General discussion

Is it possible to set up my own personal VPN?

Dec 5, 2014 9:43AM PST
Question:

Is it possible to set up my own personal VPN?


Not sure if you can help me out, but here it goes. I used to work for a company who provided employees VPN service for some of us to work remotely on the road. It was simple to use where I would connect through the VPN software that was running on my PC, log in, and there I was securely behind our company's firewall to do my work. Today I no longer work for that company, and my job today doesn't require me to work remotely. However, after reading your newsletter a few months ago about using public Wi-Fi and how much of risk and unsecure they are to use, I wanted to know if was possible to set up a personal VPN for me and my family to use. This way when we are on vacations or out and about, needing access to sensitive information or do financial transactions, we can log into our own VPN and securely use the Internet. Is this possible? If it is possible what are my options? Is it easy to set up and how much does it cost? Any advice or suggestion would be helpful. Thank you.

--Submitted by: Malcolm J.

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Comments
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It is Possible
Dec 5, 2014 11:58AM PST

Companies usually use a VPN device. You could too! However, if you have a modern (fairly new) home router (such as, ASUS), many new routers contain the ability to make the router into a VPN server. I just had a look at my ASUS RT-AC66U and it does have the ability to allow access to your home devices (PC's, generally). Is it easy? I don't know but there are some caveats. For example, if your Internet provider (DSL, cable) changes your IP address every so often, you may need to use something called Dynamic DNS to resolve the Internet-side address of your router (DDNS). If you go into your router, on one of the information screens there should be your Internet facing IP address which will probably start with a number like 69 or 70 (69.x.y.z, etc.). In any case it won't start with a 192 as that will be your LAN addressing (internal, not Internet).

Is it safe? Should be similar to using the VPN at work but I usually don't put more on the Internet as added safety so use good userids and complex passwords since you mentioned something about sensitive data and/or financial data. You should never keep this information directly on the Internet without VPN and good security.

Since all router models are different, I would look your model up and get the user manual to look this procedure up. That is:

1) Look up on whether your model can be a VPN server
2) Look up the procedure for your model to turn this feature on and configure it.
3) (make sure you test this out when you are away from home)
4) You may need to look up DDNS if your Internet-facing router IP address can change (that is, is dynamic).
5) Make sure you use good encryption if you get the option based on what you said would be accessed.

Hope this helps.

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A word of caution
Dec 12, 2014 12:55PM PST

Some VPN routers required that you use their VPN client. Some of those clients are downright expensive. Most personal users will not want to pay $50-80 per remote client.

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I think Mine is Free
Dec 12, 2014 1:21PM PST

I have an ASUS router but I have not tried their inbuilt VPN server. I believe it also loads the clients as well.

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How to use free, open, and public wifi's safely
Dec 12, 2014 3:16PM PST

If you're referring to free, open, public wifi's such as at many McDonalds, Starbucks, Cruise lines, etc. the answer is easy: They can be very unsafe. Period.

There are many news articles of identity theft occurring through these free wifi's. When I am on vacation, I call my adult child, and have them conduct sensitive online transactions for me, from their networks, if urgent. Once I get back home, I sometimes change passwords to sensitive accounts, depending on my travels.

If you need to conduct sensitive transactions such as banking, email, etc. one idea is to do so through your smartphone. If you must use a laptop, use hotspot-tethering through your smartphone, and connect your laptop to it. Of course, this is assuming you have a smartphone, with relevant services and connectivity. Which frequently isn't the case if you're on a cruise, abroad, and etc.

I found a few sites which have helpful information on this topic:

Great article:
http://lifehacker.com/5576927/how-to-stay-safe-on-public-wi-fi-networks

US Government website which offers a little bit of good advice:
http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0014-tips-using-public-wi-fi-networks

CNET also has good tips
http://www.cnet.com/how-to/tips-to-stay-safe-on-public-wi-fi/

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Getting and using VPN.
Dec 12, 2014 7:20PM PST

Much information available online and from members. VPN can be faster depending on the company . If you work for a large company it will be important, especially encryption.

