Friday , 21 September 2018
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How to roll your own VPN server

A virtual private network (VPN) service is a good way to secure your web traffic and keep it private from snoops like a nosy internet service provider or passive government surveillance. One problem with VPN services, however, is that you have to implicitly trust that your VPN provider isn’t doing something shady such as monitoring the sites you visit.

[Further reading: The best VPN services of 2018]

That’s why for the extra privacy-conscious a third-party VPN won’t do. The alternative then is to create your own VPN on a private virtual server that you control using a project such as Algo from security firm Trail of Bits. 

The basic idea is that if you control your own VPN then there’s less chance of shenanigans. You do have to trust the people making the software you use; however, I’d argue there’s less incentive for those people to sneak monitoring tools onto your server compared to a VPN provider. That’s not to say that all VPN service providers are out to get your data, but the potential is always there.

As for Algo—the project we’re using for this tutorial—all of its code is on GitHub for anyone who wants to take a deeper look—though admittedly that requires technical knowledge. When you’re done you’ll have a VPN service using the IKEv2 protocol that you control.

The downside of running your own VPN service is that some features of regular VPNs won’t be open to you, such as getting around Netflix’s VPN ban.

Another issue is that you can’t expect to have a high level of anonymity online when you run a VPN on your own server. Online privacy yes, but anonymity, not really. That server and its IP address will be tied to your real identity, and finding out who you are would be relatively easy for any authority looking for you. So don’t run your own VPN using this tutorial if you need to hide from a government or you’re up to something illegal such as piracy.

Only use Algo as a means to keep your web traffic private from snoops, because that’s all it can really do.

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