As security on the internet continues to be a major issue the world over, millions are coming to understand how important virtual private networks (VPNs) are to stay safe and anonymous on the internet. VPNs are a handy tool because they present the users with so many options on how to implement security on their devices. Unlike other methods of staying safe and anonymous on the net such as web proxies and hide IP software, VPNs are much less complicated and quite straightforward.
As a recap, a VPN technology is used to keep people safe on the internet by creating an encrypted tunnel through which all the traffic will flow. This means that every packet moving in or out of a device is encrypted and not even the ISP can detect it. However, there is only one problem when it comes to the commercial VPNs. Using commercial VPNs does not automatically make one anonymous on the internet. Most of these commercial VPN companies follow the law according to the countries where they have servers. Therefore, if you want to use the VPN in a country such as the US or UK where the law dictates that even VPN companies keep logs of their user’s activities, then you really aren’t anonymous because a digital footprint of your browsing data is left on the servers. As such, if authorities got a subpoena for a user’s internet activity logs, the VPN Company has no option other than to give the logs. However, there is one way to make sure that you remain anonymous and that there is no digital footprint of your activities on the Internet; setting up your VPN server. On this front, you have either Algo or Streisand.
Algo and Streisand are DIY VPNs which the user sets up for themselves. This is an excellent alternative to commercial third party VPN applications. These DIY VPNs are just as good as their commercial counterparts and even better.
When you are setting up your own VPN servers, you can either do every step of the set-up process yourself, or you can use a tool that can deploy the VPN on your behalf. Although implementing the VPN by yourself gives you the most amount of control, the process can be quite lengthy and complicated especially for one without a technological background. However, having a tool to help you during the setup and deployment of a VPN can not only be instrumental in its success but also eliminates the complexity of the entire process.
Algo is quite the popular DIY VPN service. Algo is so popular because it provides users with the reliable service they have come to know. Just like other self-hosted VPNs, Algo uses Ansible scripts to help ease the process of creating an IPSEC-VPN. What these scripts do is automate the most obvious steps so that the user does not have to involve themselves with such. Algo is perfect for the surveillance wary users because it has the most secure defaults possible. What’s more, Algo works with multiple typical cloud providers and doesn’t need the client software in most of the devices.
Pros of Algo
- It creates Apple profiles to configure macOS and iOS devices automatically.
- It also supports Internet Key Exchange services (IKEv2) that use strong cryptographies such as SHA2, AES-GCM, and P-256 which promote security while browsing by encrypting traffic.
- It incorporates a helper script to help in adding and removing users.
- It installs to Amazon EC2, DigitalOcean, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, or your server of choice.
- There is an ad blocking option using a local DNS resolver.
Cons of Algo
- It does not support OpenVPN, Tor or some of the risky servers
- The service does not claim to avoid censorship or provide complete anonymity.
- Algo also doesn’t depend on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) for security purposes.
Streisand is an open source tool that’s commonly used by people to set up their VPN servers. These are scripts used to automate the process of establishing a secure connection via multiple methods. These multiple connections are critical to Streisand because different connections can be suitable on various platforms.
Pros of Streisand
- It supports new server creation on multiple servers such as Google Compute Engine, Azure, Amazon EC2, Rackspace, and Linode.
- The setup process is quite fast and straightforward. It takes all of ten minutes to complete the installation.
- Every server is self-contained giving the user complete freedom over their digital footprint.
- It is possible for one to share their custom connection with friends or family.
- Every task has been adequately documented so that in case there is a problem; one can dig themselves out without much help.
- Streisand offers multiple services to ensure redundancy. These services include OpenVPN, OpenSSH, Cisco AnyConnect, Shadowsocks, Tor, and Stunnel among others.
- The software is open source. Therefore, it is free for everyone.
Cons of Streisand
- It does not automatically generate Apple IDs so the process must be done
- Due to the number of connections, there might be some speed issues. The dip in bandwidth is not noticeable, but if you are doing some heavy streaming, you might see a drop in your connections speeds
- Some connections don’t work on various platforms. For example, Shadowsocks can be used to bypass geographical restrictions, but it does not completely mask packet distribution in a network. This means that your traffic doesn’t remain all that anonymous. Some services such as Tor cannot be accessed on certain connections such as Stunnel.
Here are the simple steps on Mac, as an example of how easy it is. Download Algo from https://github.com/trailofbits/Algo, extract it and enter the directory and then run these commands:
$ python -m ensurepip --user $ python -m pip install --user --upgrade virtualenv $ python -m virtualenv env && source env/bin/activate && python -m pip install -U pip && python -m pip install -r requirements.txt $./algo
Algo will now ask you which cloud provider you want to use and to enter your keys to identify your account. A few more options are available via a question and answer interview at the command shell, and then Algo will start to setup the VPN.
The procedure is quite straightforward, you will want to follow the official documentation https://github.com/jlund/streisand, but example steps are provided here for the MacOS::
sudo pip install pycurl sudo pip install ansible markupsafe sudo pip install boto git clone https://github.com/jlund/streisand.git && cd streisand ./streisand
Disposable VPNs are a blessing for all those who take their security on the internet seriously. Both of these Self-hosted VPNs are easy to use and extremely convenient. When comparing the two services, Algo is more limited than Streisand. However, this does not mean that Algo is not as good as Streisand. The less complex nature of Algo is purported to be the main benefit of it over Streisand. As stated above, Algo only supports IKEv2, doesn’t install OpenVPN or Tor and doesn’t need special software. If you such additional services, then Streisand is your better option.
However, these differences aside, these platforms are more similar to each other than not. Both deploy on Ubuntu and install on similar cloud options such as DigitalOcean, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon EC2. Both platforms are incredibly popular, but Streisand due to more features and redundancy features tends to be more popular. For simple internet users, Algo is a good option due to the simplicity and ease of deployment. For users who want more freedom, Streisand is a better option.
Further instructions and references can be found here: