Anyone Tried the Winston Security Device?

Oh were you talking about the ad blocker on my Roku and phone? Ah that’s right, those don’t exist.

Welcome to the forum!

Good to hear it works well for you, as my one previous post in this thread pointed out, this device and service is not just a basic firewall/VPN.

Finally got around to reading the thread with the founders replies over on the Netgate forum linked above. It certainly seems like the companies heart is in the right place and they are trying to provide an privacy helper that non-technical people can easily deploy.

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Not necessarily. I have a Pi-Hole at home and it blocks thousands of requests every day, just based on the traffic that my wife and I generate.

Never used Winston, but it is doing something similar to the Pi-Hole, then it is easy to believe the stats are accurate.

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Well the issue, at least as I remember it, was they were making fantastic SECURITY claims that couldn’t possibly be done. Blocking ads is no big deal, and although blocking ads may block mal-ads, in general blocking ads is not a security feature. Also, how can any device properly block anything HTTPS without you trusting it and installing its security cert? So if they’re requiring you to trust their device, you need to see the company understands security, and as I recall Winston’s claims made it pretty clear they did not understand security. But if they’re doing a good job blocking ads, and you feel you’re getting good value (versus a PiHole) then I guess have at it…?

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Hi SCohen :slight_smile:

I am glad you like your Winston.

Although I do not own a Winston I am using Winston’s own description of how their system works. Main points that are a concern to me in a more condensed form.

  1. Other Winston users are using your bandwidth as they enter and then exit from your own Winston box on your own connection/IP address.
  2. Related to above. As Winston privacy model is to P2P Winston users traffic through each others Winston boxes on the home owners own connection, what are other Winston users doing on your internet connection while using your homes IP address? Illegal P2P file sharing/child porn/Bank fraud etc.
  3. Winston does not block ads over HTTPS connections so you need the Winston browser add-on.
  4. Lack of actual detail regarding how privacy/security is actually implemented/standards.

For ad blocking it seems to me that uBlock Origin browser add-on would do this on a phone and computer browser for free.

For home network wide protection for Roku etc a Pi-Hole would do well for a one off cost. But more work/knowledge to setup. Although the Pi-hole is struggling blocking Youtube ads atm as Youtube are serving ads from the same location as the video content, so ads are not being blocked. It is not immediately clear to me why this stops the Pi-Hole blocking ads but uBlock Origin can on my browser. Maybe as the browser has decrypted the connection where the Pi-hole/Winston can’t? I presume all ads will move this way to defeat some types of blocking.

From a privacy point of view I would rather use a VPN than some other random person’s home internet connection and they use mine. At least some VPN providers have independent audits. Winston say they use encrypted DNS but do not say who the provider is. The VPN’s I have used have their own DNS. Cloudflare and Quad9 also have DNS options for free.

I do wonder how long Netflix etc will work on a Winston owners connection when Netflix start seeing multiple peoples accounts accessing content through your IP. Winston says it changes your 1 hop connection every 10 mins. So in theory you could have around 144 different Netflix accounts use/appear from your connection and IP in a day. Will you get listed and banned as a proxy?

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From what I read from the Winston founder, only initial HTTP connections run through the Winston device network. The actual content of video streams bypass the Winston device, so they run as normal between the user and the service. I think he said it also applies to downloads and other large bandwidth activities, e.g. iOS/Android app installs, cloud backups/syncs.

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Hi Paul :slight_smile:

Yes, I missed that when I read through the article before. I thought it was only downloads that were not sent through the Winston P2P. I am left wondering on how useful the privacy aspect of the device is when so much traffic is sent as normal and ad blocking does not work over HTTPS.

It’s months later and something just happened that made me want to follow up on my earlier post. I was rewiring my network yesterday and hadn’t yet plugged my unit back in. My 8yo son asked me to turn Winston back on because he could barely use his iPad. My wife chimed in that the internet seemed “really bad”. Plugged it back in and everyone’s happy again. It’s one of those things that you’re not really sure you need but when it’s gone, you immediately miss it. Given the amount of time we’ve been spending online in my house, this is one of my best purchases this year.

Given that the bad guys have basically unlimited amounts of money that they’re using to steal our data, we should be supporting smaller companies like this who are doing the right thing and trying to make a difference.

I’m interested in what evidence you have that supports your conclusion that the Winston Box made this improvement and how?

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I’d say this is the evidence.

While it is not scientific, could be a placebo effect, it satisfies basic technology user evidence requirements. Also it is less likely that two users would independently feel like things slowed down then later sped up, when no real speed changes occurred.

Besides, since the Winston device does a bunch of whole network ad blocking/caching, and most normal users do not install separate ad blocking/caching on their individual devices, I’d actually be more surprised if their was not improvement.

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I was looking for a bit more than just a simple possible correlation experience. As I do not understand how the Winston would make much impact to connection speed.

Trouble is you have to install a separate ad blocker on each device anyway as Winston does not have access to https traffic. Winstons own documentation it states this:

Winston’s Browser Extension in conjunction with Winston offers a more private Internet experience while on your Winston network. When both Winston products are utilized it extends privacy protection by stripping tracking and advertising from HTTPS websites.
What is the difference between Winston and Winston's browser extension? : Winston Privacy

And once the Winston is connected you are routed through someone else’s home residential connection that they are probably already using bandwidth on. So the transformed connection experience SCohen had does not make sense to me so I am trying to understand what I may be missing. If you have to install an ad blocker extension anyway why not just use uBlock Origin and Firefox for what appears to me to be the same result for ad blocking for free. :thinking:

Yes, I think it is probably the last bit, the ad blocking.

I notice that when I’m at work, at home I have a Pi-Hole and block over 2.5 million ad and tracking domains.That makes a big difference, compared to work - although I do use NoScript on my personal work pc, but when I support other users, the difference is remarkable.

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