Want to run your own VPN server? A sister company of Google has a solution that promises to create one in mere minutes.
The free, open-source software is called Outline and comes from an Alphabet-owned company called Jigsaw. It’s designed to make the VPN setup process headache-free, with no technical expertise required.
For those who don’t know, VPNs can help keep your internet activities private. It encrypts your computer’s internet traffic over a virtual tunnel to a server, which can prevent ISPs and anyone else on your broadband network from spying on what sites you’ve been accessing.
PCMag has reviewed a variety of VPN services, which offer their services for a monthly fee. But the technology has one big caveat. By using a VPN, you’re essentially pushing your internet traffic to a server under someone else’s control.
“Most VPNs require you to trust a third-party organization with you data, which means you’re not always sure who’s running the servers and providing your access to the internet,” Jigsaw said in a blog post on Tuesday. “Some VPNs don’t even use encryption.”
This can be problematic if your VPN provider logs your data, and decides to hand it over to an oppressive government. The risk is especially relevant for journalists, who need safe access to research stories and communicate with sources, Jigsaw said.
That’s why the company released Outline, a tool that gives you control over the VPN server. Jigsaw designed it for news organizations, but anyone can download the open-source solution. It comes in two parts: the server software and the client-side app.
The server software is available for Windows 7 and up and Linux; a MacOS version is in the works. You can also run it over a cloud platform like Google, Amazon, or DigitalOcean, which Jigsaw says can start at only $5 a month. Once activated, you can then share VPN access to an unlimited number of accounts.
On the client side, Outline works on Android, Windows, and Chrome OS.
Jigsaw says the software will never log your internet traffic. All data over the VPN is also protected with advanced encryption, making it harder for ISPs or governments to detect and fingerprint. But the software shouldn’t be confused with an anonymity tool; websites and mobile apps can still track your activities whenever you log into them, Jigsaw said in its support page.
For something closer to true digital anonymity, PCMag has a guide with tips.