US attorney Damian Williams summed up the situation with Bankman-Fried’s case of crypto exchange FTX’s bankruptcy – after the accused had been found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, together with conspiracy to commit securities & commodities fraud, along with money laundering. Williams said:
“This case has always been about lying, cheating and stealing, and we have no patience for it…”
It is often difficult to bring prosecutions against complex financial frauds because jurors are picked at random. The chances of 12 financial experts being selected for any given fraud case are in the billions to one. As a result, such trials often end in hung juries and consequent re-trials, which is expensive for the government and embarrassing for prosecutors.
However, in the case of FTX, the judge described the concept of fraud as ‘old as time itself’. The jury thought it quite transparent that when you have a certain amount of funds entrusted to you by investors, that you don’t exaggerate the strength of those funds to borrow and bet on riskier and riskier investments to claw back losses. Whether it’s crypto or fiat currencies you’re dealing with, fraud is fraud and is highly likely to land you in jail – as Mr Bankman-Fried has just discovered.
On a much more everyday level, if you’re involved in any form of online transactions, from buying penny shares to selling books on eBay – safeguarding your online security is more important than ever in this world of cyber-criminality. That’s why the most basic precautions such as installing afree VPN (virtual private network) should be followed. But what exactly is a VPN, how does it work and what are its advantages?
VPNs are provided by companies that own international networks of internet servers. The principle is simple: when you connect to the internet via a VPN, you do so via the VPN’s server before logging on to your internet service provider (ISP). This means that the ISP cannot find the VPN user’s identity or actual location, because the third-party VPN server is encrypted against analytics software.
In short, because a VPN user is anonymous and their location undisclosed, there are several advantages that can be gained.
Avoid dynamic online pricing.
Resellers of accommodation and travel tickets are notorious for charging what they can get away with rather than a fixed price. It’s perfectly natural economics to offer a higher price for airline tickets when there are fewer available seats on an airplane. But increasing the price because a website’s analytics software ‘thinks’ the website visitor can easily afford it is a different thing altogether. Imagine walking into a deli for a hero sandwich. You’re wearing a sharp Hugo Boss suit, a silk tie and Gucci shoes. You ask for a sandwich, and you’re charged $15 for it. Then a blue-collar guy in overalls and a hard hat walks in, orders the same sandwich and gets charged $7.50. What!? You’d go crazy at the proprietor of the deli. But that’s what happens online every day.
Analytics software can look at your IP address and the device you’re using to access the online service. If you’re in Manhattan, logging on via a MacBook Pro, you’re going to be offered a higher price than if you’re in a small town in Oklahoma on a 10-year-old Windows laptop. But by using a VPN, you can cloak your device and appear to be located in, say, Mexico. Watch those prices tumble down.
Avoiding malware and ransomware
If you’re using your device tolog in for daily financial transactions, the last thing you need is for spyware to be installed on it. Virus protection software is important, but the added security of a VPN means that the moment any malicious activity is detected, the VPN client will disconnect the device from the server instantaneously. Rather than ‘isolating’ a virus – a VPN will stop it from trying to install in the first place. The practice of hackers installing spyware often occurs when ‘phantom’ Wi-Fi hotspots are created; the unwary public use these hotspots to check email or whatever and end up with compromised security. The simple act of installing a VPN can prevent this.
And it’s not just when you’re out and about that internet nasties can cause trouble for you and the family. If you have teenage kids, certain websites are now using AI todeepfake compromising pictures of teenagers. Installing a VPN on a teen’s device can prevent access to certain websites by filtering out given IP addresses.
Home and away
There are several more advantages to using aVPN, especially when traveling. Imagine you live in California but you’re traveling on business in London, England. You log onto your hotel Wi-Fi and want to catch up with a movie on Netflix. But the content you wish to view is geographically blocked from any connection outside the USA. By accessing the internet via your VPN client on the laptop’s browser, you can choose from a list of Stateside servers and be connected within moments.
Additionally, sometimes people might want to login to social media anonymously, by using a platform likeIganony. Using this in conjunction with a VPN would make it doubly sure that no-one is going to know where you are when checking out a friend’s Instagram or whatever.
In summary, whether you’re making financial transactions or simply watching a movie online, wherever you go in the world, a VPN from a reputable provider is an invaluable tool to add to your collection of travel accessories.