Released in 2012 Windows 8 was a complete change from the way Microsoft developed previous Windows operating systems. Although most of the interface was similar to that of its predecessors, the new look helped give Windows 8 a significant leap towards tablet computing. It seems that the release of Android and iOS devices has given Microsoft the needed motivation to dive headfirst into this segment.
Apart from its new tile screen interface and changes to the desktop, Windows 8 has been also optimized for better security. The integration of Windows Defender, Smart Screen Security and Family Filter have enhanced online security for users at home and work.
Vulnerabilities of Windows 8/8.1
Professor Guangnan Ni of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was the first to raise concerns over the possible surveillance threats that Windows 8 users should worry about. Professor Guangnan claimed that the highly internet based interface of Windows 8 was practically calling out to US government agencies to spy on users, regardless of the location of the user.
Similar to Professor Guangnan’s claim was that of the German Government who established through leaked documents that the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) built into Windows 8 was actually a backdoor for the NSA (National Security Agency of USA). The Chinese government banned the procurement of Windows 8 OS while beginning work on developing an alternate OS for their local market.
Microsoft spokespersons announced in November 2012 that the threat of cybercrime on Windows 8 devices, especially mobile phones and tablets, was high. Since Windows 8 is highly developer-friendly, cybercriminals and surveillance agencies will find it easier to infiltrate into user data.
Using a Windows 8 VPN
Virtual Private networks (VPN) are the most significant tools protecting users from anti-privacy threats since the Orwellian age. I will try to make the definition as simple as possible for users to understand this very important tool.
A VPN is a technology that uses a public telecommunications infrastructure (in this case the internet) and creates a secure network connection so users can access remote networks (for instance at work or school) without having to compromise on security.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel while connected to the internet – making the user invisible by changing the IP address to that of another country and encrypting all communication. This disables any surveillance agencies and hackers from eavesdropping on online activity.
Consider you visit social networks, banking and work from your home computer through the internet. A VPN will secure your IP address and mask it so that it is hidden from your ISP’s surveillance, your government’s snooping and from data traps setup by cybercriminals. It also encrypts your communications and digital information, making it practically impossible to decode by any man-in-the-middle attacker. So no matter what you post on social media, banking transactions you process or information you access, it is all secured.
Setting Up Windows 8 VPN
Setting up a VPN connection in Windows 8 is fairly easy given you have the details (login credentials, etc.) provided by the VPN service. Simply allow the built-in VPN configuration wizard to walk you through the process as you configure the VPN to your preferences and your VPN provider’s specifications.
Things You’ll Need:
Ask your VPN service provider to give you the following information beforehand.
- VPN Provider – use Microsoft from the drop down menu until indicated otherwise
- Connection Name – enter your VPN providers name (for example UKVPN or USAVPN or Windows8VPN)
- Type of sign-in info – for this option always choose the “Username and password” option from the dropdown menu
- Username – enter the provided Username
- Password – enter the provided Password
Drag your mouse pointer to the top right of the screen and access the ‘charms’ menu, and click the search button indicated by a magnifying glass at the top.
This will bring you to the new Windows 8 search bar. Type ‘VPN’ in the search bar and click the ‘Manage Virtual Private Networks’ icon.
Clicking the Manage Virtual private networks icon will take us to the Network > Connections options
On this window, click ‘Add a VPN’ connection under the ‘VPN’ header. This will activate the VPN setup wizard.
Once the wizard is activated, you will be required to input the name and settings of the VPN provider as shown below (we have used hypothetical information to provide an example)
Once these fields have been completed, click the Save button and you will be automatically directed back to the Network Connection window.
Once back at the Network Connection window you will now see your newly created connection under the VPN header.
Your VPN for Windows 8 is now setup, simply select and connect. Your provider will also guide you through any issues encountered while making the connection.
In case you are wondering what provider you should go with, we’ve narrowed down a few select choices that we feel balance out the best in affordability and service quality.
IPVanish enjoys more than 10 years of experience in network management and IP services. Their latest brand IPVanish VPN aims to deliver four major benefits: fastest connection speeds, high security internet connectivity, excellent customer support and least expensive services.
Established now in various locations throughout the North American and European continents, IPVanish ensures access to all geo-restricted websites with the promise of complete security and anonymity.
