How to Safely Download Torrents and Protect Your Identity

Torrents are a method of peer to peer download, meaning that you download files from tens or even hundreds of other users like you instead of having a central file hoster. This means that users share the burden of uploading files, so there is no expensive file hosting required for the uploader. Torrenting became popular with the rise of broadband internet that made it possible for people to upload and download at faster speeds than before, allowing people to share entire large files across the world.

However, torrents quickly became associated with illegal downloading. Copyright holders or ISP were easily able to track which IP addresses were using torrents and to prosecute them for file sharing. Over the last five years, far fewer people have used torrents due to worries about copyright infringement. But there are still people who want to use torrents, because they remain the most efficient way to manage large downloads. If you’ve been wanting to use torrents but are concerned about whether it is safe to do so, then today’s article is for you. We’re going to discuss how to safely download torrents.

Is Torrenting Legal?

The first thing to know about torrents is that, despite what many people believe and say, using torrents is not illegal. Torrenting is merely a method of file sharing, like attaching a file to an email. One common legal use of torrents that you will see is the sharing of Linux distributions or open source software. When software is provided for free, it can be expensive for the person who wrote the code to pay for hosting for the installation files. So instead, the software is made available through torrents so that the coder doesn’t have to pay for hosting. When you want to download a piece of open source software, you can use a torrent client to download the installation files from other users of the software. This is all perfectly legal.

However, much of the content that is shared through torrents is copyrighted content like movies, TV shows, books, anime, comics, or music. The sharing of this content for free is illegal as it is against copyright law. So it is the content shared through torrents which may be illegal, not the method of torrenting itself.

One reason that copyright holders have been so active in pursuing legal action against torrents users is to do with the way that torrents work. When you use a torrent to download a file, you start downloading that file in small chunks from other users. The chunks that you have already downloaded are then made available to other users to download from you. Therefore, whenever you use a torrent to download you are technically hosting a file for download too. In general, copyright holders are not too focused on users who download or stream their content – they are much more concerned about the people who upload or host the content. With torrents, you become a hoster of any file you download, making you a target for copyright holders if you are downloading illegal content.

How Do People Get Caught Using Torrents?

Ok, so you know that many of the content found in torrents is illegal. But how do people get caught using torrents? It’s not as if someone at your ISP looks at every single byte of data that you download to search for illegal content, is it? The reason that so many people get caught and receive legal threats when using torrents as compared to, say, direct downloads is also to do with the way that torrents work. A direct download is a file hosted on a website that you download like any other file from the web, like a picture, audio file, or even text. Unless your ISP is looking carefully at your internet activity, they are unlikely to notice that you direct downloaded a particular file.

But torrents use a particular method for file transfer, based on the Bittorrent technology. This uses a particular port for traffic – typically the 6881-6889 TCP port – which means that torrent traffic is very distinctive and easy for an ISP to spot. If you use torrents over your regular internet connection, the chances are very good that your ISP will investigate which types of files your are downloading and will take legal action against you if they find you torrenting illegal files. It is easy for ISPs to track the IP addresses of people using torrents, as torrents users share their IP addresses with each other in order to facilitate downloading. When your ISP can quickly spot that you are using torrent traffic, and then see that your IP address is sharing a particular file illegally, this is a recipe for disaster.

Tips For Downloading Torrents Safely

If you do want to use torrents, there are ways to do so safely. If you take care of which torrents you use and where you find your torrents files, then torrenting can be a really useful way to download large files quickly. Here are tips on safely downloading torrents:

1. Use Legal Torrents

The biggest thing you can do to keep yourself safe when using torrents is to only use legal torrents. It will be risky to download illegal content with torrents, especially if you are downloading a recent Hollywood movie, and particularly when that movie has been recently released on DVD or Bluray. These are the times that copyright holders will be watching most closely to look for people illegally sharing their content. You can skip this worry entirely by using legal torrents instead.

There is actually a ton of great legal content out there than you can download, like independent movies which have been released for free, older content that is now in the public domain, or open source software which is distributed for free. Here are just a few of the sites that you can use to find fully legal torrents:

2. Configure Your Torrent Client

There are many different clients out there for downloading torrents. Some of these clients will come with security features like the option to encrypt your torrents in order to disguise the type of traffic you are using from your ISP. While this certainly isn’t a foolproof method to keep yourself safe, it is an option worth enabling if it is available in your torrent client. You might also consider setting up a proxy server to route your torrent traffic via a proxy tunnel in order to increase your anonymity, and using the torrent IP address checker to make sure that your real IP address is not visible in your torrent downloads.

3. Find Torrents On Respected Sites

The risks of using torrents aren’t just legal issues. When you download a torrent file, you can’t always see what you are downloading until the download is complete and you actually open the file. Sometimes you’ll find malicious code like viruses or malware hidden inside torrent files, and when you open the files your computer will be infected.

To avoid this problem, you should only find torrents on sites that you know and trust. You shouldn’t start downloading a torrent that you found on some dodgy site you’ve never heard of before that you got to through goggling. Instead, use a trusted and well known torrent site to find the torrents you are looking for.

If you use torrents often, you might want to try to score an invite to a private torrenting site too. These sites are more secure than others because only a limited pool of highly knowledgeable people use them.

4. Use A VPN To Stay Safe

The most important way to keep yourself safe when using torrents is to use a VPN. A VPN will both hide your IP address and disguise the fact that you are using torrents from your ISP. A VPN works by installing a piece of software on the device you use to download torrents which encrypts all of the data that you send over the internet before it leaves your device. The encrypted data is sent to a server located elsewhere in the world where it is decrypted and sent on to its original destination. This encryption process makes it impossible for your ISP to see what sites you are visit, or what content you are streaming or downloading.

A VPN is the best way to keep safe when torrenting, and if you are using illegal torrents then a VPN is an absolute must to keep you safe from legal consequences of downloading.

