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Author Topic: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.  (Read 13457 times)

IainB

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This project looks like the kind of useful knowledge that some people might wish to be censored or blocked from our accessing it.
Quote
Alex
You know, this was the basic idea, when they first created the internet (protocols) – even during the DARPA days: we are all connected nodes, sharing packets.

The Graduate School of University of Tsukuba, Japan, has just launched the VPN Gate Academic Experiment Project with the aim “to expand the knowledge of Global Distributed Public VPN Relay Servers.”
You can access and take part in the project from here: How to Provide Your Computer as a VPN Server for VPN Gate (Become a Virtual Internet Service Provider)

For description and background to the project, refer link per post copied below  - sans embedded hyperlinks/images: (also check out the discussion/comments)

Quote
Free Access To Dozens of Anonymous VPNs Via New University Project
Andy
March 24, 2013

As citizens around the world endure Internet censorship of all types, a Japanese university has stepped in to level the playing field. Whether you’re in Iran or China and blocked from YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, or in the UK desperate to get back on The Pirate Bay, KAT or H33T, a new tool from researchers gives instant access to dozens of VPN services. Not only is the system simple to use, but it’s also completely free.

No matter which country you live in there are always people in authority seeking to limit which websites you’re able to view.

Admittedly some sites are quite rightly deemed repulsive to society in general and 99% of the public have few problems with them being hidden away. However, the blocking of ‘normal’ sites is much more controversial.

China is infamous for its Great Firewall and its censorship of anything it pleases from Twitter to YouTube. Iran also has concerns that its citizens’ minds will be influenced by Western thinking via the web. Overall, oppressive regimes tend to see some websites as having a destabilizing effect, so they censor them to maintain control.

In recent times the notion of website blocking has become fashionable in the West too, mainly because certain domains are viewed as offensive to the music and movie industries. The Pirate Bay is blocked in many countries and just this week the UK added another three sites to its ISPs’ filters – KAT.PH, H33T and Fenopy.

But, as mentioned countless times in the past, these filters represent mere temporary roadblocks for the determined and today we bring news of an exciting project that allows almost anyone to access any site they like in seconds. Best of all, it takes just a few minutes to setup and it’s completely free.

VPNGate
The Graduate School of University of Tsukuba, Japan, has just launched the VPN Gate Academic Experiment Project with the aim “to expand the knowledge of Global Distributed Public VPN Relay Servers.” We’re very happy to help them with that today.

How it works
Volunteers have given the University access to dozens of VPN servers located all over the world which people can access from pretty much any device running Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and more. No sign up or user registration is needed. Once connected the user’s IP address is hidden and switched for one issued by the VPN of their choice selected from dozens around the world.

VPNGate3

Protocols and the SSL-VPN client

Several protocols are accepted, such as L2TP/IPsec, SSTP and the popular OpenVPN, but things get really streamlined for those who select the SSL-VPN option. This requires the easy installation of the Windows freeware client SoftEther VPN but it’s straightforward and only takes a couple of minutes.

The beauty of running the client (which is also developed by the University and will soon go open source) soon becomes apparent. Not only does SoftEther offer SSL-VPN tunneling via HTTPS to pass more easily through NATs and firewalls, it has another trick up its sleeve.

The client comes with a nifty pre-configured plugin which displays a list of all the available VPN servers offered by VPN Gate (see below). This enables the user to activate, disconnect, or switch between VPNs with just a click. This means that there is no need to set up each VPN connection manually in an operating system, although that can be done if the user prefers.

VPNGateList

Unblock any site in an instant

Want to unblock The Pirate Bay, KAT.PH or H33T in the UK? Easy, just select any server that isn’t in the UK and preferably outside Europe. Want to access YouTube in China? Simple, just access any non-domestic VPN server. US citizen who needs to use Hulu overseas? Fine, just pick a United States server. UK citzen who needs to access the BBC iPlayer abroad? A UK server will provide the solution.

Once a server is selected and connected to the client, simply use your regular browser and other Internet applications as usual and traffic will be diverted through the VPN.

Tests

TorrentFreak carried out some basic tests yesterday and got some decent results. We successfully unblocked all of the blocked torrent sites in the UK, accessed Hulu from outside the US, and watched the BBC iPlayer and TVCatchup services from outside the UK.

Also, since the people at VPN Gate apparently have no problem with people using the service for video transfers (they mention YouTube specifically), we conducted some limited BitTorrent runs on half a dozen servers around the world. In each case we connected to a VPN server via the SoftEther Client and carried out tests with a service such as TorrentIP to ensure that our IP address when using BitTorrent had actually been changed. All but one of our tested servers worked fine while another appeared to block torrents.