Server Spread: Graded as a Tier-1 VPN infrastructure, IPVanish offers over 150 servers based in 60+ countries across 6 continents. Their 14000+ Dynamic IPs provide unlimited bandwidth and enhanced security . IPVanish supports PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN security encryption protocols.
Software & Compatibility: Their free and user friendly desktop app is a one stop solution for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices. Although the app does not work with Linux based OS, IPVanish can be manually setup on Linux Ubuntu (Settings and methods are available on the IPVanish website).
Support: IPVanish VPN customer support is available through four exclusive channels:
- Live chat
- Support Ticket
Plans & Packages: Subscription plans are available for 1 month, 3 months and 1 year plans. Their 1 month plan is charged at $10 renewed every month, comparatively the 3 month plan costs $8.99/month (25% discounted) but billed together for a quarter. The yearly package is available for a 46% discount at $6.49/month and billed annually. The subscriptions are offered for a 7 day trial with a full money back guarantee during the trial.
StrongVPN is a premium VPN service provider, and has always remained a preference for Windows VPN users. The user-friendly interface and the feature-rich software have allowed StrongVPN to sustain the trend and it has evolved into a favorite amongst Windows 8 users as well.
Server Spread: StrongVPN has 440+ servers spread out in over 20 countries around the world. StrongVPN has a large number of servers spread out in North American and European regions. This helps VPN users from around the world connect to the most censorship-free VPN locations and unblock websites while ensuring anonymity behind secondary IP addresses from geographically distant locations. Almost all StrongVPN servers support PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec.
Software & Compatibility: StrongVPN is highly compatible with all mainstream devices and all leading operating systems. This includes devices running on different versions of Windows, including XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 and RT.
StrongVPN provides a multi-login feature, which makes it exceptionally useful when factored with the fact that it is also compatible with Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS. StrongVPN also provides compatibility for a variety of Routers.
Support: StrongVPN provides direct support through the Live Chat and Email, while indirect support is provided through the Blog, the Forum and the FAQ sections. The StrongVPN support system is very active and provides quick responses to queries and questions.
Plans & Packages: StrongVPN provides a variety of different packages and plans, but the most commonly preferred are the Lite, Deluxe and Special packages. Prices start from as low as $4.58 and include access to servers in the US, UK, Canada and Netherlands. All packages are available in different denominations to ensure affordability.
Romanian based ibVPN has been providing internet privacy services for 10 years. They have excelled at providing exclusive services to customers securing some brilliant reviews and a sufficient VPN framework.
Server Spread: ibVPN offers an extensive network with 80+ servers based in 34 countries. They also provide proxy servers in 5 countries with the added option of torrent downloading in 6 nations. The brand now covers 6 continents with the help of the 2000+ dynamic IP addresses that it offers.
Software & Compatibility: Compatible with most of the common operating systems, the ibVPN client can be used on Windows 95/98/ME/XP/2000/Vista/7/8, Mac 10.2 onwards, Linux, Android and iOS. Same is the compatibility with devices namely PC, Mac, Apple Phones, DDWRT routers, gaming consoles and tablets.
Support: ibVPN customer support as been highly acclaimed by customers and can be read throughout reviews on the web. While customer support is available through online chat, email and ticketing system, ibVPN also offers remote desktop support making sure they can help the customer in case their issue challenging to resolve.
Plans & Packages: ibVPN offers 4 subscriptions plans Ultimate, Total, Torrents and ibDNS. All plans are available in 1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 1 year pricing plans. Interesting pricing plans have also been developed for 3 regions namely US & Canada, EU, and UK & Ireland offering dedicated servers for these regions. The last subscription category is based for family and business users, subscribers can choose between 3, 5, 10 and 20 logins depending on their plan.
In the end it all boils down to remembering that even a secure OS like Windows 8/8.1 is penetrable by hackers and government spying agencies; from anywhere in the world. While Microsoft dismisses the raised security concerns and calls it all propaganda, the illicit hacking of customer emails and hard drives that makes headlines everyday is not propaganda.
You can either take steps to ensure your safety and anonymity, or you can put all your faith in Microsoft’s claims about impenetrable privacy and information. Using a Windows 8 VPN is not mandatory but recommended for users who possess sensitive (personal/professional) data and wish to ensure security and privacy.
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