A little-known company called Jigsaw has just launched some free software that allows you to create your own VPN server.
OK, so you probably want to know who's behind Jigsaw. That's easy. Jigsaw is a subsidiary of Alphabet. Not heard of them either? Then here's the good bit. Alphabet is the holding company that owns Google. And Jigsaw, also owned by Alphabet, used to be called Google Ideas. So while Jigsaw might not be a household name, there's certainly some serious commitment and money behind the product.
The product in question is called Outline. You'll find it at https://getoutline.org/en/home. It's free, and open source. Here's how it works and why you might want to use it.
Let's say that you want to browse the internet anonymously, and access private emails without the chance of anyone else being able to see them. For example, you're in a public place such as a hotel or bar, and you want to check your work email, but you're concerned that someone might be interfering with the hotel wifi. Or even that the "hotel" wifi is actually being run by someone other than the hotel.
Or maybe you are in a country such as the UK, and you want to watch a Netflix programme that's only available to US-based subscribers. Netflix recognises the UK-based IP address that you're connecting from, and won't let you watch.
A VPN such as Outline gets around these problems.
Outline comes in 2 parts. First, there's the server software. You'll need a server running Linux in order to run it. You can set one up at home, using a spare PC, or you can set one up on a cloud provider such as Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, or similar. Once the server is up and running with a basic Linux installation, download the Outline Manager from the above-mentioned URL. Tell it the address of your server, follow the instructions, and it will then control your VPN server for you. The manager software is available for both Windows and Linux, and Mac OS too.
Here's the good thing. You don't need to log into your Linux server to manage your VPN. You do it all from the Outline Manager program on your computer.
With the Outline VPN server set up, you then download the Outline client software for whatever device you want to connect to your VPN from. It's available for Windows, Android, iOS and others. Click to establish the connection, and you're done. From now on, all your internet communications appear to come from the VPN server rather than your local device. And if that VPN server is in, say, the US, Netflix will think that you are too.
Outline is a fun way to learn about VPNs, and if you install it on your own spare machine then it won't cost anything. And as mentioned, it's completely free and open source. The Outline Manager software is a 33 MB download and the file is malware-free according to VirusTotal, and the download site is rated as reputable by Web of Trust.