For the last few years I’ve been using the Norwegian-developed web browser Opera, or its siblings, as my default program for internet use on desktop and mobile devices. Yes, the software is very much a minority choice, well behind the likes of Chrome or Internet Explorer, and it has its flaws and peculiarities. However I’ve liked its flexibility and customization, not to mention the greater emphasis on secure browsing (something Firefox has also identified as a growing concern among well-informed consumers). Personally, with the right settings, I reckon Opera is one of the safest off-the-shelf browsers you can install for the average tech-adverse user.
The announcement back in April by the Olso-based Opera Software ASA that future editions of the program would come with a default VPN (virtual private network) component for secure internet use has made it an even more attractive option. In fact the VPN is available with the software right now, though still in development mode. To activate it simply type (or copy and paste) opera:flags into the address bar of your Opera browser and hit Enter. Scroll down until you see the option VPN and then activate it. Restart the browser, left-click the Menu and choose New private window with VPN and away you go. Yep, it’s a bit sluggish and buggy but it is also a bit more secure against casual scrutiny by unwelcome internet lurkers. Which makes it a very welcome thing, indeed.
However, my dedicated VPN program, which covers all browsing, is from a separate Opera-owned company, the Canadian-based SurfEasy. A virtual private network provider, SurfEasy is one of the easiest VPNs to install and use that I’ve seen so far, as well as relatively affordable (anyone with even basic computer skills can set up the program). I’ve recommended it to several of my non-geek friends who were worried about their online privacy or who simply wanted to watch TV shows streaming from the United States and other countries, free of geographical restrictions. For most people, of course, this is overkill, though anyone who is politically active in any way should be considering VPN protection (no political journalists should be working outside of a VPN and sandboxed environment). That said, there are better providers for more serious online stuff than SurfEasy which is governed by Canadian law and amenable to legal writs by the authorities in Canada, the US and Britain. Though what they might uncover should be small to non-existent (in theory anyway)
Unfortunately Opera and its associate programs looks destined for the Recycle Bin given recent reports and rumours. From the Inquirer:
“PIONEERING WEB browser company Opera is selling its core consumer technology to a Chinese consortium for a knock-down $600m just a week after a proposed $1.2bn acquisition of the company by the same motley crew of private equiteers and tech companies supposedly fell through.
Opera is selling its name, the mobile and desktop browser businesses and its privacy and performance applications. These include the SurfEasy virtual private network (VPN) offering that is now built in to the Opera browser, which the firm acquired in March 2015.
The consortium includes Qihoo 360, a Chinese antivirus software company that was accused of gaming anti-malware tests and stripped of its rankings last year, and a bunch of Chinese fund managers and private equity funds, including Golden Brick Capital.”
Well, that’s fucked then…