Our Recommended VPNs For Torrenting

Not every VPN is suitable for torrent users, however. Many VPNs, especially free VPNs, will not encrypt P2P traffic including torrents. So these providers are of no use in keeping you safe when you torrent. We have found a selection of highly reliable and trustworthy VPNs that do allow you to torrent, so here are our recommendations for VPNs to keep you safe when torrenting:

1. IPVanish

IPVanish is our top recommendation for a VPN for torrenting. It has incredibly fast connection speeds which are perfect for downloading large files in lightning quick time. Other features that torrent users will appreciate include no bandwidth limits, a strict no logging policy, and 100% privacy guaranteed. You can use any of the servers available for P2P downloads, and the strong 256-bit encryption used will keep you safe. See more about why IPVanish is great for torrenting at https://www.ipvanish.com/torrents-vpn/

The available network of servers is large, with more than 1000 servers in 60 different countries around the world. And the software has helpful security features like an optional kill switch which will cut off your internet connection if the VPN server goes down, so that you don’t accidentally send data over an unsecured network – which is a key feature for torrenters. There are also option for period IP address change and DNS leak protection for maximum security. You can install the IPVanish software on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android.

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a great VPN for torrenters thanks to its combination of speed, security, and ease of use. ExpressVPN does support torrent and other P2P traffic and it has no bandwidth limits so you don’t need to worry about hitting a bandwith cap if you download lots of large files. The security used includes 256-bit encryption to keep your data locked up safely away from your ISP, and a no logging policy so that no records of your internet use will be kept. There are more security features in the software like a kill switch so you don’t inadvertently use torrents over an unsecure connection, and an IP address checker so that you can check whether your IP address is hidden before opening your torrent client. Find out more about using ExpressVPN with the popular uTorrent client at https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-service/utorrent-vpn

The network of servers you get access to with an ExpressVPN subscription covers more than 1000 servers in 90 different countries, and these servers offer some of the fastest connections available from any VPN provider. An advantage of ExpressVPN is that the software is available for a massive range of devices including games consoles and smart TVs as well as desktop machines running Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, plus mobile devices running Android and iOS. There are even browser extensions available for quick connections through your Chrome, Firefox, or Safari web browser.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a fantastic option for torrenting, packing 256-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit keys under the hood. You won’t have to worry about logs being kept either, since this provider has one of the strictest policies against logging in the industry. They don’t even keep your email address! This level of privacy is ideal when facing down the threat of copyright trolls throwing the book at you. Other features include an automatic kill switch along with DNS and IP lead protection. 

This VPN provider is speedy too, with a robust network of over 1300 servers in 30+ countries. For even better performance when torrenting, make use of their “Torrent Anonymously” profile, which automatically connects you to a P2P compatible server. Not only will this provide an optimized experience, it also adds an extra layer of protection against snooping, malware and other internet nasties.

4. NordVPN

NordVPN is the VPN that we recommend for users who are looking for the highest level of security. The service not only allows P2P traffic, but even has special P2P dedicated servers to maximise your download speeds. In addition to the 256-bit encryption and no logging policy to protect your privacy, there is also an option called double encryption for the best possible security. Double encryption works by sending your data to not one but two different servers and encrypting it at each one. These two layers of encryption make it practically impossible for anyone to crack, even with the most sophisticated tools. Other key features for torrenters are unlimited bandwidth and fast download speeds so you can get your files sooner. For more about using torrents and other P2P downloads with NordVPN, see https://nordvpn.com/features/great-p2p-opportunity/

NordVPN have recently expended their server network and they now have an absolutely massive network of 3300 servers in 59 countries. As well as the special servers for P2P, you’ll also find specialist servers for anti DDoS, dedicated IP, double VPN, and onion over VPN. The software is available for devices running Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices, and is available as a browser extension for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Conclusion

Many users are worried about using torrents due to the high number of people who have been caught downloading illegal content and faces some kind of legal consequence. However, there are legitimate ways to use torrents and you can use them safely. The most important take away for torrent users is to use legal torrents and to only download torrent from trustworthy sites. If you are going to use torrents for other purposes, it is vital that you take steps to protect yourself as otherwise the likelihood of your ISP discovering that you have been torrenting is high. Use a VPN to encrypt all of your traffic so that no one can see what you’ve been accessing or downloading – not even your ISP. This is the best way to keep yourself safe when using torrents.

Do you still use torrents, or do you consider this method of downloading too risky? What about for open source software purposes – have you tried downloading open source software with a torrent? Let us know what steps you take to keep yourself safe while torrenting in the comments below.

Read How to Safely Download Torrents and Protect Your Identity by Georgina Jones on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Our Top Bitcoin Alternatives For 2018

As the price for Bitcoin remains high, many people are turning to other forms of cryptocurrency for their regular needs. There are now a wide range of other cryptocurrencies available, known as altcoins, which generally work in the same way as Bitcoin but which are not as expensive to mine or to use. Investors are interested in these altcoins too, thinking that there is more potential for growth from lesser known cryptocurrencies which have not yet inflated in price the way that Bitcoin has.

So if you’re someone who is looking to purchase a bit of cryptocurrency for making purchases or sending to other people, then you might consider purchasing a currency other than Bitcoin. First, you need to consider the legal status of cryptocurrencies in your country – for example, in China the use of cryptocurrencies is restricted. But if your country has laws that accept cryptocurrencies, you can start looking around for an altcoin that would meet your needs. To help you with this, today we’re going to share our top Bitcoin alternatives to help you make the right decision regarding cryptocurrencies.

Best Alternatives To Bitcoin For 2018

Whether you’re considering mining altcoins yourself, you are looking at options of cryptocurrencies to invest in, or you just want to purchase a little cryptocurrency of your own to make purchases, here are a few suggestions for the best alternatives to Bitcoin for 2018:

1. Ethereum

The second biggest cryptocurrency that’s been getting press recently is Ethereum. It became popular with home miners thanks to its less taxing requirements than Bitcoin, but its value has still risen steadily over the last year. It is a popular cryptocurrency too, with estimates saying that four times as many Ethereum transactions take place each day than Bitcoin transactions. This is partly due to the relative affordability of the coins, meaning that people who want to use cryptocurrencies for small transactions find management of the smaller value Ethereum coins easier to manage. There are also some technical advantages of Ethereum over Bitcoin, like more efficient handling of transactions, avoiding the scaling issues that Bitcoin has struggled with, and extra features like smart contracts which make it a great choice for business transactions.

2. Litecoin

Another affordable alternative to Bitcoin is Litecoin. The current price of one Litecoin is in the hundreds of dollars range, as opposed to the thousands of dollars that one Bitcoin costs. This makes Litecoin an attractive option for those who are starting out in cryptocurrencies and want to begin with a relatively easy currency to work with. It offers a potential investment opportunity too, as the price of Litecoin could continue to rise – though of course, as with any cryptocurrency investment, there’s no guarantee that this will happen. An advantage of Litecoin is that it has very low transaction fees, so if you need to move your Litecoins around a lot then you won’t have to spend a lot on transferring them. Litecoin is a solidly well-known and frequently used altcoin that is worth a look into.

3. Ripple

Ripple is one of the largest cryptocurrencies as measured by market capitalisation. Its positioning is to offer the ability to send money around the world by making use of the blockchain, so it has been popular with financial institutions which need to process their customers’ payments. The advantage for these institutions is lower transaction costs than would be incurred by making transfers in fiat currency. Ripple operates in a more centralised way than other cryptocurrencies, which could be an advantage if you prefer a streamlined system or a disadvantage if you care about the decentralisation aspect of cryptocurrencies. Currently Ripple is supported by a variety of financial institutions like Santander, American Express, and ATB Financial.

4. Dash

Digital Cash, aka Dash, started off life being called Xcoin and then became Darkcoin before being renamed to Dash. As you can guess by this involved naming development, Dash is one of the older cryptocurrencies and has been around since 2014. Dash distinguishes itself with a strong focus on privacy and anonymity (hence the rather unfortunate “Darkcoin” name), with a features called PrivateSend that lets you keep your details private when sending money, so it’s the best cryptocurrency to use if you are concerned with anonymising your transactions. There is another unusual feature in the two-tiered system that Dash users: the miners sit on one tier, and they are overseen by a tier of volunteer masternodes who sign the transactions. Dash is currency very affordable and the transaction fees are low too.

5. Steem

Steem garnered a lot of attention at the beginning of the year when a report from the Weiss ratings agency came out and rated Steem as a highly favourable cryptocurrency, above Bitcoin and many other altcoins. Although the methods and findings of this report have been debated across the cryptocurrency community, it certainly caused a lot more people to look into Steem. Steem is the cryptocurrency related the the Steemit social network and content creation platform, and was originally developed to let viewers tip content creators on the platform whose work they enjoyed. This unique approach of tying the cryptocurrency to a social network has helped to balance out the currency and is why it was given such a good rating by Weiss. However, this increased interest in Steem has already lead to a lot of speculation, so it’s probably not a good choice for investment but is an interesting example of how cryptocurrencies could operate in the future.

6. IOTA

Finally, one cryptocurrency which is very interesting in IOTA. IOTA is notable because unlike Bitcoin and the other altcoins we’ve mentioned, it is not based on an underlying blockchain network. Instead, it uses a system called Tangle, which is a different form of distributed ledger. It aims specifically at Internet of Things to power its marketplace, so allowing items like your Smart Kettle to communicate with your Smart Fridge, and so far companies including Microsoft and Fujitsu have begun partnerships. The advantage of making use of IoT devices is that transactions can become fast and, even better, free. IOTA makes major changes to the way we think of a cryptocurrency, as it requires no miners and makes use of already existing but unused IoT resources. However, note that there have been security concerns with the way that the Tangle is implemented and IOTA is still in very early stages, so for now it will likely remain of interest mostly to curious technology companies.

Keep Yourself Safe When Using Cryptocurrencies With A VPN

If you’re going to use cryptocurrencies, whether it is Bitcoin or an altcoin like the ones that we’ve talked about above, then it’s important to take steps to beef up your internet security. A good first step to keeping yourself safe is to use a VPN when making cryptocurrency transations. In fact, in general, you should be using a VPN for all your financial transactions including when you use online banking. Using a VPN will mean that the data that you send over the internet will be encrypted, so that other people cannot intercept or interfere with your transactions. This encryption will help to protect you from spyware or other malware that could target your financial transactions.

If you’re looking for a VPN, below we’ll recommend some top VPNs for cryptocurrency users.

How We Choose A VPN For Cryptocurrency Users

In order to select the best VPN for the needs of cryptocurrency users, we consider the following criteria:

  1. Exceptional security. When you’re working with cryptocurrency transactions, then security ought to be your top concern. We look for VPN providers who offer high security features like the use of 256-bit encryption and who have a no logging policy to protect your privacy.
  2. The option to pay using cryptocurrency. If you want to keep your internet activity truly private, then you should pay for your VPN subscription with cryptocurrency. If you use a credit card to pay for your VPN, this creates a link between your activities and your personal information. We looked for VPNs who accepted payment in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
  3. Fast connections. You don’t want your VPN to slow down your internet connection, so we look for VPNs who have fast connections available on their servers.
  4. Many servers located around the globe. In order to protect your identity, you use your VPN to connect to a server elsewhere in the world so you can route your traffic via that server. The more servers available, the more options that are open to you.
  5. Software available for a range of platforms. With one VPN subscription you can protect multiple different devices, like your phone, computer, tablet, and more, as long as your VPN provider makes software for the platforms that you use. We look for providers with a broad range of supported platforms to offer you maximum flexibility.

With all of these factors in mind, here are the VPNs that we recommend for cryptocurrency users:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a popular choice among power users thanks to its strengths across the board, in terms of speed, security, and ease of use. The key security features include the use of strong 256-bit encryption, and a company no logging policy so you can be sure that your internet use will never be recorded. In addition, there are extra security features available in the software like an optional kill switch which will cut off your connection whenever the VPN is not active, in order to prevent you from accidentally sending data over an unsecured connection.

There are a large number of servers available for your use, with a network of more than 1000 servers in 90 different countries. Of particular note is that the connections are super fast – so much that you won’t even notice that they’re there. You can install ExpressVPN using the software which is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and more, or you can make use of the browser extensions for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple’s Safari browser. In order to protect your anonymity when purchasing your subscription, there is an option to let you pay using Bitcoin.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is perfect for serious cryptocurrency users, thanks to its exceptional level of security. It has the industry standard security features for a VPN, like strong 256-bit encryption and the essential no logging policy. But NordVPN also offers a unique security feature called double encryption to make your data even safer. Double encryption works as follows: on your device, your VPN software encrypts all of the data that is to be sent over the internet before passing this data to a first server, located elsewhere in the world. At this first server, the data is encrypted again and is sent to a second server. It is at this second server that the data is finally decrypted and sent on to its original destination. These two layers of encryption mean that it is practically impossible for anyone to crack the encryption and access your data.

In addition to this high level of security, NordVPN offers fast connections and access to a huge network of more than 3300 servers in 59 countries, including special servers for features like anti DDoS, dedicated IP, double VPN, onion over VPN, and P2P. In the software you’ll find options for further security measures like the CyberSec security suite and DNS leak protection. The software can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices, and you can also use the VPN through browser extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. You can pay for your NordVPN subscription with Bitcoin through the BitPay system in order to preserve your anonymity.

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3. PureVPN

Not all cryptocurrency users have experience with VPNs, or even with advanced internet security. If you are looking for a simple solution that will take care of all of your internet security issues in one bundle, then you should try PureVPN. When you purchase a subscription to PureVPN you’ll get access to a VPN that meets all of our security requirements, like using strong 256-bit encryption and having a no logging policy so your internet use won’t be recorded. This includes access to a server network of more than 750 servers in 140 different countries, with fast connections that won’t slow you down. You can enable further security options like a dedicated IP, a kill switch, DDoS protection, and an NAT firewall.

But in addition to this VPN, you’ll also get access to a host of other security software, including anti malware and anti virus software to keep your computer free from unwanted programs, an anti spam filter to keep your email inbox free from junk, and an app filtering system for the mobile app that lets you choose which apps pass data through the VPN and which apps can pass data directly to your network. This makes PureVPN a great all in one security solution which you can install on Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Android TV devices, in addition to the browser extensions which are available for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.You can pay for your subscription using the CoinPayments system to keep yourself anonymous, as this lets you pay with either Bitcoin or a variety of altcoins like Ether, Litecoin, BitBean, CloakCoin, Dash, and LeoCoin.

Conclusion

With Bitcoin having blazed a trail for cryptocurrencies, the next generation of altcoins are becoming more and more attractive to both investors and users, not to mention miners. If you’re thinking about getting into cryptocurrencies but are wary of Bitcoin due to its high price and high transaction costs, then there are plenty of alternatives available for you to consider. We’ve shared our top Bitcoin alternatives to help you find the right altcoin for your needs, as well as to give interested readers an insight into the ever changing cryptocurrency market. If you use cryptocurrencies, don’t forget to keep your transactions safe by using a VPN when you go online. We’ve also recommended a few VPNs that you can use for protection of your cryptocurrency.

Have you tried out any altcoins this year, either for investing or transactions, or as a miner? Which altcoin have you found to be the best alternative to Bitcoin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Read Our Top Bitcoin Alternatives For 2018 by Georgina Jones on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What Is A Botnet And How To Stay Safe From One

Staying safe online is an ongoing mission which requires you to learn about new cyber threats and find ways to keep yourself safe. From unauthorised cryptocurrency mining to hacking vulnerabilities on public wifi networks, there are many security threats to be aware of. One type of cyber threat that has gained awareness recently is the existence of botnets. A botnet, from the term robot network, means a group of computers which are linked together and remotely controlled by an unauthorised individual. It is a way that your computer could be accessed and controlled by someone else for nefarious purposes.

Botnets are a particularly pernicious form of security threat as you can become part of one by choosing an unsafe VPN – the software that is supposed to keep you safe can in fact expose you to more dangers! Below we’ll explain what a botnet is and give you tips on how to avoid dodgy VPNs that could make you a part of one, then we’ll recommend some trustworthy VPNs that can keep you safe from botnets. Read on to learn what is a botnet and how to stay safe from one.

How Does A Botnet Work?

To understand why botnets are a threat, it’s helpful to know that they are created from a network of machines which are controlled illegitimately by a person or organisation. The machines that are part of a botnet can include phones and computers like the devices that you personally use, but they can also include servers, routers, and even other computerised devices like shop tills and CCTV cameras. The botnet links all of these devices together so that their combined computing power can be used for the purposes of the botnet controller.

One a botnet has been formed by accessing these devices, their combined computing power can be used for a number of dubious purposes. Some of the common uses of botnets include roping machines into distributed denial of service attacks, in which a website is attacked by having hundreds of even thousands of machines repeatedly trying to access the site at the same time, which causes the server to go down, or spamming, in which devices are used to send out thousands of unsolicited advertisement emails by scraping websites for email addresses. Some other uses of botnets include click fraud, in which a website it set up with an advert on it and then bot devices are used to click that advert over and over to defraud money from the advertiser, or cryptocurrency mining, in which computing cycles are used to mine for Bitcoin or other currencies without the permission of the device’s owner.

While botnets are most commonly set up and used by criminal organisations, it’s worth noting that there are also a few legitimate botnets, in which users give permission for some of their computing power to be used for philanthropic purposes. For example, users can opt into the Folding@Home project which uses processing cycles from volunteers’ devices to analyse protein folding patterns in the hope of finding new treatment options for diseases like cancers or Alzheimer’s. These botnets are opt-in, meaning that people have chosen and agreed to be part of them voluntarily. In this article, we’ll be talking about the criminal type of botnets in which users do not opt in and have their machines co opted without their agreement.

The Problem Of Free VPNs And Botnets

So, now that you know how a botnet works, you might be wondering how your device could become part of one, and how you can avoid this. Botnets used to be less of a problem for private users as they used to mostly target devices which were online but not often used, in order to avoid detection. Many of the machines that were compromised were servers or older machines that were left turned on and connected to the internet, but rarely used by an actual person. This meant that botnets were a problem for IT professionals but not so much for your average user. However, in the last few years botnets have become more widespread on users’ devices due to their integration with dodgy free VPN services.

One of the best known examples of a botnet that affected everyday users was the free VPN Hola. Hola used to be a very popular free VPN service that was frequently recommended for users who wanted to stay safe and anonymous while they browsed but who didn’t want to pay for a service. However, this meant that the Hola company weren’t collecting payments from subscriptions, so they had to make their money elsewhere – and they chose to do that by signing their users into a botnet without them knowing about it, then selling access to this botnet to any company that wanted it. When this was found out back in 2015, it was discovered that Hola users’ devices had been used for distributed denial of service attacks, click fraud, and other dubious purposes. People were shocked that a company like Hola that claimed to offer security software was so cavalier with giving out access to it’s users’ devices.

This is how unsuspecting users typically become part of a botnet. They sign up for a free service or product and give the software access to their devices, then this software is used for unsavoury purposes by the software companies. The best way to stay safe from botnets and to prevent your devices from being used as part of one is to be careful what you install on your device. Make sure that you research any software that you install and check that the company making the software is legitimate and trustworthy. Most importantly, when it comes to security services like VPNs, remember that these things cost money to make and to update, so if the company isn’t collecting subscription fees from their users then they must be getting their money from elsewhere. This is one reason that we do not recommend anyone uses a free VPN, and we think it is well worthwhile to pay the few bucks a month for a trustworthy and safe paid VPN.

Our Recommended Safe VPNs

If you’re looking for a VPN and you want to make sure that you choose a good one and do not end up as part of a botnet, then we have some tips. There are a few key features that we look for in a VPN that indicate that it is trustworthy, safe, and will keep your data secure:

  1. Good security policies. We look for VPNs with the top notch security features like the use of 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe, and a no logging policy in order to guarantee your privacy.
  2. Fast connection speeds. You don’t want connections which are slow as this will make your browsing far less pleasant.
  3. Large server network. To get the maximum use out of your VPN, you want one which offers a large number of servers in many different countries so you can always find a server to meet your needs.
  4. Support for different operating systems. With one paid VPN subscription you can protect all of your devices at once, so we look for VPNs that offer software support for a broad range of platforms.

With these factors taken into consideration, here are our recommendations for VPNs that will keep you safe and never make your device part of a botnet:

1. ExpressVPN

One of the best known and most trusted VPN services among serious internet users is ExpressVPN. This service offers not only lightning fast connections but also exceptional security, with the use of 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy. There are also extra security features available in the software like a kill switch to prevent you from sending data over an unencrypted connection by mistake, an IP address checker to make sure that your IP address is hidden before you browse the web, and IPv6 leak protection to keep you safe.

The server network available to ExpressVPN customers is very large, with more than 1000 servers in 145 different locations in 94 countries, and there is a speed test feature to help you find the fastest possible server. The software can be installed on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Linux.

2. IPVanish

If your biggest concern is speed and you want a VPN that won’t slow you down but that also doesn’t compromise on security, then we recommend IPVanish. This service has some of the fastest connections we’ve come across, so you can browse with no delays and download large files quickly, or easily stream high definition video content with no buffering or lag. In addition to the speed, IPVanish has strong security with tough 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy so you can be sure that your online activities won’t be recorded.

The IPVanish network of servers covers more than 1000 servers in 60 different countries. The software has many advanced features that make it ideal for serious VPN users, like a kill switch, auto reconnect, leak protection for IPv6 and DNS, periodic IP address change, and manually configurable DNS. You can install the software onto devices running Windows, Mac OS, Android, Linux, Windows Phone, or iOS.

3. CyberGhost

If you prefer a VPN with an easy to use graphical interface, then we recommend CyberGhost. When you open up the software, you’ll see coloured boxes with symbols that let you pick the right server for your needs. If you concern is botnets or other security threats, then click on the Protect Network option in the middle right and you’ll be connected to a server which will help to keep you safe from cyber threats. The connections use strong 256-bit encryption and there is a no logging policy from the company to preserve your anonymity.

The server network is massive covering more than 1300 serves in 30 different countries, and it includes servers and options for surfing anonymously, unblocking streaming, torrenting anonymously, unblocking basic websites, and an option to choose your own server for your specific needs. The software will walk you through all of the steps to connect to the network and browse safely, so it’s great for new users. The software can be installed on devices running Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

4. NordVPN

Those users who want the best possible security from their VPN should look into NordVPN. The security features of this service include the typical use of strong 256-bit encryption and no logging policy, but the star of the show is the double encryption feature. This means that your data is encrypted twice over and is sent to two separate servers. The two layers of encryption are practically impossible to crack, so you know your data will be safe. There are also more security features built into the software like anti DDoS, dedicated IP address option, a CyberSec anti malware suite, a kill switch, and custom DNS.

The server network covers more than 1000 servers in over 60 different countries, and the software can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and Windows Phone, as well as browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome.

5. VyprVPN

If you want a VPN that you can use even on networks with VPN blocking, like those you find in China or other highly restricted countries, then we recommend VyprVPN. This service can be used even on networks with VPN detection thanks to a feature called the Chameleon protocol. This works by encrypting not only your data, but also your metadata – that is, information about the origin and destination of the data packets. VPN detection often works by comparing the origin stated in the metadata with the apparent origin of the data, and rejecting any connection where these two do not match. By encrypting the metadata as well, you can get around this detection and use the service even on restricted networks.

There is also strong 256-bit encryption and no logging policy to complement this security feature, and the server network covers more than 700 servers in 70 different countries. The software is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Take advantage of 50% off your first month with VyprVPN, with a 30 day money back guarantee!

Conclusion

A botnet is a network of computers that have been linked together and are used for their processing power without the owners of the devices being aware. Although this used to be a problem that mainly affected servers and other non-consumer hardware, more recently botnets have included mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer devices too. This is due to dodgy free VPN services which compromise the security of devices they are installed on and sell off access to these machines to dubious companies, like those performing DDoS attacks or click fraud. Worryingly, users often will not even know that their device has been compromised and they continue to believe that the software they have installed is keeping them safe.

In order to protect yourself from inadvertently becoming part of a botnet, you should be careful what software you install on your device. Especially when it comes to security software like VPNs, you should always make sure that you are installing software from trustworthy and above board companies. We’ve recommended five reputable paid VPN services that will keep you safe and never allow your device to become part of a botnet.

