Surf the Web Securely Using A VPN

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    "Surf the Web Securely Using A VPN" discusses the best reason to use a virtual private network to secure your computer for online use. The most vulnerable environment is your favorite Wi-Fi hotspot, which is usually unprotected. Anyone with easily obtained software can intercept your online transmissions to gather sensitive information about you, your browsing habits, passwords, and even online banking information. A specific free VPN program that is very easy to set up and use is reviewed, along with its corresponding subscription based elite version.

    Surf the Web Securely Using A VPN

    Setting up and securing a home computer network is an essential task these days. Thankfully, it is a rather easy task to perform, and allows you to connect and share information between all computers and other online devices in your household. Thanks to routers that offer a protected private network for your Wi-Fi devices, such as laptop computers, iPads and Android tablets, you can cruise online with pretty good security, and can feel confident that snoops outside your place of residence cannot piggyback on your Wi-Fi signal or intercept your data streams in the air waves.

    However, when you leave the protected haven of your well-equipped home network, you are really quite naked and vulnerable when checking your email and conducting online activities on a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Unless your favorite Internet cafe or hotspot provides a secure network, issuing a protected key to each customer, you continuously expose your personal information to anyone within range of your Wi-Fi signal, which is really just a radio transmitter. Even if the proprietor of the establishment were to provide a secure key to customers, and I do not know of one that does (except in hotels and motels), each and every person within that protected network is exposing their personal information to everyone else who is currently using the network. I would not use the word "safe" to describe any Wi-Fi network other than that which is properly secured within your own home.

    A very practical solution to the problem is utilizing a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. By implementing a VPN, you can use a public Wi-Fi hotspot and maintain the security of your information as you check your email, visit web sites, or even check your online banking statement. Now I am not advocating that you set up a VPN to conduct online banking from an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot. I still like to do chores of that nature from within my own home network. But there is great security in knowing that your transmissions are encrypted between your computer and your VPN service.

    There are several companies that offer VPN services, both free and by subscription. The free services are normally much slower than the premium subscription services, and most of the time requires you to put up with some advertising. Of course, there are varying degrees of "slow", and an equally varying degree of advertising with which you may get saddled as you try out some of the free offerings. After looking for a comfortable fit, I settled on AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield. (Disclaimer: I am not associated with or connected to AnchorFree in any way. I find their product easy to use and want to share my experience). I use their free version on my Mac (they also have Windows versions for XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, iOS and Android) and find it to be a great tool for privacy. It has acceptable speed, and I have yet to be annoyed by the advertising I see now and then. Of course, I do not frequent public Wi-Fi hotspots every day, usually only about once per week.

    I have often heard VPN's referred to as encrypted tunnels protecting your information as it "bores" through cyberspace when you are online. A VPN secures your entire web session, and ensures your online privacy, keeping your passwords, credit cards, and all your data protected from snoopers.

    Hotspot Shield is so easy to use. Just download the free version to your Mac, install it, and when it is operating you will notice a small green icon on the upper right hand side of your icon bar. This icon is red when Hotspot Shield is disconnected, and is yellow when it is in the process of establishing a connection. It is so simple to set up and requires no tweaking of settings or skills to get it up and running. Clicking the icon will toggle the Hotspot Shield Panel on or off. Under Preferences/Network Detection, confirm that "Always On" is selected, which is the normal default setting. This ensures that Hotspot Shield will always start when you are connecting to a new or unknown network.

    You can check out Hotspot Shield's web site for information on why you should use a VPN. Also check out this site for more information. This FAQ will prove to be very helpful in answering questions that may arise. There is also a self-help "Forum" link on the FAQ page, but you can go direct to the Forum here.

    I would recommend using the free edition first to give it a good trial period. You can then upgrade to the Elite version for a fee of $29.95 per year if you decide the free edition is not meeting your needs. You can install it on up to five computers, so it is a good value.

    What are your thoughts?

    Your comments are very welcome.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 24, '17
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    CaptainPC has been hanging around computers since 1982, when audio cassette tapes were common storage media in home computing. He is a church administrator, oversees the church computer network, and holds Comptia's A+ Certification for PC Hardware Maintenance & Repair, as well as Comptia's Network+ certification in general networking. The Captain spends his time maintaining computers, testing software products and cleaning malware infections.

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