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Windows Server 2016 VM Backup with Altaro's New V7 with Augmented Inline Deduplication

Posted in Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 VM Backup with Altaro's New V7 with Augmented Inline Deduplication - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Windows Server 2016 VM Hyper-V & VMware Backup RestoreAltaro has released Altaro VM Backup V7, a faster and lighter upgrade to its flagship Hyper-V and VMware backup solution, which now supports Windows Server 2016 and includes several highly-requested features including unique Augmented Inline Deduplication technology and boot from backup.

Altaro’s unique Augmented Inline Deduplication delivers faster backups and restores on local and offsite locations by making sure that only new data is transferred to the backup or offsite location. This augmented inline deduplication technology solves a common problem found in conventional backup solutions which deduplicates data after the transfer process. With Altaro VM Backup v7, that process happens before the data is transferred. This process not only provides quicker backups, but it also reduces the amount of storage needed to store said backups significantly more than any other solution on the market today.

"Version 7 is an important milestone at Altaro” said David Vella, CEO of Altaro. "Not only does it fully support Windows Server 2016, our new and unique Augmented Inline Deduplication technology offers our customers the best storage savings in the industry"

Boot from Backup is another innovation in Altaro VM Backup V7 that enables users to instantly boot any VM version from the backup location without affecting integrity of the backup. If disaster strikes, the VM can be booted up instantly from the backup drive with minimal downtime, while the VM is restored back to the Hypervisor in the background. A simple VM reboot completes the recovery process and preserves any changes done while the VM was booted.

For more information about Altaro VM Backup V7, visit altaro.com/vm-backup 

VPN Hotspot - How to Stay Safe on Public & Guest WiFi Networks

Posted in VPN Guides & Articles

VPN Hotspot - How to Stay Safe on Public & Guest WiFi Networks - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Is Guest WiFi Safe?

Public and Guest Wifi security threatsIt’s hard to go to a pub, café, or hotel these days without running into public or guest WiFi. In many cases, an internet connection can feel like a necessity – keeping up with work or personal emails, arranging plans with friends, checking social media. Connecting is usually as easy as entering an email address, filling out a survey, or entering a code on a receipt.

It's an easy trap to fall into. Cellular data is expensive. In the US, 500 MB of pre-paid data costs an average of $85 US. If your contract doesn’t have a large data allowance, free WiFi is a godsend. However, that convenience comes with considerable risk to your privacy and security. If you’re not using a VPN at a public hotspot, you’re opening yourself up to all kind of malicious attacks and data interceptions such as sslstrip man-in-the-middle attack (analysed below), online activity monitoring, computer hijacking, restricted online browsing and many more serious security threats.

Public - Guest WiFi Security Risks

The biggest misconception about open WiFi is that it offers the same protection as your home network. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The annoying password on your home network does much more than keep people from connecting. It encrypts your data so that those on the outside have trouble looking in.

By nature, guest WiFi has no password. In most cases, that means no encryption. With a simple tool, anyone on the network can see which websites you’re visiting. In some cases, they can even intercept the emails you send, the files on your computer, and passwords. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a high-security airport or the coffee shop down the road.

Even when an attacker isn’t around, you’re putting trust in the security of everyone else on the network. You may have the latest version of Windows 10, but the person next to you could have no security knowledge. Some forms of malware attempt to spread themselves to other people on the network, and the user probably doesn’t even know about it.

Common WiFi Attacks used at Internet Hotspots

vpn hotspot - SSL Connections are encrypted connectionsThankfully, wifi snooping is on the decrease thanks to SSL encryption. This web standard is spreading across all the most popular sites, and you’ll notice it by the HTTPS icon in your browser (as seen in the image on the left). It means that while someone can see the url you’re on, they can’t see your emails or the password you just typed in. Unfortunately, this won’t stop someone resourceful. In fact, SSL can be bypassed with a single method.

