I don’t normally write about software, mostly because I’ve nothing different to say about it. However, I’m going to make a small exception. I’ve recently been testing the Freedome privacy software from Finnish firm f-secure and must admit I like it. But time for a better explanation.
I’m a long-time user of the anti-virus/internet-security software from f-secure. I’ve spent all of my working life in IT so, like many people in a similar situation, do PC Support for “Family and Friends”. I consider a proper anti-virus product a no-brainer, an essential part of any PC I look-after. My decision to go with f-secure’s anti-virus product was based on trust. I trust that the product works and I trust that as a Finnish-based company there aren’t any back-doors in the product, something I would not trust with either a Russian firm, such as Kaspersky Labs, or a US-based company such Symantec.
As a company f-secure are active supporters of Internet Security/Privacy through such projects as their Safe-and-Savvy website, their Privacy checker, as well as their online scanner for those without a proper security product.
Going back to their Freedome app, it was first released as a smartphone app (iOS and Android) in 2013 and followed that up in 2015 with both Windows and Mac versions of the software. The app is designed to protect your privacy when browsing the internet and has four main functions.
- Location Shifting. In other works changing the location you appear to be connected to the internet on. Normally when you connect to the Internet your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will give you a unique address (an IP address) that identifies your connection. This IP address can normally identify where, geographically, you are on the internet. You can test this by visiting any of the websites that will show your IP address such as whatismyipaddress.com. With the Freedome software you can change the location where you appear to be connected from. Currently f-secure offer you the option of connecting via 27 locations in 21 countries. This is useful if, for example, you are like myself and have a subscription to Netflix. Netflix blocks you accessing your account if you are not in your home country (e.g. when you are on holiday). With Geo-location shifting you can appear to Netflix to be back in your home country.
- Encrypted Virtual Private Network. (VPN). The Freedome software encrypts communication between your device (smart phone, laptop, PC) and the 27 locations where f-secure operate from. This means that the internet connection cannot be viewed by hackers (or government agencies). It’s especially useful if you are using an un-secured public wi-fi network, for example in a coffee-shop. In such places accessing your accounts is a relatively trivial task, using, for example, a tool such as the Firesheep browser-add for Firefox.
- Block third-party tracking cookies. When you surf the internet you are tracked by advertising companies, who aim to build a profile of who you are and what you are interested in. Using this information the advertisers can then target you with adverts that they believe will be of interest to you. This tracking is commonly done through “third-party” tracking cookies. There is a good explanation of how they work from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Freedome software will block third-party cookies and give you a couple of nice reports showing how may cookies it has blocked and which sites are attempting to place third-party cookies
- Keep your Internet browsing history private. In the UK the Home Secretary, Teresa May is pushing for a new Investigatory Powers Bill to become law. If this law is passed ISPs will be required to keep a record of all the internet sites you have visited in the last year. Whether you find this plan excessive and dis-proportional depends on your own personal beliefs. Using the freedome app, f-secure have stated “All recordings of your surfing are deleted permanently after three days”.
- Blocking Harmful Websites. This feature checks the websites you browse and blocks access to any website known to contain malware, stopping so-called malware “Drive-By Download” attacks.
OK, enough of the theory. I think it’s best to end this article with some illustrations of the application in action.
The next screen-grab shows the Freedome Tracking Protection in action. The application has the ability to log and map each tracking attempt made. Below are the results from a couple of minutes surfing. The main culprits here are the three main news suites I visit, namely the BBC website and the online versions of the Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers.
Pricing & Availability
Freedome can currently work with all major platforms i.e. Windows 7 or later, OS X 10.9 or later,Android 4.0.3 or later, iOS 7 or later and Kindle Fire OS. As always with software there is the question of cost. Is it worth paying for ? The software can be bought direct from f-secure, Prices start at €49.90 for 1 year with 3 devices. The better option is to buy through someone like Amazon. At the time of writing (3rd Jan 2016) amazon.de had it on offer at €26.50 for 1 year with 5 devices.
I like it. In particular I like the fact that the software brings together a number of functions that I value (VPN, location shifting, tracker blocking) in one package. I could get similar results using a dedicated VPN application and something like the EFF’s Privacy Badger to block cookies, however I like keeping things simple. If you are interested in the application you can download a 14 day full-function trial version here
I wrote this blog post purely because I was interested in the software.I bought the software myself. I have no commercial connect with f-secure, other than as a customer. I have no revenue-sharing links on this blog.