Secure yourself on Public Networks with Hotspot Shield

February 10, 2009 9:17 pm
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Recently in my post about listening to Pandora from outside the US I mentioned a free application called Hotspot Shield from AnchorFree which can be used to circumvent the firewall so you can logon to Pandora from outside America. Well Hotspot Shield offers more than just a ticket to restricted ear candy. If you frequently use Public Networks (both wired and wireless) e.g. at the airport, a hotel, cafe or the library you should get yourself over to the AnchorFree website as fast as your virtual legs will carry you and download a copy now. Why? Well I can’t really do a better job of explaining than they do themselves:
Hotspot Shield creates a virtual private network (VPN) between your laptop or iPhone and our [AnchorFree’s] Internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers and hackers from viewing your email, instant messages, credit card information or anything else you send over the network.
But why do you need an impenetrable tunnel!? Well, when you connect to a public network all the other users on the network (that’s all those shifty looking people sitting round you with laptops in Starbucks) become part of your local network meaning their computers are on the same IP subnet. This makes it is easier for them to capture the traffic between your computer and the hotspot and, as mentioned above, that traffic could contain all manner of personal information. On the downside Hotspot Shield does serve intrusive banner ads along to the top of your browser page, the free service is also limited to 3GB of bandwidth within a rolling 30 day window (you can purchase additional bandwidth). However in general I’ve found Hotspot Shield to be fast and reliable and it is free to all but the heaviest users so I thought I would share it! So is that all you need to do to be safe on a Public Hotspot? Not necessarily, it’s beyond the scope of this post to harp on about everything you need to do, but here is a quick checklist:
  • Keep your computer up-to-date with all the latest patches
  • Disable file sharing
  • Use secure email servers if your provider offers them
  • Ensure the Windows (or other OS) firewall is enabled
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This post was written by WillyNilly

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