Why any war on VPNs is one the Ugandan government can’t win

VPN blocking in Uganda

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[/blockquote]By yesterday morning Ugandans woke up to the harsh reality that they had been cut off from utilizing all social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, but as we pen this post down it has been estimated that over 90% of Ugandans are now back on social media thanks to several VPN solutions. It was a basically a cat and mouse game between the government and its citizens. Some started wondering whether the government won’t start blocking users who try to bypass country-based restrictions.

The government claims that it is trying to protect its citizens and have given other security reasons as they tired to crackdown on social media propaganda that is being spread on this platforms. It would be a totally reasonable idea if the only people who used VPNs were a minority of duplicitous ICT gurus, hackers and opposition strong holds trying to announce wrong provisional results in their favor. And, that’s how the government is trying to sell it — except its VPN user base is hardly a minority, and most people who use VPNs, like enterprise business people, use them for security and privacy protection, looks like everyone is now on board the VPN bandwagon.

Getting to understand the strength of VPNs

Here is the thing about VPNs, when you use a VPN, the only thing the government and ISPs will see is your computer talking to it — they can’t see the connection to the sites you’re visiting. The ability of the government or attacker to spy, intercept, attack or steal information stops at the VPN.

When you use public WiFi in a café, plane or airport without turning on a VPN first, you can be hacked by anyone who’s downloaded any of the many, excellent, free, open-source network traffic analysis tools (like Wireshark or TCP dump). The risk of being scanned like this is typically low in private networks, and extremely high in public ones.

Without a VPN, someone with one of these tools who is on the same network as you can see the URLs you’re looking at, metadata, and any information transmitted between you and the sites you’re visiting. They can also maliciously inject traffic, where you visit a trusted web page that’s spiked with code to infect you with malware, which typically steals your banking and identity credentials.

If you turn off your VPN to chat with your Friends on WhatsAppweb or Facebook, and leave browser tabs or online apps with active sessions running in the background, you’re handing over to malicious hackers anything that’s being transmitted while you’re browsing the web. As hacks and attacks increase, VPN use is something you’re increasingly going to be considered dumb not to do.

Citizens 1 , Government 0

The government seriously needs to catch up with real-world security practices, whatever they do, it seems the Ugandans are ready to countermeasure it thanks to the thousands of ICT graduates our universities cough out on a yearly basis. If there is anything that the government should learn is that the citizens are now addicted to social media and you cannot turn off their main source of communications unless you shut down the internet in Uganda in general.

 

Partial Image Credit: Engadget
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