Performance, logging and offering your computer as a server

As might be expected, performance changed from server to server but in each case browsing and transfer speeds were more than acceptable for a free service. Each server shows its available bandwidth so picking one with more tends to yield better results. That said, we tried a couple of slower ones and they performed just fine too.

While VPN Gate offers anonymity to a point, they do keep connection logs for around three months. In common with most other VPN services they do not monitor your activities but will comply when ordered to do so by the local courts, in this case those in Japan. However, each VPN server has its own logging policy and many appear to delete logs after a couple of weeks, if they keep them at all.

To give an outline of how the logging might affect users in real-life situations, we can look at a few scenarios.

If a US citizen carried out file-sharing on a US VPN server, he might be logged by those carrying out six strikes in the US. However, if that same user selected a server overseas, he would not be monitored by six strikes. Equally, an Iranian or Chinese citizen looking to carry out activities frowned upon by his or her government would be advised to use servers located outside their respective countries.

Finally, please use the services responsibly – respect the volunteers offering their services and consider becoming one yourself. If you have a Windows computer and can offer your bandwidth, click here for more information.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2013, 07:32:33 PM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections. »

IainB

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At the link VPN Gate Client download (for Windows, freeware), there are two download links:
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 05:39:53 PM by IainB, Reason: EDIT 2013-03-26: The download is a 35.7Mb .ZIP file. »

pilgrim

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I did some research on different VPN providers two or three years ago and when I read this thread it reminded me of PacketiX.NET which appears to have been a previous incarnation of the same thing.
It was one of the few Free VPN's that I never actually tried, I was partly put off by the size of the download which is considerably larger than most OpenVPN clients.
Having said that I never read any negative reports about them.

Having just had a look through their website I was interested in their Server List, in particular some of the speeds quoted, my ISP supposedly provides 8Mbps which is considered reasonable for rural areas, some of their servers are showing treble figures.

Another thing I noticed is that they offer L2TP so it is possible to try their service without installing any software.

I already have OpenVPN installed for two other clients but I might see if I can get one of their configuration files to run from my existing installation to try it.

Thanks for an interesting article.
I spent 25 years training to be an eccentric then I woke up one morning and realised that I'd cracked it.
I've not had to try since.

I wonder what happens if I click on thi

IainB

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...I was interested in their Server List, in particular some of the speeds quoted, my ISP supposedly provides 8Mbps which is considered reasonable for rural areas, some of their servers are showing treble figures...
Yes, I was struck by those performance figures too. Some pretty bad ones, and some very good ones.

kyrathaba

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Is this safe to install (I presume it is, given it's academic origin) and, if so, should a small group of us form a committee and jointly try-it-out for a period of time, forming a consensus opinion from our observations?

IainB

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Yes, it seems safe (so far). I have been using it on and off over the last 24 hrs. anyway.

But wait! What's this popup demanding a credit card payment!?
(Only joking.)    ;)

Rather than join a committee, my preference would be to post here my experiences with this project, and read about other users' experiences posted here. We could all potentially learn from pooling our experiences this way. For example, I learned something from the post above by @pilgrim-online.

40hz

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Just gave it a try over the last hour or so. It's rather impressive. Just confirmed I can watch BBC (which is about all I would want it for) so I'm happy.

Next step is to see if I can use it under Linux.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 07:55:44 AM by 40hz »

kyrathaba

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may look into this tomorrow

pilgrim

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Next step is to see if I can use it under Linux.

There are instructions for using OpenVPN on Linux HERE.
I am not sure how you would use the configuration files as I have only ever used OpenVPN on Windows with software from the providers that has their configuration built in.

The fact that these people offer different configuration files for different servers makes me think that you should be able to use them without their own client software with a download from HERE but I do not have the time to test this at the moment.
I spent 25 years training to be an eccentric then I woke up one morning and realised that I'd cracked it.
I've not had to try since.

I wonder what happens if I click on thi

40hz

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^I'm fairly familiar with OpenVPN on Linux so I tried a few quick attempts last night. No joy I'm afraid. Either with OpenVPN or L2TP. Probably just me forgetting to change a default encryption or timing setting. That or it's just some weirdness with the distro I tried it with. Some repositories leave a lot to be desired when it comes to their network and security package selections. I'll have to look at VPNGate's supplied script more closely to see whats up.

i'll try again tonite if I feel like messing with it. Right now it's running on a Windows "sacrifice box" where I'd probably prefer to keep it anyway. So it's only my Linux-geek bloodymindedness that's providing the motivation to get it to play nice with Tux. Which it should. VPNs are pretty much VPNs.
 8)
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 12:49:33 PM by 40hz »

464codemeright

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Just in case your access to the main site is blocked, here is a special page with the VPN Gate Mirror list and Direct OpenVPN config downloads.

The mirror list is updated hourly, along with the live list of ovpn files.  Just download and import to your OpenVPN software.

Those South Korean servers are fast!  Not much latency compared to the North  American servers.  Good speeds through Japan too...

IainB

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...Those South Korean servers are fast!  Not much latency compared to the North  American servers.  Good speeds through Japan too...
Yes, they usually seem to be blazingly fast. Making a connection is fast as well, and if the connection is dropped (e.g., if I put my laptop to "Sleep" mode and then later wake it up), it usually auto-connects to the VPN node in double-quick time. Very nice.   :up:

IainB

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Found an informative website here: https://www.grc.com/default.htm (it's the SpinRite home page)
 - it does a "reverse DNS" check on your IP address, and can inspect characteristics of your router (e.g., if is has UPnP enabled). However, if you are operating via a VPN, then all it sees is the VPN node and its characteristics.
These things could be important to the cyber criminals out there (cough, cough).
(By the way, this is not an endorsement of SpinRite, which some pundits on this forum and elsewhere seem to think has a rather dubious history.)
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 04:26:42 AM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections. »

IainB

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SUSPICION! - VPN Gate
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2013, 08:36:41 PM »
"SUSPICION!" (from the song of the same name).
As a trial, I've been using VPN Gate on and off for a few months. For probably most of the time it sits passively in my Systray (executable is vpnclient_x64.exe).
However, MBAM (the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware proggy that I use) regularly reports it as being blocked whilst trying to communicate with a dodgy IT address - 80.82.64.193 (Type: outgoing, Port: 57126, Process: vpnclient_x64.exe)

I did a WHOIS via http://ipaddress.is/80.82.64.193 on this IP address, which returned this information (and more):
Quote
IP Address 80.82.64.193 Profile
A detailed IP address report for 80.82.64.193 is below. The timezone of 80.82.64.193 is Europe/Amsterdam. The current local time of 80.82.64.193 is Friday 27th of September 2013 03:08:36 AM.
IP Address Location Information For 80.82.64.193
IP Address   80.82.64.193
Host   dea.anonymouse.me
Country   Netherlands
ISP   Eyes4media GmbH
Organization   AS29073, Ecatel LTD
Latitude   52°30'00" N
Longitude   5°45'00" E
_______________________

That looks like it is probably one of the "anonymous" VPN Gate network nodes, but I would like to find out more about why MBAM blocks it and why it (in Holland) is a main node for my client in the VPN Gate network - which I thought was Japan-based.
I just wonder whether there might be an NSA connection sucking on the end of that IP address...

I am relatively ignorant. This isn't an area of expertise for me at all. Anyone know how I might be able to ferret out more information about this?    :tellme:

TaoPhoenix

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2013, 09:32:01 PM »
Yes, it seems safe (so far). I have been using it on and off over the last 24 hrs. anyway.

But wait! What's this popup demanding a credit card payment!?
(Only joking.)    ;)

Rather than join a committee, my preference would be to post here my experiences with this project, and read about other users' experiences posted here. We could all potentially learn from pooling our experiences this way. For example, I learned something from the post above by @pilgrim-online.

Hehe that one is easy Iain.

"Anyone posting into this thread becomes part of the committee. Not all members of the committee are obligated to do things" : )

My contribution: does their webpage get kicked by Ghostery/other for any trackers?


Shades

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2013, 11:02:11 PM »
Amsterdam is home of AIX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange) and can be considered one of the fastest backbones of the internet. It was the fastest when I was working at an internet company, many, many moons ago. As far as I know, today it shares that crown with one university in GB and the city-ring around Frankfurt, Germany.

So it doesn't surprise me that any rerouted traffic ends up going through Amsterdam. Holland is also one of the countries with the highest underground cable density in the world. Only some Asian countries outmatch Holland in network capacity and prices for internet connections.Lots of US sites (and I assume other countries now as well) reroute traffic (for Europe, EurAsia, Middle East, Africa) through AIX, because Holland does it better/cheaper or just cheaper, while having excellent up-time and not so strict laws regarding content. Lets just say that Amsterdam has two red light districts...and the virtual one is a lot nastier than the physical one.

Ok, more on-topic again. A big part of all the traffic flowing through AIX consist is SPAM and whatever is being generated by viruses and malware all over the world, hence some software treats traffic coming from the Dutch backbone with a suspicious eye.

