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Welcome to our inaugural "sound smart(er)" item, where we simply explain a tech term so you can impress your friends. Today's term, VPN, is extremely timely given the Trump's recent signing of a bill overturning privacy rules designed to keep Internet service providers from selling your data without your permission.

What it is: VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network and is a piece of software designed to create an encrypted tunnel between two points on the internet so your browsing history is both secure and private.

Why it matters: VPNs have long been used to ensure secure connections to businesses or to obfuscate one's location, often to access content limited to a certain location (think streaming video). With Congress' rollback of the recent FCC rules, ISPs can continue to sell data about your browsing habits without your opt-in consent. Using a VPN will limit your ISPs' visibility into your online activities in the first place.

Downside: If you're using a VPN, you may not be able to access all the services you want, namely video streaming services like Netflix or Hulu that need to know where your IP address is coming from for content licensing purposes.

How you get one: There are plenty of VPN services out there, most of which charge a monthly or yearly fee. Tor, a free service, can be used to anonymize browsing without setting up a formal VPN, but rerouting your traffic through multiple servers can slow down your connection speeds and access to some websites.

Go deeper

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

51 mins ago - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

51 mins ago - World

Scoop: Sudan wants to seal Israel normalization deal at White House

Burhan. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty

Three months after Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel, it still hasn't signed an agreement to formally do so. Israeli officials tell me one reason has now emerged: Sudan wants to sign the deal at the White House.

Driving the news: Israel sent Sudan a draft agreement for establishing diplomatic relations several weeks ago, but the Sudanese didn’t reply, the officials say. On Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen raised that issue in Khartoum during the first-ever visit of an Israeli minister to Sudan.