clicks.

File archiver with encryption B1
File archiver with encryption B1

You can choose to split the compressed files if they huge or select the advanced compression mode made up of four different types. The default “Smart” mode automatically favours the best way to compress data analysing the file extension. Security conscious people will also appreciate AES256-bit encryption to password protect archived files that will not reveal the contained file names or content any other content and a built-in file integrity checker will let you know when a file is corrupted.

Compression time and size are similar to that of other applications. B1 main strengths are that it is open source, cross platform (including Android), is able to unpack 30 different file formats, support for AES256 encryption and a neat interface. B1 caveats are not being able to create .rar or .7.zip files and not having a way to repair damaged archived files like Winrar does.

Due to how easy it is to utilize B1, I would recommend this program for people who don’t want a ton of options or are new to computers. Just remember that few of your friends will be able to open a .b1 extension, you either always create .zip files or redirect the receiver to the B1 online unpacking service for those who don’t want to install the software.

Visit B1 archiver homepage

5 different ways to bypass Hulu block on VPN providers

As of today, Hulu has decided to pro-actively block people using a VPN service to watch their TV programs. It is still possible to access Hulu with a VPN but it takes lots of trying and testing to find and IP that has not been blocked.

Here you can find five different ways to get around the company close minded approach to reducing piracy:

  1. Hulu is only a platform to watch videos that other people produce, all of the CWTV shows that Hulu offers can be watched online at CWTV.com, NBC shows that Hulu offers can be watched at NBC.com and CBS shows that Hulu offers can be watched at CBS.com.
  2. Forget about American video websites, you can watch the same licensed shows in Canadian video websites like CTV.ca and GlobalTV.com, using a Canadian VPN of course.

    Canada Online TV CTV.ca
    Canada Online TV CTV.ca
  3. Get a VPN provider with a static dedicated computer IP that is not shared with anybody else, for example, VPN4ALL offers this service at no extra charge.
  4. Use a DNS based USA TV unblocking service that does not need software installation and does everything in the backfround, like TorGuard SmartDNS
  5. Rent a VPS and set up your own VPN USA proxy just for you. If you don’t have the time to learn how to do this use a VPS service that comes with a point and click VPN installer like MyHosting VPS

Encrypted business collaboration platform Crypho

Crypho is a cloud based application to securely chat and share notes and files in real time, encryption is end to end, not even the staff managing the collaboration platform can access the information.

There is no need to install anything to run Crypho in your computer, encryption and key management runs in the background. Before uploading data to Crypho everything is already encrypted with AES256-bit enforced applying the Stanford Javascript Crypto Library, a cross browser open source library for cryptography in Javascript.

To open an account in Crypho you will need to enter a valid email address that has to be confirmed clicking on a link, enter a passphrase that will be used to gather entropy when generating your encryption keys and set up a double factor authentication using your mobile phone.

Encrypted Collaboration Platform Crypho
Encrypted Collaboration Platform Crypho

Crypho requires you to confirm a mobile phone number where you will be sent a verification code to log into the system, this guarantees that even if someone learns of your password account, people would still be unable to login without owning your smartphone.

It is the same security system that Google and Yahoo accounts operate to login but in Crypho the two factor authentication is compulsory in other places it is usually only optional.

This is a simple and quick to deploy solution for any business worried about data leaks, employees and customers will not have to learn how Crypho works or manage any kind of encryption keys. A platform that will be useful for companies with a remote workforce or to finalize confidential business conferences with your customers.

Unlike similar collaboration platforms, in Crypho you don’t have to trust the company to take care of your data security because they never have the capability of accessing it, you only need to trust Crypho to be able to keep the servers online.

A supplementary extra, if you are worried about NSA backdoors, Crypho headquarters and servers are all located in Norway. The company does not have to comply with USA or UK secret spying orders. Crypho has also signed the manifesto about Ubiquitous Encryption on the XMPP Network committing to set up perfect forward secrecy, a technology that uses ephemeral encryption keys rendering them useless after the first usage.

I don’t think you can go wrong with Crypho if your company has a need for privacy and it uses the Internet to share files and messages in between staff or customers, no more explaining to people what they have to download for secure communications and no more having to make sure that the software you use is compatible with theirs, Crypho solves all of those problems at once, saving you time with a very secure zero knowledge platform.

Visit Crypho homepage

Walnut Secure Email with P2P end to end encryption

Walnut Secure Email is a cross platform desktop and mobile device software to secure your existing email accounts, Walnut Secure Email works with any free email service like Yahoo, Outlook, Gmail or corporate email servers. The program will encrypt all messages end to end using the uncrackable AES256-bit cipher. After downloading Walnet Secure Email you will be asked to create a Loment ID account, the name of Walnut Secure Email developers, the same ID can be used for other Loment products like Peanut Secure SMS.

You will find preconfigured email settings for Gmail and Yahoo or choose “Other” to enter your own email service SMTP/IMAP server and port. After that you will be presented with a simple screen that has self describing “Write“, “Sent”,”Contacts” and “Inbox” icons. When composing a message you will be given the option to set an expire date for the message, after which nobody will be able to read it, forwarding and copying can also be restricted and you can ask for an electronic receipt when somebody reads the email.

Walnut Secure Email settings
Walnut Secure Email settings

Message expiration can be as little as 5 minutes, other nifty options are scheduling email delivery, where you write an email, save it and schedule automatica delivery the next day or week. Companies will welcome email template creation and Walnut Secure Email HIPPA legislation compliance, a USA law that forces health care providers to use encryption to store data. The desktop Walnut Secure Email program has been coded in Java, a system independent programming language, if you have Java installed the software will work with Windows, Mac or Linux. Android and iPhone/iPad apps are available in the respective stores.

The good points of Walnut Secure Email are that you don’t need any new email account for it to work, encryption is end to end and it can be used in any computer or mobile device. The bad points are that, besides not being free, the other end will have to be using Walnut Secure Email software to be able to read and send encrypted messages, and the program is not open source.

The lineaments point towards a tool targeted at corporations and not end users. If it was me in charge of the IT department, I would ratherget a Hushmail business account for all of the company users so that no multiple settings are needed and there is no need to take care of email servers, initially it works out more expensive than Walnut Secure Email but when counting support staff costs, it might not.

Visit Walnut Secure Email homepage

AES256bit email encryption with VirTru

VirTru is a free browser addon and mobile app to securely encrypt your email messages using the Advanced Encryption Standard 256-bit algorithm, a worldwide standard encryption cipher that is believed to be uncrackable. Encryption takes place in your computer, VirTru’s servers never have access to the unencrypted data but they hold the decryption key, they manage it to facilitate email reading to the authorised party.

Email encryption keys have perfect forward secrecy, a scheme with unique decryption keys for each message, if one of them were to be compromised, it could only be used to read an specific message and not everything in the inbox.

VirTru browser addon integrates amiably with Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook, it also works with other services but in Gmail a blue bar on top of the compose window lets you know that you are writing a secure email with VirTru and it has the option to stop message forwarding and set an expire date from within the window. VirTru stops messages from being readable after the date you set by blocking access to the decryption keys stored in their server.

Encrypted email service VirTru
Encrypted email service VirTru

If the person receiving the message does not have Virtru installed he will be asked to sign up for an account to be able to read it. Another option the receiver has is to use VirTru’s secure virtual reader, a Javascript viewer embedded in your Internet browser to read encrypted messages, this will not require them to install anything and it contains a link to VirTru addon in case they wish to install it to reply securely to the email. You can use OpenID or OAuth protocols to verify your identity with existing email providers, this saves time but I doubt too many people in corporate environments know what it is or have an OpenID.

One of the company’s founder is a former NSA employee and, although rejecting mass surveillance, they are open about providing your encryption keys to the US government if they are served with a court order, although since VirTru does not hold the data and only has the decryption keys, the government would need both. Not very difficult to do since Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook are all wiretapped by the NSA. This is clearly a tool with faith that the US government will not to abuse their espionage powers and that breaks the deal for me, it is understandable that a company will abide by court orders and that is why some security providers no longer hold customers decryption keys

I personally would stay away from any company holding the encryption keys for me, it makes life easier but if your information is so important that you need bullet proof encryption, the risk of the decryption keys being compromised it is too high when they are in somebody else hands. As an individual Countermail would be a better choice and for businesses, ProtonMail has high protection against government spying.

If you want a free email encryption solution there is always rolling your own OpenPGP keys which is not that hard to do with extensions like Mailvelope.

Visit Virtru homepage