Have you had experience with your device being used in a botnet? What security steps do you take to protect your devices now? Let us know in the comments below.

Read What Is A Botnet And How To Stay Safe From One by Georgina Jones on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

AIM Discontinued – 6 Secure Alternatives to AIM

Early internet users are bound to remember AOL Instant Messenger, aka AIM, the near ubiquitous messaging app of the early 2000s. If you used the internet back in its early days, the chances are good that you and your friends knew this popular program with its yellow stick figure icon and used it regularly for chatting. However, like all things, AIM had to eventually come to an end. Similar to its parent company AOL, AIM has found itself outdated as users switched over from desktop messaging to mobile messaging in droves over the last 10 years. There just wasn’t the demand for a service like AIM any more, so at the end of 2017 the service was officially shut down.

If you’re a former AIM user, you’ll be looking for an option for a new messaging service to use. One issue that wasn’t given much thought back in the 2000s but which is a major concern now is security. With messaging being so popular now, many hackers try to target messaging apps, and governments try to pressure messaging services to hand over data about people they are investigating.

If you want a messaging app is secure and that will keep your data private, then you need to look around to find a service with good levels of security. We’re here to help with this, with our recommendation for six secure alternatives to AIM now that the service has shut down.

Secure Alternatives To AIM

When searching for a new messaging app to use, as well as the features you would think of like platforms supported, support for sending images and videos as well as text messages, and integration with your operating system, you should also consider security features like the availability of end to end encryption and two factor authentication. Here are six secure alternatives to AIM to consider:

1. Signal

Signal was one of the first messaging apps to have an explicit focus on security, so it became a pioneer in the field. It uses the Open Whisper System which is an open source project, which is good for both transparency and security – this is because it’s easy for anyone to search the code and so security flaws are found very quickly. Other good security features of the app include end to end encryption which is run on the platform’s own infrastructure rather than using another service such as Google’s Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) network, which many other messaging apps use. The app has lots of functions including the ability to send attachments as well as messages, the ability to make voice calls, and a group messaging function. One feature that Android users will appreciate is the ability to make Signal your default SMS app for convenient and secure messaging.

2. Telegram

Telegram has been getting a lot of press recently for its moves into the cryptocurrency market. But before the company got interested in the blockchain, Telegram had already established itself as soon of the most secure and widely used messaging apps. The apps can sync messages across devices, and it supports massive groups of up to 75,000 members which has made it popular for business use. The security features include options for end to end encryption and secure chats, and you can send video and audio files securely as well as text messages. Another security advantage of the Telegram system is that you search for users by name, not by phone number, so you never have to give your number to the app if you don’t want to and your contacts cannot see your phone number. The high level of security offered by this app has lead to it being singled out by British Prime Minster Theresa May as potentially dangerous as users can send messages without them being intercepted by the government – which is just what most users want to see from their messaging app.

3. Threema

If you’re looking for anonymity as well as security, then Threema is the messaging app for you. Its unique feature is the ability to create and use a Threema ID which is not linked to your phone number, email address, or name. You can add this information if you want your friends to be able to find you, but if you want to remain anonymous then you can do that too. Then you can use the Threema system to send text messages, voice calls, group chats, and file attachments, all through encrypted messages. Another nice feature is that the details of your friends and contacts are stored on your device, not in the cloud, which makes it much more secure. Best of all, messages are deleted immediately after delivery, which makes it practically impossible for anyone to track your communications.

4. Wickr

Wickr started off with an aim at business clients, making group chat features available which were designed for teams and enterprises to use. At first, the app used closed encryption which meant that its security was hard to assess, so it wasn’t clear if this app was a good choice for secure messaging. But last year Wickr chose to make its encryption protocol public and open source, allowing the security community to examine the protocol for any issues. This open source end to end encryption system has proven to achieve a good level of security, and the app has received funding from major donors. If you’re looking for an enterprise-level secure messaging app for your business, Wickr is a great choice.

5. Wire

Wire is an app for both desktop and mobile that can also be used through a bunch of web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. The open source nature of the project generated goodwill within the software community and the fact that it is free attracted many users. It is mostly designed around sending text based messages, though there is a video calling feature too. The app has always offered some degree of encryption – at launch if offered encryption between clients and the company – but now it has full end to end encryption to protect your privacy. The encryption protocol is based on Signal, which is a popular and well-tested methodology. However, some security concerns have been raised as although the contents of messages is private, the app does store a list of names of users who you have contacted which means that outside observers could trace the relationships between you and the people you are messaging.

6. WhatsApp

Finally, we should mention one of the most popular messaging apps: WhatsApp, which has hundreds of millions of users across the globe. The company has a commitment to freedom of speech, driven by the experiences of Ukrainian CEO Jan Koum’s experiences with state censorship when he was growing up. However, the fact that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook means that many people are suspicious of the platform’s security and commitment to privacy. Facebook is infamous for aggregating huge amounts of data about its users, and people suspect that WhatsApp could be part of this data collection activity too. There are some good points about WhatsApp’s security, like its use of end to end encryption and the availability of two factor authentication for the app. The reason that most people opt to use WhatsApp is simply convenience – there are so many people who use the service already that it’s likely your friends already have the app. The app has theoretically good security features but those who are concerned about privacy will probably want to opt for another messaging service due to the involvement of Facebook.

Improve Your Messaging Security With A VPN

If you are concerned about your internet security in general and about preserving your privacy when using messaging apps in particular, then it’s good practice to use a VPN. This is a piece of software which encrypts all of the data that you send over the internet – whether it’s internet traffic, downloading files, or instant messages. This encryption makes it difficult or impossible for any outside observers to read your messages or to track your internet use. Not even your ISP will be able to see what you have been doing online and who you have been messaging.

In order to protect your privacy and enhance your security when using messaging apps, we recommend you try one of the following VPNs:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a great VPN for those who want the best of all worlds in terms of security, speed, and support for many platforms. The security features in this VPN include the use of strong 256-bit encryption to ensure your traffic is not intercepted and a no logging policy which means that the company will never keep records of your internet use. The connection speeds are super fast, so you won’t need to be slowed down whether you’re browsing, chatting, or downloading large files.