It does not have to be expensive $60+ a year depending on what you want.
I am from Wales and I guess many members are from USA, so found this website in $ !
www.top10bestvpn/cheap

I think initial set up depends on your home router BUT when you decide, ask the VPN company and would also suggest writing down your questions first . If you do not I guarantee afterwards you will forget the important ones you were going to ask ! This applies to anything important you conduct. Over the phone.
You will have a user name and password from the VPN company so you should be able to connect to any free WiFi service outside your home.
You do not have to use my suggestion. Use google/ask/ or any search engine.
Good luck.

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I think there is an easier way
Dec 5, 2014 12:59PM PST

There are several remote desktop packages on downlaod.cnet.com, that are free, free to try, or for purchase. You've probable seen/heard ads for GoToMyPC, that's one of the best known. LogMeIn Free is another. My favorite is TeamViewer. Remote desktop, includes mobile support, file transfer, etc. And strong encryption. It will save you a number of steps and a number of headaches.

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Remote access is not same as VPN
Dec 12, 2014 10:11AM PST

Bob I think your are using a normal remote access approach. Yeah, that'll work but you need to leave your home system all day. That will work but it is a bit clunky... Teamviewer gets mixed up at times.... And I am not so sure that it encrypts the transmission? Does it? I believe it is better to buy/Signup for a commercial VPN service. I use Onavo. It is fast, free and works great on an iPad. Not sure if it will work on laptop..either PC or Mac. Jim b

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Agreed
Dec 12, 2014 10:29AM PST

I've used Teamviewer for a long time, and I think it fits the bill. It's free for personal use, reliable and fast. Please give it a try.

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Team Viewer is excellent
Dec 12, 2014 12:31PM PST

I used the free version of LogMeIn for years. One day they told all of their free users that their service would go away in a week or two. I found Team Viewer and quickly made the switch. Team Viewer works much better than LogMeIn and it is much faster and more reliable. LogMeIn did us a big favor abandoning their users.

Team Viewer is not the same as a VPN. With Team Viewer you can access the desktop of one computer remotely. A VPN lets you open files as if you were on site. Both systems have their advantages and their disadvantages.

The VPN requires your remote system to have all of your regular software installed. That rules out using a NetBook to run your office applications, e-mail, etc. A remote program such as Team Viewer lets you operate your computer remotely, without having all of the software installed on the portable computer. A NetBook or possibly a tablet will let you access your home or office computer remotely.

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TeamViewer and a tablet
Dec 12, 2014 12:57PM PST

I use TeamViewer with both a PC and an Android tablet. Although the tablet version works, it's incredibly clunky. You really need a PC. The problem is not poor design of TeamViewer. It's just that running a PC remotely on a tablet doesn't work very well. (Of course, I do have a 39" HDTV as a monitor and a 13.3" tablet.) (Actually a 4k UHD TV but I run it at 1920 x 1080.)

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Team Viewer is not secure
Dec 12, 2014 7:52PM PST

What rubbish !!

Just use remote desktop (window/Linux/Android) to connect over the VPN, no need to have your office software on your netbook.

LogMeIn and similar products are NOT secure. All your traffic is going through a third party computer. You might as well give some stranger the keys to your house.

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VPN
Dec 12, 2014 10:36AM PST

That's remote desktop access Bob, not VPN. I agree I love TeamViewer for personal remote access.

The VPN question is a tough one.

1. If you have the ability to use your own hotspot via your cell phone, that's great and easy. No encryption issues there since I believe the cellular data signal is encrypted.

2. There are freeware solutions on www.Download.com (I used Hotspot Shield) but I've had them turn up as containing malware or other threats on Malwarebytes or Spybot scans. Not sure why. These free versions have ads so reduced screen size.

3. Browser VPN plugins are available, but I've never used them

Sorry I can't help more with the VPN question.

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LogMeIn Free doesn't exist
Dec 12, 2014 3:40PM PST

LogMeIn Free hasn't been free for quite some time. Great loss. I loved it, but won't pay for it for occasional personal use. Team Viewer is good, too, and is still free for personal use.

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Security
Dec 12, 2014 7:46PM PST

While handy, no of these provide any level of security. In fact they are like handing the front door key to a complete stranger.

This is because all your traffic goes via a third party computer.

If your lucky to have a have a router that supports vpn, that is generally the easiest if you have more than one pc you need to access on your home network.

If not, try OpenVPN, the community edition is free to use. It is generally one of the easiest to use. I have used it in both the home and corporate environment.

Very easy to setup as it only relies on 1 single port being opened on your home router and you can use the standard port or choose one yourself.
Has built in certificate generation, hence no passwords to remember
If you have a dynamic ip address it supports named hosts, so can use dynamic dns
Client PC use the same software as the host, so roles can be reversed by changing config file.
Only client PC with the correct certificate can connect.
Setup as a window service, no user training required. Just use PC as before.

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OpenVPN
Dec 14, 2014 12:52PM PST

I downloaded a free trial of F-Secure "Freedome" App.onto my mobile and tablet for when I go away, as I too always worry about using free hotspots. This is very easy to use. I live in the UK, and have set my "location" to that,and keep it the same whichever country i'm in. (This has the added bonus of being able to access BBC i-Player and watch my favourite TV programs, as this is not possible normally when out of the country) It is so easy to use that I opted to pay for the monthly subscription once the trial was over.(I think it is £2.50 or thereabouts) When I read the "about" section of the app, it states "We also distribute the following third party application with our product: OpenVPN(TM)"

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LogMeIn is the easiest to use
Dec 12, 2014 10:49PM PST

LogMeIn has a free service that will allow your remote computer to access a computer on your home network. What you will see is the home computer desktop and your remote laptop becomes only a terminal for it. All communications between the remote laptop and the home computer is fully encrypted in a VPN tunnel through the Internet. I have used this all over the world, and it performs generally at the speed of the home computer that may be faster than the remote laptop - there is very little delay even when editing documents in Word or building graphics in PowerPoint.

There is a upgrade to LogMeIn that allows file sharing and remote printing if your remote laptop has access to local printer, but I have never found the need for this with access to cloud storage. I have found the free version of LogMeIn to meet all my needs for remote access and security and to be remarkably bug-free, but you do need that anchor of a home computer tied to your home network.

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Is it possible?
Dec 6, 2014 1:27PM PST

Of course it is possible but it's probably not that simple where I can just jot down a few sentences here. The reality is...I can't. I have seen it in cyber space. How to setup VPN on windows7 (PCWorld,2010) and what 2 method to use for protection.

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Here some information on VPNs.
Dec 12, 2014 8:43AM PST
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You could but...
Dec 12, 2014 10:21AM PST

these days why would you with all the VPN providers out there, like www.nordvpn.com?

It's similar to the question of setting up a personal cloud network, or just using something like Google Drives or Dropbox. You could, but why would you want to go through all that trouble?

Then again, most people are likely far more technically savvy than I.

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VPN server on Windows 7 or 8 for Free
Dec 12, 2014 10:22AM PST

Read the following article.
http://www.howtogeek.com/135996/how-to-create-a-vpn-server-on-your-windows-computer-without-installing-any-software/
"Windows has the built-in ability to function as VPN server, although this option is hidden. This trick works on both Windows 7 and Windows 8. The server uses the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP.)"

The article omits TCP port 47 GRE or Generic Router Encapsulation and only mentions that you have to forward TCP port 1723. I would forward both.

Make sure to create a "Strong Password" using lower case, uppercase, numbers and special symbols and the longer the better.

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It's from Microsoft, it's free, and it a security hole
Dec 12, 2014 12:52PM PST

PPTP is very easy to set up and it works reasonably well. It is also not terribly secure. A better choice is OpenVPN, which requires some effort to set up but it is much faster than PPTP and it is more secure.

You still need a VPN server to access your files. I have had great success with the VPN software included with the Synology Disk Station. Please see my recent posting here for details.

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I have a free email service that acts like a VPN

I found a free email service that acts like a VPN because you can send 50MB attachments and there is 2 Gigabytes of free storage. There is also a file storage option.

http://www.gmx.com/

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(NT) Nothing like a vPN
Dec 12, 2014 7:56PM PST
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VPN vs. Email
Dec 13, 2014 1:47AM PST

The OP is concerned about security (financial transactions", so regular email is not a good way to go. I don't think the poster is trying to transfer files and that would be FTP or SFTP. VPN allows access from one network (such as Starbucks) to another network (such as the home network) via a very secure tunnel. What I would look into is the security between the financial institution and whatever remote system the person is using. If the OP needs to get to the computer at home, VPN is the most secure way although it may take a little bit of work to set up.

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It's easy and much safer than unsecured browsing
Dec 12, 2014 10:52AM PST

I have installed Avast anti-virus from the CNET download page. Avast bundles a VPN tool which you can try for free to see if it's for you. If you decide you like it, you need to pay a subscription fee - that's it.

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Avast?
Dec 12, 2014 11:05AM PST

Allit am: I used the Avast version for iPad & and it was atrociously slow... No support but they still wanted the $$. So I switched to Onavo....no problems there...
Jim B

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Private VPN
Dec 12, 2014 11:30AM PST

My step-son is a missionary in Tanzania and he uses TunnelBear as his VPN since he usually can only get internet access in kiosks/coffee house and places that are totally open to people snooping on what you are doing. He "swears" by it! Check it out at www.TunnelBear.com. And it is free.

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VPN
Dec 12, 2014 11:40AM PST

Hi Malcolm,
Setting up VPN is as easy as 123 although perhaps getting the right provider is as everything else the most important thing. Personally after trying a few different ones a couple of years ago I settled on the one with the name that least inspired me and I have just signed up for another year. It is a UK company with servers all over the world. That word Server is the key point. The more servers they have and particularly where you intend to be or where you intend your computer to be is the key to a good VPN. It also is important that those servers are never too busy or else you will get bogged down in the traffic which was the problem with the ones I tried initially. Is it safe. Well its as safe as anything is these days and I certainly have had no problems. The name of the company by the way is Hide My *** which I dare say some find amusing. Their backup I should add is pretty good. Not that I have had to call them too often but they do respond promptly. Cost---- I have learned to renew when they are on sale so I usually pay about $60. There are many more out there which I am sure are just as good so good luck.

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VPN
Dec 12, 2014 12:12PM PST

I file Tax Returns for clients with the Australian Tax Office. I have to use their VPN. I have to have Cisco VPN Client installed.

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Yes, it is possible and not that expensive
Dec 12, 2014 12:25PM PST

Synology makes a Disk Station that is a network attached storage device (NAS) that lets you share files on your network. Prices range from $220 up, depending on how many disk drives it will hold. It comes with no drives; you have to populate it with inexpensive drives.

The Disk Station supports three VPN protocols. OpenVPN is probably the best for most of us. I have set it up at a non-profit organization so users can access the network remotely and it works very well. If you map a drive to it and enable it to re-connect automatically the connection will be there once you connect with the VPN client. Synology's software has an interesting trait: It is well designed and it works reliably. What a novel concept.

The OpenVPN client is free. When you connect you will find you can ping any device on the host network as if you were there. I can open files almost as quickly as if I were on site. We have Verizon's FiOS 50/50 service there and I have FiOS 25/25 at home so it is quite fast. It also worked well on Comcast's 16/3 service, albeit more slowly, before we switched to FiOS.

That brings up an important point. Many private networks are addressed at 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1. You want your network to use a different sub-net so there will be no conflict between it and the network where you sonnect. Choose an address such as 192.168.20.1, which is removed from what most people use. It is far simpler to re-address a few devices on your network when you set up the Disk Station than to add devices and have to do it later.

Synology includes a DDNS package, which lets you connect to your network even though your personal IP address is not fixed. We have a fixed IP address so I have not tested this feature. The Disk Station VPN works very well, it can be relatively inexpensive to set up (under $400 with 2 large drives), and it works very well. They work so well that where I work they have bought several rack mounted systems.

The Disk Station can serve as the hub of a small network, eliminating the need for a file server, domain controllers, and the like. It allows sharing files, videos, and movies and it includes a mail server. It also supports security cameras. You will need to set up user accounts and access rights. If you are new to this sort of thing you may need some help getting started but many people can pick it up from the documentation and Synology's on-line forum.

We have had virtually no trouble with the Disk Station in three years. Initially there were some issues, which were mostly due to the system being new to us but there was one issue with our elderly router. The folks at Synology got us up and running in short order. If the entire unit were to fail out of warranty they will drop ship a rebuilt replacement unit overnight for about $100.

Disclaimer: My sole association with Synology is that of a very happy customer.

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