In 2009, security expert Moxie Marlinspike introduced sslstrip. By routing a victim’s connection through their own machine, an attacker can redirect them to the HTTP version of the page. The browser won’t even detect this and the victim has no idea what’s going on.

 how sslstrip wifi attack works

Representation of how an sslstrip wifi attack works

The vulnerability comes from the fact that most users don’t type in “https://” at the beginning of every url. This means that when they first connect to the site, it’s HTTP. Most websites will then redirect users to an HTTPS version, but ssltrip steps in and sends back HTTP instead. The hacker can then view all the user’s requests in plaintext, collecting whatever information he likes.

Though attackers often need specialist software and some technical knowledge, packages such as WiFi Pineapple can make so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks relatively simple. In a few clicks, users can pretend to be a public network, routing traffic through them rather than to the router. From there, the attacker can force the user to visit websites with malware, install key loggers, and plenty of other shady things. It’s not too difficult, and with the aid of YouTube, a seven-year-old did it in eleven minutes.

In some cases, attackers don’t even need any experience to view your information. Oftentimes, users connecting to hotel WiFi forget to change Windows sharing settings. This makes it easy for anybody to view your shared files with no hacking required. Sometimes this isn’t even password protected, making it child’s play.

However, there are also tools to make more complex processes simple. In 2010, a simple browser extension called FireSheep was released. The tool lets users catch browsing cookies from any website that doesn’t use HTTPS. Though many major websites such as Facebook and Gmail are protected, smaller sites often use HTTP, and many users have the same password for multiple sites.

Firesheep Firefox extension in action 

Firesheep Firefox extension in action

Other tools let you do the same from an Android phone or other devices. And that’s assuming you’re connecting to the right network at all. A common method of attack is to set up a fake network, or honeypot. To the untrained eye, it won’t look out of place. Often, they will make sense in the context, named Starbucks WiFi, for example. In fact, an attacker owns it, and is logging everything you do. Our article configuring Windows 8 / 8.1 as an access point is a good example that shows just how easy it is to configure your workstation into a honeypot.

Hotel Hotspots - 277 Hotels Wordwide with Major Security Flaw

VPN For Torrenting, P2P and File Sharing. Test Anonymous Torrenting, Avoid Bandwidth Throttling, Protect Your Identity

Posted in VPN Guides & Articles

VPN For Torrenting, P2P and File Sharing. Test Anonymous Torrenting, Avoid Bandwidth Throttling, Protect Your Identity - 5.0 out of 5 based on 4 votes

VPN for Torrenting GuideThe word torrenting is often viewed as synonymous with pirating. It’s seen as a shady and illegal practice, used to con hard working artists out of their money. As a result, internet service providers often blanket ban torrent websites or severely throttle downloads. If you aren’t using a VPN for torrenting, there’s a good chance you’re affected by this. However, ISPs over-arching policies can hurt users that use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing for innocent purposes.

How Torrenting & Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Works

Instead of using dedicated servers, P2P utilizes the connections of other users to distribute files. As they download a torrent, the individual also uploads a small portion for others to download. This creates an interconnected network where files are provided by many different people.

One huge example of legal P2P usage is gaming. Online games such as World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and downloads from UPlay all have a P2P option. This saves on server costs for the developers and can increase torrent speed. This can foster development for smaller, indie companies, who might not have the infrastructure for lots of servers.

In fact, Windows 10 even takes advantage of this method to save on bandwidth issues. The OS delivers updates in multiple parts, pulling bits from both PCs on the same network, over the internet, and Microsoft’s own data centers. This feature is turned on by default since the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in the summer of 2016.

However, more important is the role of torrenting in distributing public data. The Internet Archive caches huge amounts of websites and offers a huge variety of public domain books, TV shows, and audio recordings. The non-profit recommends the use of torrents to download its content, as it saves on bandwidth and allows it to continue its vital work.

This role extends even to government. NASA has used torrents several times in the past to distribute its findings, including this high-resolution picture of earth. The UK government has done similarly, releasing large datasets on public spending via BitTorrent.

As well as supporting government, BitTorrent is also used to oppose it. Transparency sites such as Julian Assange’s Wikileaks often release so-called ‘insurance files’ through torrents. Shortly before the leak of Hilary Clinton’s emails, the site published an 88GB, 256-AES encrypted file. This keeps the organization from being shut down – if WikiLeaks goes dark, an automated message sends out an unlock password for all the data. In previous cases, files have reached upwards of 400GB.

Despite the genuine uses of P2P, users still get attacked by copyright claimants, sometimes inaccurately. In 2015, the creators of B-movie Elf Man filed a lawsuit against hundreds of users who claimed to have never even heard of the movie. Ryan Lamberson was one of these defendants and was eventually reimbursed for $100,000 in legal fees. Closer examination of evidence revealed that the tools used by the copyright holder did not account for several shortcomings, and only tracked uploads rather than downloads.

The defense also pointed out that the primary evidence was little more than an IP address. This information came from a third-party software that connected to the BitTorrent swarm in which the files were shared. However, some torrent software allows for the spoofing of IP addresses, and the investigator failed to account for several other false positives. Because of the win, several other Elf Man cases were dropped or settled for a lower value.

Other thrown cases include the Adam Sandler movie The Cobbler, and a 53-year-old artist painter was wrongly accused of illegally downloading and sharing 18 films and TV shows. Thankfully, there is a simple way to avoid such risks.

Anonymous Torrenting with a VPN Service

Using a VPN for torrenting will ensure your identity remains private, not just from ISPs, but copyright claimants and government. When you connect to a VPN, all your traffic goes through a “tunnel”. The individual packets that make up your data contain information such as IP Address, protocol, and other identifying information.

Tunneling wraps those packets in others that provide extra security against prying eyes. In addition, the data is encrypted in transit, meaning ISPs, service providers and other middlemen see nothing but gibberish. Different providers use different encryption methods, the most common being IPSec, L2TP, and OpenVPN

The benefit of this tunneling is clear. An ISP or copyright holder can only see the IP address of the VPN servers, not your own. This makes for anonymous torrenting, and they can’t see what website’s you’ve visited either. Though this might not protect you against entirely baseless accusations, it should stop you from coming under genuine suspicion.

A VPN for torrenting will also provide you with protection in other ways. To stay safe on public WiFi, they are almost essential. Without one, attackers can snoop on your online traffic, possibly recovering passwords and credit card details. You could also be vulnerable to malware on your machine and tracking from third parties.

However, not all VPNs are created equal. Though some provide anonymous torrenting and public WiFi protection, others are questionable at best. Researching hundreds of different providers can be a pain, so instead we’ve done that for you. Our network security team has produced a VPN service review of all the Best VPN Service Providers, alongside detailed feature lists.

Avoid ISP Bandwidth Throttling

Avoiding ISP Bandwidth ThrottlingEncrypted communication has the add-on effect of avoiding bandwidth throttling from ISPs. As mentioned earlier, service providers inspect packets to classify different data. This lets them put a speed cap on specific mediums. This is usually done unofficially and some service providers will deny the practice despite significant data to the contrary.

Despite this, it’s becoming more and more routine for ISPs to throttle or block torrent downloads. Everything you receive goes through their servers, allowing them to analyse it with Deep Packet Inspection. This method lets the service provider look at different data packets and classify it into different categories, such as video, music, and torrents.

Bandwidth throttling can be achieved in several ways. One method is blocking router ports often used for BitTorrent. Typically, P2P downloads go through TCP ports from 6881-6889. By limiting the speed on these, an ISP can cut out a big chunk of bandwidth.

However, this method is becoming less and less popular. Increasingly, torrent clients randomize TCP ports or tell users if there are any issues. As a result, internet service providers use methods that are harder to dodge.

One such technique is called traffic shaping. The flow of certain packets is delayed in favour of others, affecting download and upload speed. This can be done as a blanket, or through intelligent burst shaping. Burst shaping increases torrent speeds for a short period, before gradually returning to a lesser speed. Thus, extended downloads such as movies, games, and streaming are slower, while web pages still load quickly.

The need for shaping comes from the limited bandwidth resources of an ISP. It lets the service provider guarantee performance to other users by reducing the effect of heavy users. Often, P2P is main target for this, and it’s easy to see why. Torrent downloads use large amounts of bandwidth and therefore cost a lot of money to sustain. In addition, companies are under a lot of legal pressure from copyright holders. By throttling, they can assure the parties that they’re doing their bit to limit the impact of pirates.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to differentiate between legal P2P downloads and illegal ones. This means that regular users can be throttled due to blanket policies. You can check if your torrents are being throttled by running the Glasnost test. The eight-minute download will detect bandwidth throttling in the upload and download streams separately.

How Australians Are Bypassing ISP Blocking of ThePirateBay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and Streaming Service Sites

Posted in VPN Guides & Articles

How Australians Are Bypassing ISP Blocking of ThePirateBay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and Streaming Service Sites - 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 votes

How to bypass ISP blocking in Australia - Access Torrent sitesIt was just a matter of time until the new global wave of government site blocking at the ISP level arrived in Australia. In mid-December 2016, the Federal Court ruled that Internet companies would need to block sites such as ThePirateBay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and streaming service SolarMovie. Australian ISPs were given 15 days to comply with the new decision and implement different blocking mechanisms to make it more difficult for users to gain access to these sites, however, it seems like blockages were bypassed by Australian users in just a few seconds.

The deadlines for the ISPs to implement the blocking was the 31st of December so from the 1st of January 2017, access to the above mentioned sites would be denied.

Accessing ThePirateBay and other Blocked Sites from Australia

Currently, when an Australian online user tries to access any of the 5 sites they are presented with the following website:

ThePiratebay blocked by a large Australian ISP

The Piratebay blocked by a large Australian ISP

Australia’s mobile network providers are also blocking access to the above sites presenting their users with a similar website.

No matter which ISP or mobile network users are coming from, they now all receive a message stating access to the selected sites is disabled.

How ISPs are Blocking ThePirateBay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt & SolarMovie

There is a number of different ways an ISP can choose to block access to the above sites in order to comply with the Federal Court ruling. This includes blocking IP addresses, DNS blocking, URL blocking or any other method agreed mutually by the ISPs and rights holders.

At the moment Telstra, Optus and DoDo, which are amongst Australia’s largest ISPs for home, businesses and mobile users, are implementing DNS blocking. When users on their networks send a DNS request to their DNS servers they are redirected to one of the sites specifically setup for the block.

The ISP block is affecting all of Australia’s mobile users

Optus DNS Blocking redirects users to a different website when trying to access ThePiratebay.org

This is also clearly evident when performing a simple nslookup query. In the example below, we queried Optus’s DNS server for www.thepiratebay.org and saw it pointed us to IP addresses 13.54.13.201 & 54.79.39.115 which do not belong to ThePirateBay:

Nslookup shows how easy it is to bypass DNS blocking and access any DNS-blocked site

Nslookup shows how easy it is to bypass DNS blocking and access any DNS-blocked site

After switching to Google’s public DNS servers located in the US, you’ll notice that we received different IP addresses for www.thepiratebay.org and were able to successfully access the website along with all other blocked websites.

Bypass DNS Blocking in Australia with a VPN Service

Using a VPN Service Provider is the best, safest and fastest way to access any restricted site not only from Australia but also across the globe. When connecting to a VPN service your internet traffic is routed through the VPN server, bypassing any local geographical restrictions, blocking or checkpoints from your ISP or government.

The advantages inherent in a VPN service are many but here are some of the most important:

  • Protection against DNS Leaking
  • Accessing blocked sites without exposing your internet activity
  • Torrenting without any restrictions
  • Stopping Bandwidth throttling from your ISP – take full advantage of your internet connection
  • Accessing region-restricted websites
  • Protecting your online privacy and identity
  • The ability to run the VPN client on your workstation/laptop or any mobile device
  • Unlimited access to US Netflix and other streaming services
  • Military-grade encryption to ensure your traffic is secure from hackers and monitoring services
  • The ability to share the VPN with multiple devices, including SmartTV, Netflix, family members and more

DNS Leak Testing & Protection – How to Avoid Exposing Your Identity & Online Activity

Posted in VPN Guides & Articles

DNS Leak Testing & Protection – How to Avoid Exposing Your Identity & Online Activity - 5.0 out of 5 based on 8 votes

DNS Leak - ISPs & Government spying on users online activitiesDespite innovations in security and technology, it’s difficult to remain anonymous online. Identifying information is seemingly everywhere – from malicious JavaScript tracking to the location services in web browsers. Even secure Linux operating systems like Tails have struggled to protect user’s privacy.

Windows 10 is no safe haven, either. By default, Microsoft collects information from users on an unprecedented level. Data that can be turned over to authorities or a third party. Increasingly, users must take extra steps to ensure privacy and be more knowledgeable about the services they’re using.

This applies even to users with anonymizing software. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are sometimes seen as blanket tools that guarantee identity protection. In truth, they have their own vulnerabilities and chief among them is the DNS Leak which only the best VPN service providers are able to resolve.

Understanding VPN DNS Leaks and How they Work

When you type a website URL into your browser, you’re essentially using a nickname. Typing in “firewall.cx” is more like asking a question. You send a request to a Domain Name System server, which then points you to the IP address of the site (208.86.155.203). This saves us typing long strings of numbers each time, and is better for pretty much everyone.

However, it also comes with its own problem. DNS servers are given by your internet service provider (ISP), which offers them a list of every website you visit. Naturally, this compromises anonymity, but VPNs are supposed to fix that. Instead of requesting from your ISP, your traffic is routed through the VPN, protecting you.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. In some cases, the operating system uses its default DNS servers instead of switching things up. This is most common in Windows, but can also happen on OSX, Linux, and mobile devices. It’s aptly named a DNS leak.

In some cases, a VPN is worse than not using one at all. Why? When using anonymising software, users have a sense of security. They may perform activities they wouldn’t otherwise, such as torrenting software or visiting controversial websites. It’s not immediately clear that a leak has occurred, and the user goes on thinking they’re safe for months at a time. In reality, their IP address is open and visible.

DNS leaks aren’t just utilized by service providers either. Websites can discover your true IP address using WebRTC, a collection of communications protocols present in most browsers. WebRTC allows for a request to a service provider’s Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN) servers, listing both the local (internal) and public IP address (router WAN IP) of the user via JavaScript.

This can give a general location of the user and be used to track them across the site or other sites by the same owner. In addition, law enforcement or hackers may be able to gain access to this data, leading to serious repercussions.

DNS Leaks Used By Govenrments and ISPs

For example, DNS leaks were utilized by the Canadian Government in 2015, helping to track users on popular file sharing websites. Revealed by Edward Snowden, the technique combines several tactics to find out the identity of downloaders. In this case, targeted files were primarily terrorism related, but this could easily be extended to other media.

Snowden Digital Surveillance Archive: Screenshot from Canada's Levitation Program

Snowden Digital Surveillance Archive: Screenshot from Canada's Levitation Program

In fact, the UK government recently passed a law that does just that. The Investigatory Powers Bill forces ISPs to store and hand over DNS records in bulk for almost every user. This is used to create a list of websites each person has visited, regardless of any wrongdoing. As a result, UK users should be especially cautious about VPN DNS leaks, and can be certain any slip ups will be recorded.

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