A subscription to ExpressVPN gets you access to a hug network of more than 1000 servers in 90 different countries which are available for your use, so you’ll be able to easily find a server that meets your needs and to get around any region locks that you come across with no problems. One of the most handy features of ExpressVPN for frequent messaging users is the wide range of platforms that are supported. You can install your VPN on any device you use to chat, including desktop or laptop machines running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux, or use the browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, plus you can install on mobile devices and tablets running Android and iOS. You can even install the software on your games console and some smart TVs so you can be protected whichever device you choose to use.

2. IPVanish

IPVanish is our top pick for a VPN with lightning fast connection speeds, making it perfect for users who frequently need to download large files or who want to stream high definition video. But the service doesn’t only offer fast connections – it has great security too. The security features include the use of strong 256-bit encryption, a no logging policy, and security options in the software like the use of a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and the option for a periodically changing IP address.

This speed and security is delivered over a network of more than 1000 servers in 60 countries, including all the key locations you might want to use like the US, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan, and many more. This means you can browse the internet as if you were anywhere in the world, which is great for getting around region restrictions. You can install the software on the key platforms of Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android.

3. NordVPN

NordVPN is the ideal choice if your first and greatest concern is security. Of course, the NordVPN service uses the strong 256-bit encryption that you would expect and also has the requisite no logging policy to protect your privacy. But the special security feature that makes NordVPN stand out is its option for double encryption. The way double encryption works is as follows: in the first step, your device encrypts any data that is to be sent over the internet and diverts this data to a server owned by your VPN provider, just like any other VPN. But then, at this first server, double encryption encrypts the data for a second time before sending it on to a second server. At the second server, the data is decrypted and sent to its original destination. These two layers of encryption mean that it is practically impossible for anyone to hack your data and see your messages or internet traffic. Further security features include options to use special servers to get features like anti DDoS, dedicated IP, double VPN, onion over VPN, and P2P.

The connections on NordVPN are not as fast as some others, but are still plenty fast enough for regular internet use like browsing, messaging, downloading, and streaming. The server network is absolutely huge, offering more than 3300 servers in 59 countries to meet all of your needs. You can install the software on your devices running Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices, or you can use the browser extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Conclusion

RIP AIM, a piece of internet history. Though if we’re being really honest, it was probably about time that AIM was retired and you chose something more modern as your messaging app. With security now being a big concern for messaging apps, we’ve recommended six alternatives to AIM that have better security features to keep your messages private, like end to end encryption or two factor authentication.

Have you tried out any of our recommended messaging apps, or is there another secure messaging system which you prefer? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Read AIM Discontinued – 6 Secure Alternatives to AIM by Georgina Jones on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How To Watch Amazon Prime From Anywhere: Unblock Prime in 2018

A massive 90 million people in the US are members of Amazon’s Prime service, which gives them access to Amazon benefits and discounts. One handy feature of a Prime subscription is that it also gives users the chance to access Amazon’s Instant Video Service which lets you stream movies or episodes of TV shows for free. Like Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Instant Video lets you stream content on demand, and also includes original programming like The Man in the High Castle, The Grand Tour, and Ripper Street. The Amazon Instant Video service actually has an even larger catalogue of content available than its competitors, and the fact that Prime members get free access makes it even more appealing.

However, there is one drawback to Amazon Prime: it only works in the US. If you are a Prime subscriber and you are travelling abroad, then you won’t be able to use the service to watch your shows or movies. But there is a way to get around this. Today we’ll show you how to watch Amazon Prime anywhere in the world.

Differences Between Amazon Prime And Amazon Instant Video

You might also have heard of Amazon Instant Video when talking about Amazon’s video streaming service. Confusing as it is, Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video are not actually the same product, although both are services which offer video streaming of movies and TV shows from Amazon. Amazon Prime is a service that you get access to when you purchase an Amazon Prime subscription, which also includes free two-day shipping in the US and other benefits. The idea is that Amazon Prime is a service for people who use Amazon a lot and want to get the most out of the site.

Amazon Instant Video, on the other hand, is a something that comes as part of a Prime membership, but can also be purchased separately. So if you’re not interested in discounts on shipping but you do want to use the video streaming platform, you can get yourself an Amazon Instant Video subscription without having to have an Amazon Prime subscription. With Instant Video, instead of a subscription you pay a fee to watch the particular episodes or movies that you are interested on. Both services can be used on a variety of devices like watching through a browser on your computer, watching through the app for iOS or Kindle devices, watching on a Blu-ray player or set-top box like a Roku or Fire Stick, some Smart TVs, and games consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox. A key difference, however, is in the library of titles available to watch for free: Amazon Instant Video gives you access to thousands of movies and TV shows, but Prime members only get access to a limited subset of these videos. Prime members have to pay extra to watch content that isn’t included in their membership fee.

Another difference between the two services is how you access the content. When you watch a video with Prime, you can only stream the video, not download it. With Instant Video, you can download a video for later watching if you’re going to be passing through an area with no internet – so it’s great for long train or subways journeys where your phone’s internet access won’t work. With Instant Video, you have the option to rent a movie which means that you can watch the movie at any time you want within the next 30 days – but you have to finish watching the video within 24 hours of when you start it.

Watching Amazon Prime Abroad

One important difference between the Prime and Instant Video services is regional availability. Amazon Prime is only available to US residents, and isn’t available in Alaska, Hawaii, or the rest of the world. Instant Video, on the other hand, is available from anywhere in the world although the catalogue of content may vary depending on your location.

This means that if you are an Amazon Prime user, you can only use the service from within the US. If you travel abroad and try to access the Amazon Prime service, the site will not let you play videos due to regional restrictions. This is because of licensing issues: Amazon has the right to stream a particular movie in the US because they have purchased the rights to that film for that country, however, they do not have the right to stream that movie in another country. Even if you live in the US and have paid for a Prime subscription within the US, when you are travelling outside of the country then you won’t be able to watch any of your Prime content.