The ISP handling your traffic appears to be registered under the German flag (hence the GmbH in their name). The name EcaTel LTD doesn't ring a bell, their website gives me the impression that they manage networking hardware/servers. Likely the ISP leases their equipment.

Landlines always have preference over the lines that float in water...as "fishing trawlers" break those cables from time to time  ;)  Landlines also have more capacity, which in most cases means that your traffic can arrive faster on it's destination traveling over the whole world than through the shortest distance cable. So, at first glance, nothing too strange is going on.

However, feel free to correct me as I am not up-to-date anymore with this stuff.

[off-topic]
Working for that internet company was really fun. About 15 years ago the main office of that company was located about 150 kilometers away from the AIX and it was already possible to burn CD's directly (at top speed) on my local PC from our servers in the AIX. Lots of Debian images passed over that line, I can tell you that.
[/off-topic]

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2013, 01:34:07 AM »
My contribution: does their webpage get kicked by Ghostery/other for any trackers?
I have been reluctant to drop my phaser shields to find out...

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2013, 01:35:32 AM »
Got this comment/suggestion from someone on the MBAM forum:
Quote
IP Address   80.82.64.193= ET-RBN Known Russian Buisness Network IP with malicious detections as of Today-9-27-2013
It would seem your software is allowing you to connect to IP's that can be malicious.
You might want to wait for a Admin or Expert's opinion as I am neither, just a helper

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2013, 05:59:47 AM »
After some experimentation, I think I have this sussed, but cannot fix it.
So, I made this post at the SoftEther VPN forum:
Quote
Post subject: Evidence that SoftEther VPN Service exe has embedded malware
Posted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:33 am 

WARNING: Evidence that SoftEther VPN Service exe has embedded malware.

Thought I should report that the Windows Service called SoftEther VPN Client (program executable is vpnclient_x64.exe) is sending outbound messages to IP address 80.82.64.193 - a suspicious site that is blocked by Malwarebytes. These outbound messages are being sent even when the SoftEther VPN Client Manager is NOT connected to a VPNGate node - i.e., when it is inactive.
Also 80.82.64.193 (dea.anonymouse.me) is often listed on the VPNGate Hostname list in the VPN Client Manager GUI.

I asked on the Malwarebytes support forum why Malwarebytes is blocking outgoing VPN Gate IP address 80.82.64.193 (WHOIS says Host dea.anonymouse.me Country Netherlands).
They advised that this IP address was on their blocked list, because:
____________________
That IP is on a range of servers that are known to recently be participating or housing threats that can potentially harm someones computer and why the IP is blocked.
IP Address 80.82.64.193= ET-RBN Known Russian Buisness Network IP with malicious detections as of Today-9-27-2013
It would seem your software is allowing you to connect to IP's that can be malicious.
____________________

I had been running VPNGate using installer vpngate-client-2013.07.20-build-9091.127245.zip

So, I fully uninstalled/expunged the SoftEther VPN and all related VPN Gate system files, and clean reinstalled from vpngate-client-2013.09.27-build-9387.127802.zip (downloaded from http://download.vpngate.jp/common/cd.as ... 127802.zip)

However, the outbound requests to IP Address 80.82.64.193 continued as before.

This would seem to indicate that the installer package may have malware embedded in it, resident in the SoftEther VPN Service exe, and that it is ALWAYS ACTIVE when the Service is running.

Hope this makes sense or is of use.

Shades

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2013, 08:22:56 AM »
RIPE is the organization responsible for handing out IP numbers in Europe and allow you to search through their database.

80.62.64.193

Quote
Search results
% This is the RIPE Database query service.
% The objects are in RPSL format.
%
% The RIPE Database is subject to Terms and Conditions.
% See http://www.ripe.net/...terms-conditions.pdf

% Information related to '80.82.64.0 - 80.82.64.255'

                                           

inetnum:        80.82.64.0 - 80.82.64.255
netname:        NL-ECATEL
descr:          AS29073, Ecatel LTD
country:        NL
admin-c:        EL25-RIPE
tech-c:         EL25-RIPE
status:         ASSIGNED PA
mnt-by:         ECATEL-MNT
mnt-lower:      ECATEL-MNT
mnt-routes:     ECATEL-MNT
changed:        noc@ecatel.net 20100919
source:         RIPE



role:           Ecatel LTD
address:        P.O.Box  19533
address:        2521 CA The Hague
address:        Netherlands
abuse-mailbox:  abuse@ecatel.info
remarks:        ----------------------------------------------------
remarks:        ECATEL LTD
remarks:        Dedicated and Co-location hosting services
remarks:        ----------------------------------------------------
remarks:        for abuse complaints : abuse@ecatel.info
remarks:        for any other questions : info@ecatel.info
remarks:        ----------------------------------------------------
e-mail:         noc@ecatel.info
admin-c:        EL25-RIPE
tech-c:         EL25-RIPE
nic-hdl:        EL25-RIPE
mnt-by:         ECATEL-MNT
changed:        noc@ecatel.info 20130201
source:         RIPE



% Information related to '80.82.64.0/24AS29073'

                                           

route:          80.82.64.0/24
descr:          AS29073 Route object
origin:         AS29073
mnt-by:         ECATEL-MNT
changed:        noc@ecatel.net 20100919
source:         RIPE

% This query was served by the RIPE Database Query Service version 1.69 (WHOIS3)


This looks like a postal box company and although that kind of company can be legit, it usually isn't.

Looking at the peering "partners", I see some from Eastern Europe/former Russian states. That does not inspire trust. The original intent of peering was that you place another network card in your server at the backbone and connect it with another server at the backbone to the benefit of the users requiring the services that are being hosted on these servers.

However this can also be misused and that seems more and more the case.

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2013, 09:06:32 AM »
@Shades: Thanks for that. Interesting. Looks like "misuse" alright.

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2013, 02:55:51 AM »
Well, I have just about given up re malicious IP addresses. My post to the VPN Gate forum seems to have taken a somewhat surreal turn. I can't understand it. It's nonsensical.
You can take a look at the discussion thread here:
Evidence that SoftEther VPN Service exe has embedded malware
I had to remind myself of this:
Quote
Timothy 1:7 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- which quote I came across when I was using VPN Gate and went to take a look at my IP details here: http://aruljohn.com/details.php
- and was surprised at how much of my anonymous ID browser's "fingerprint" was revealed.

Shades

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2013, 11:08:15 AM »
A lot of that info is being sent by the browser when it asks for the data from the webserver that hosts the webpage you are visiting.

You can change that by altering the user agent info from the browser.

Besides this, for the TCP/IP protocol to function properly the location of where you have been and where your packets need to go is included. This is by design, because your packets have to be re-routed if a section of the internet network would be unavailable. This way you can trust the information that is sent to arrive at the destination, no matter what.

As your packages arrive at the destination, the destination still has the information of where you have been.

As you might have heard, the IPv4 range of IP addresses have been divided up all over the world and have practically ran out. There are only a handful of organizations that do the dividing of IP addresses and each of these organizations is responsible for a defined section of the globe. When asked, these organizations freely give out the general global location for any of the IP numbers in their care (WHOIS).

It is quite easy to deduce where you are physically located with this info, especially when one would fill a database of their own with the results of these WHOIS requests. Because all addresses are almost given out, there is little chance of an error anymore.

IainB

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Re: VPN Gate - Univ. of Tsukuba launches Academic Experimental [Crowd] Project.
« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2013, 07:05:34 PM »
@Shades: Thanks. Very informative.
I was generally aware of the reasons why all that information was sent out, and that you could change/obfuscate the information by altering the user agent info from the browser. However, I am unsure of how many VPN Gate users might be aware of this.
(I use the Firefox add-ons UserAgentSwitcher and now UAControl for this.)

What I was rather appalled at though was that the user profile provided by that information was effectively a kind of fingerprint (or at least a semi-unique ID) in VPN Gate - where VPN Gate is supposed to be an anonymising network to make it "safe" for people in totalitarian regimes where "Big Brother" scrutinised their every move.
Post-Snowden, it seems that it is now certain that those regimes include the US (where BB's agent is the NSA), so I am somewhat averse to using any US-based volunteer server nodes in the VPN Gate network. (Zero trust.)
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 12:16:14 AM by IainB, Reason: Minor correction. »

IainB

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New announcements:
  • SoftEther VPN Became Open Source on 2014-01-04.
  • There is an update to vpngate-client-2014.01.12-build-9411.128655.zip
  • More details + an interesting table comparing OpenDNS v. SoftEtherVPN on the download page.

Here's a snippet from the download page:
Quote
SoftEther VPN Became Open Source on January 4, 2014
January 4, 2014
By Daiyuu Nobori, SoftEther VPN Project at University of Tsukuba, Japan.

We are very happy to announce that the source code of SoftEther VPN is released as open-source software under the GPLv2 license. SoftEther VPN is the underlying VPN engine of VPN Gate. The source code is provided as packages in .tar.gz and .zip formats, and is also published on our GitHub repository. You can build the full SoftEther VPN programs from the source code in Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD or Solaris computers. You can also generate your own customized installer packages of SoftEther VPN automatically from the source code.