On Sunday, I learned — via TorrentFreak — about a new, free, anonymous VPN network that’s part of a graduate studies program in Japan. The idea is that if you’re locked behind the Great Firewall of China or some other, similar internet censorship situation, or if you just want to browse from another geographic location either for privacy issues, or because you’re doing something slightly (or not-so-slightly) naughty and you want to make your browsing anonymous from your ISP, this service — called VPNGate may work for you. For example, you might be able to use it to get around local blackout restrictions for internet streaming of sports events (*cough* not that I would know anything about that personally).
This isn’t a discussion on internet hacking, however, this is how to get this to work for you if you are on OSX Mountain Lion. It’s actually pretty darn nifty and blows what I was doing before — using the ProxySwitchy Google Chrome extension — completely out of the water. Windows users will need to go somewhere else (though my understanding is you can do this on Windows boxes without a third-party VPN client, as well). Yes, there are instructions in the VPNGate site, but you have to look for them and you have to know what you’re looking for.
First, go to System Preferences. I have a shortcut in my dock, but you can also get there from the apple menu in the top left corner. Once you’re there, go to Network.
Click the “+” button to create a new connection and select “VPN” from the dropdown. The default should be “L2TP over IPSec” and that’s fine. Name your connection (if you want) and then click Create.
Now you need to enter in some settings. First, pick a server. If location doesn’t matter to you, the Japanese servers are probably fastest, but there are use cases where you may want to connect from a specific country (one I can think of off the top of my head was last summer’s London Olympics where you could watch the games online if you were in the UK). Enter the IP or servername into the Server Address box. The username and password for everything is “vpn”, so the first place you put that is in the Account Name.
Now you need to go into the Authentication Settings.
Remember, the password to everything is “vpn”, so put this into “Password” and “Shared Secret”. Hit OK and then go into Advanced.
Put a check in “Send all traffic over VPN connection”. Leave the other two boxes checked. Click OK.
Now you’re all set and you can connect over your VPN connection. To test this, go to Google.com. If you are connecting from a Japanese VPN server, you will be sent to google.jp. The VPNGate site will also tell you what your IP is and where you’re connecting from, so you can also test that way.
Bonus! The “Show VPN status in menu bar” option is awesome. This adds a little icon in your menu bar when you’re disconnected which provided easy access to connect to the VPN. When it’s connecting, it shows you the status of the connection and then how long you’ve been connected.
Now I can uninstall ProxySwitchy and forget about those free public proxy server lists.