How Regional Restrictions Work

If you go the the Amazon Prime Video page, at https://www.primevideo.com/, what you will see will depend on where you are accessing the site from. If you are travelling to Germany, for example, and you access this site, you’ll see that the text is in German. In the blue box you’ll see a link to the local version of Amazon – in this case, that’s amazon.de – and if you click it then you’ll find that you can’t use your Prime membership to watch content for free on this site. The problem is that the site checks which region you are in and serves you a different version of the site accordingly – and that means you’ll get a site you can’t use to watch with your Prime membership when you’re outside of the US.

This works by the site looking at your IP address. Whenever your device connects to the internet, whether it’s through a wired or wifi connection, and whether it’s your home connection or a public connection, your device is assigned an IP address. This is a string of numbers which is unique to your device and represents that device on the network. So, for example, when you type amazon.com into your browser, the network knows that it has to get the data from the Amazon site, and then serve that data to your device and not any other device. Each IP address is like a postal address that points to your particular device.

The problem with region locking comes up because IP addresses contain information about the country they are from. Particular ranges of IP address are assigned to particular countries – so, for example, it is public knowledge that an IP address that is in the range of 4.68.14.11 – 4.68.14.28 is from the US. When you are travelling abroad and you connect to a network in another country, you’ll be assigned an IP address from that country. Then, when you visit the Prime website, the site sees that your IP address is from another country and so it serves you the local version of the site – which means that you can’t use your Prime subscription to watch videos.

Use A VPN To Watch Amazon Prime From Anywhere

The good news is that there is a way to get around these regional restrictions. You can use a VPN to get around these restrictions by getting a new IP address. A VPN works by installing a piece of software onto your device which encrypts all of the data that you send over the internet. This encryption means that the data is bundled up and protected so that other people can’t see what the data is or track it. This encrypted data is sent to a server which is run by your VPN provider and which is located elsewhere in the world, then once the data arrives at the server it is decrypted. The decrypted data is then sent on to its original destination, just like any other internet traffic.

The advantage of this is that because the data rejoins the other internet traffic at the server location, instead of the location where you actually are, it is assigned an IP address from the country of the server, not the country you are in. If you’re in Germany and you use your VPN to connect to a server in the US, it will appear to any websites as if your traffic is coming from the US. This means that sites like Amazon Prime will work as if you were in the US, even when you are actually located abroad. Wherever you are located, you simply open up your VPN software and connect to a server in the US, then you’ll be able to use Amazon Prime or any other region locked service as if you were at home.

As an additional advantage, encrypting your data preserves your privacy by not revealing your IP address, so your internet activities cannot be tracked to you. The encryption also means that outsiders cannot hack or trace your internet activity, so no one else can see what sites you visit, intercept your communications, or eavesdrop on your conversations.

Our Recommended VPNs For Amazon Prime

If you’re wanting a VPN to watch Amazon Prime from abroad but you aren’t sure which VPN will meet your needs, we have recommendations for you. We base these recommendations on key factors such as their security, the number of servers they offer and whether that includes servers in the US, the speed of their connections, and the ease of use and number of platforms supported by their software.

Here are our top recommendations for a VPN for Amazon Prime users:

1. ExpressVPN

For a VPN that has it all, including top notch security, super fast connections, and easy to use software, we recommend that you try ExpressVPN. It offers excellent security in the form of strong 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy, and it has an absolutely massive server network. Covering more than 1000 servers in 145 different locations in 94 countries, including many in the US, you’ll have no problem finding a server to let you watch Amazon Prime.

The software is one of the easiest to use we’ve ever seen, so it’s perfect for new users but also offers features for advanced users like a speed test to help you find the fastest server and DNS leak protection for maximum security. The software is available for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, and there is a guide to using to it watch Amazon Prime on the company’s website.

2. NordVPN

Users who are looking for an outstanding level of security as well as a way to watch Amazon Prime abroad will appreciate NordVPN. This service offers the essential security features like 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy, but that’s not all. In addition, there are extra security features like dedicated servers for anti DDoS, dedicated IP, onion over VPN, or double VPN. Double VPN works by encrypting your data not once but twice, at two different servers, and these two layers of encryption mean that it is practically impossible for anyone to crack, even with the latest software. This means it’s a great choice for the security conscious. The software can be installed on devices running iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, or Linux.

The network of servers available is massive, with more than 3000 servers in 60 different countries open for your use, including many servers in the US so you can watch your shows from abroad. In fact, if you need more guidance then there’s a specific page on the NordVPN website about using the service with Amazon Prime. You can also find information on which specific servers to use in order to watch Amazon Prime video seamlessly.

EXCLUSIVE: Get a huge 77% discount on the three year special of NordVPN, for a total cost of just $2.75 per month, with a 30 day money-back guarantee.

3. CyberGhost

When you want a VPN that is super easy to use and requires no technical expertise at all, but still has all the essential security and useability features you need, then we recommend CyberGhost. The service offers good security with 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy, plus extra security features like an automatically enabled kill switch. The software is incredibly easy to ise, with a graphical interface which lets you choose from options like browsing anonymously, torrenting anonymously, or unblocking websites. To use Amazon Prime, you just need to click on Unblock Websites and you’ll be able to select a server in the US from their big range of more than 1300 servers in 59 countries including the US.

To find out more about accessing region blocked sites like Amazon Prime, check out their help page. One more thing you should know: the software is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS.

Conclusion

Amazon Prime is a very useful service which gives you access to lots of Amazon Instant Video content as well as other benefits like free shipping from Amazon. Many people in the US have Amazon Prime and use it for watching videos, however, if you are a Prime user who is travelling outside of the US then you’ll find that your Prime subscription doesn’t work in other countries.

We’ve shown you how to get around these regional restrictions using a VPN so that you can watch Amazon Prime from anywhere in the world, and we’ve recommended VPNs that we’ve tested and found to work with Prime. Try these out next time you’re travelling so that you can have full access to your Prime video catalogue.

Have you had issues using Amazon Prime abroad? Which VPN have you found to be best for accessing this content from anywhere? Let us know in the comments below.

Read How To Watch Amazon Prime From Anywhere: Unblock Prime in 2018 by Georgina Jones on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter