Is your VPN Really Private? 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance
If you have been reading about VPNs recently, you must have come across the term 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. But what exactly is this Alliance? Why is it significant to use a VPN in these countries? Does it matter if a VPN company is situated in one of them? All of that and more will be answered in this article.
The All-Seeing Eyes of the Internet
The 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance refers to a collation of countries that collaborate together to share intel on sensitive data. Of course, you might wonder what kind of data it is? Well, that would be you, yes! You are the data. These countries gather data about their citizens by spying on what you do by collecting whatever you view and sharing this intel.
Whenever you use your internet, your connection goes through your internet service provider (ISP), leaving log data and activities of what you did. You probably thought incognito mode ensures no one knows what you view on the internet, but that only deletes the history and cookies on your PC; the outgoing data to your ISP doesn't get affected.
5-Eyes Origin Story
The first two countries to start this alliance were the UK and the USA under the name of the UK/USA agreement. It began in the early 1940s and involved information sharing on intelligence operations. Later on, it included Australia, Canada, and New Zealand; these five members became known as the 5-Eyes Alliance or the FVEY.
The ECHELON surveillance system
As the Cold War against the Soviet Union started, the 5-Eyes Alliance created a system to intercept communications and spy on the Soviets, known as the ECHELON. This is the same system used to monitor people all around the world today.
When info about ECHELON reached the general public, it caused an outrage. Everyone felt violated. The use of ECHELON was later justified with the global war on terrorism and 9/11.
In addition to being the home of some of the most powerful surveillance agencies globally, countries in the 5-Eyes Alliance also have the authority to force companies to provide any recorded data they have. Members of the 5-Eyes Alliance countries' information-sharing policy means they can acquire information from one another without a warranty.
While the USA has a policy preventing The NSA from spying on their own citizens, this can be bypassed by asking a third party in the 5-Eyes Alliance to do the spying and then share the info with the USA.
9- Eyes Alliance
This includes the countries on the 5-Eyes Alliance with the addition of France, Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway. After Edward Snowden's revelations, the existence of the 9-Eyes Alliance became well known, the extent of information sharing is slightly more limited than the 5-Eyes Alliance. However, they still share a lot of data.
This includes the 9-Eyes Alliance countries, with the addition of Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain. Unlike the 5-Eyes Alliance, where requesting info doesn't require a warrant.
In the 14-Eyes Alliance, any information requested requires a warrant. Regardless obtaining information from inside the 14-Eyes Alliance is a much easier process than requesting information from countries outside the 14-Eyes Alliance.
Countries suspected of being third-party members of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance are Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
How a VPN Works
Basically, when connecting to a VPN service, your data gets sent to a different location depending on the server you connect to. It does so while being encrypted, so any intercepted data wouldn't make any sense to the intercepting party without the decryption key. Your IP address would be viewed according to the VPN IP address server.
Many of the VPN services mention 256-bit military-grade encryption. You might wonder what exactly does that means. The encryption means the length of an encryption key or algorithm is 256 bits (data is saved on pcs as binary 0s and 1s).
To put this in numbers, a hacker intercepting your data, or whoever wants to view it, requires 2 to the power 256 different combinations to break the 256-bit encryption unless they have the decryption key. Governments and the military use this level of encryption to ensure their data stays safe.
In addition, many VPN providers have a kill switch feature that acts to disconnect you from the internet if your VPN connection fails to prevent any form of data leaking.
VPN Providers Inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance
When dealing with a VPN provider inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, there is a risk of data being provided to governments if a government subpoenas the logs. A VPN provider must comply and provide these logs.
Many VPN countries inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance try to provide a no activity logs policy. However, they keep logs related to your billing address and IP, so if you need a true no-logs policy VPN provider, then avoid the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance-based VPN companies.
Best VPNs that are based outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance
1. NordVPN is based in Panama. It's one of the best VPN providers. It has over 5000 servers worldwide, provides fast speed, geo-blocked content access such as Netflix, and is cost-efficient.
2. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. While the number of servers it has is less than NordVPN, it provides a faster VPN connection, if not the fastest out there. ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN service providers in unblocking geo-restricted content to watch popular streaming servers such as Netflix. Price-wise it is relatively expensive.
3. CyberGhost has its main office in Romania, provides a consistently fast speed, geo-blocked content access such as Netflix, and has a low cost relative to its functionality.
4. Surfshark is also based in the British Virgin Islands, and its VPN speed is consistent and fast. However, it slows down a bit sometimes. Still among the VPNs, it's a good all-rounder that can provide you with geo-blocked content access. It is one of the VPNs with the lowest prices.