Want a Free VPN for Public WiFi Hotspots?

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When it comes to accessing the Internet when you’re away from home, you never really know what you’re going to get. You have to stay secure to protect yourself. A friend of mine emailed me the other day, talking about this exact situation. He was traveling, and had to check his Gmail from an unsecured public computer. He apparently forgot to log himself out, as well. I asked him if he at least had used the more secure httpS instead of the plain http prefix… and he had not.

I even get nervous at times connecting to my email via my Sprint PCS mobile broadband connection. When I’m sending information back and forth wirelessly, if it’s not being done in an encrypted fashion I get nervous. You never know who will be sniffing packets of information. This is what you need to be aware of when you’re connecting to the Internet via a wireless hotspot.

One way you can help keep yourself safe is by using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. One program, called Hamachi is free for personal use. I’ve been using it for awhile now, as you’ll see if you check out that link. However, I want to tell you about another program that one of our community recently emailed me about.

HotSpot Shield is another free program that can be used on Mac or Windows machine. It’s been reviewed by people on CNN and CNET, with good ratings. Think of a VPN as a shield that surrounds you and whatever you are wanting to connect to. If you’re connecting to the Internet via an unsecured network, anyone can look at the packets of information you are sending out. What a program like HotSpot Shield does is to encrypt that data, so it cannot be seen and/or read by those would-be information stealers.

While on the road this week, I had a need to log into Ponzi’s machine at home in Seattle, via my mobile connection. She has VNC set up, but it was behind our firewall. I didn’t want to have to go through opening ports and all of that. Instead, I chose to use the new TeamViewer. TeamViewer can establish a connection to virtually any computer in the world with just a few clicks. It’s a way to share screens, or remote control another computer as long as the other person is at their computer and grants the access. It’s simple, and made things much easier on me. I was connected to her machine securely, and quick.

If you are going to connect to a wireless connection, whether wireless or wired… I urge you to use either HotSpot Shield or Hamachi. And of course, why not check out TeamViewer if you have a need to connect to another machine.

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31 thoughts on “Want a Free VPN for Public WiFi Hotspots?”

  1. Pingback: CHRISdotTODD.com
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  3. Chris, If you use a EV-DO device you are fine, they can’t sniff your traffic. Its not like a “WI-FI” hotspot. My main internet connection is my Sprint EV-DO card as thats all i can get. Hamachi is very nice, me and some of my friends use it to play games over the internet w/o connecting to a public server.

  4. Good article. Yes Hotspot Shield and Hamachi are VPN products. But they are VPNs for different purposes. Hotspot Shield is the VPN for the Internet. Hamachi is a VPN for your own private network. But this does beg the question. Are software firewalls that out there (Norton’s, McAfee, Windows Internal Firewall, MACOSX Internal Firewall) totally useless against Sidejackers?

  5. Hey Chris. Just wanted to drop a line. As an employee of a major wireless company (not Sprint, but using similar tech as your sprint broadband card) I wanted to give you a heads up. With our wireless cards (and I would assume sprint uses something similar, if not the same), everything is encrypted with at least 128-bit AES (although, I could be mistaken, it might be 256-bit). From what I’ve read it’s never been hacked. Which, of course, isn’t to say that it’s any more secure than any other internet connection: just that if someone is snooping, it really shouldn’t be through the wireless connection. It would be somewhere farther on down the line.

    Thanks for the awesome site Chris.

    -J

  6. as far as accessing my home computer remotely, I have used and had great success with the free software found at http://www.logmein.com. It’s simple and -very- secure… and best of all, -free-.

  7. Hey Chris?

    This is unusual for you – Hot spot shield installs unrelated software like Dealio Toolbar. Have you read their terms of use?

  8. Wow, I had no idea of that security issue. I tought only websites where harmfull, not the actual connection :O

    Thanqz for the info.

  9. I think it’s something that can definitely be utilized. In my opinion, they should be pre-installed with the driver that helps run built-in wireless!

  10. That is a very good topic. I rarely connect my laptop to a public network, but when I do, I really try my best to be secure and do only what I need, then get off.

    Speaking of keeping stuff logged in, I work at a school’s computer lab. I see students leave stuff logged in all the time. I have seen their online school work, Myspace, and I have even found someone’s bank account logged into once. When I find these, I just log them out and continue what I was doing.

    Everyone should be careful what they leave logged in or what they access. You never know when you are being monitored in a public setting. Back to the school, we use a program called net support school to watch about 80 computers in our library. This program can see any screen, and see anything you type, including passwords. (you have to be intentionally looking for the passwords though). You usually cannot tell when you are being watched by these kind of programs.

    This is why I hate using public computers for any reason. I try to carry my laptop with me wherever I go, and use that. I use the https, but have never tried it with VPN, however, I will try it out and see how it works.

    -Artanis227

  11. When it comes to connecting to a VPN client away from home, I’ve never had any luck. I’ll be sure and check this out. Thanks Chris. 🙂

  12. I have been using AnchorFree for a few weeks. However I have had major problems after trying to purchase additional bandwidth. Put wimply, although I made the payment, it does not work. I have contacted both technical support and client compliants and have received zero response. Warning….do not purchase additional bandwidth!!!!

  13. i will like to use your software for browsing coz here in my country we are suffering of charging i mean is very cost. i will like if you can send a site that i can activate sim card that comes from anywhere in this nation or world. i will appreciace if you cat solve this problem for me. am sure the activation sim card site is existing . please and please, just respond to my mail.
    your sincerly
    abbey q.

  14. here in Nigeria to activate sim card is very critical coz if we call our custmer care they will say the soft were they are using to activate the sim card is not available so we are looking for a softwere that we use to activate the sim card by our self………………………………………………………………………………………….
    ………………..plz send a softwere that we can use to activate our sim card.

  15. Hi Chris,

    It’s great that you are trying to educate the people that need this info the most. Thank you!

    I just wanted tot tell you that I use HotSpot Shield regularly. But I use it at home…

    HotSpot Shield is a great way to use a VPN that gives you a temporary IP in the states, allowing me to watch TV on Hulu and enjoy music on SpiralFrog. It’s just a great way to avoid having to wait up to 4 or 5 years to see if a tv show or an itune download ever makes it across the pond.

    Until entertainment suits start making their goods available to the rest of the world in a fair way I’ll be a pretend American with HotSpot Shield to get it!

  16. Chris,

    Hamachi is, and always has been a LAN VPN service. Meant to tie a remote end-user into another LAN or another PC to make it part of their own “LAN” (or private IP addressing).

    Internet traffic is not shielded with Hamachi at all!

  17. Means when proxy client re-uses the IP address which Hotspot network assigns for the VPN connection. VPN server doesn’t work with that. Did I get it corretly?

  18. Hi Chris,
    Here in Thailand there are more than 3,800 websites banned by the Government. In addition, many wireless ISPs actively block P2P and anything with the word “tracker” in it, as well as providing a piddling 512Kbyte download rate. It’s not even possible to checked tracked messages on forums because of this.
    I’ve just installed Hotspot and for now it is working fine. It will be interesting to see if the ISP manages to block it. For now though it’s a great tip.
    Cheers,
    John
    Now following your updates on Twitter too.

  19. It doesn’t sound like Chris (or whoever wrote this) has a clear understanding of what a VPN is.

  20. i used to use hotspot shield to get a usa ip address to watch shows on cbs and nbc etc…. it worked great but i got rid of windows and am now using Ubuntu (linux mint kde) anyone know of something that will do the same job for me in Linux? email me

  21. if any one for any reason know how I can get a VPN settings for my iPhone so I can access some website from anywhere without my computer I have tried all I can please help me

  22. Hamachi does not secure the local wireless LAN, it only allows clients to connect via secure tunnel, but non-Hamachi clients can still connect to and interact with Hamachi clients. This is not a full VPN service at all. you need to get your facts right before posting your advice on Hamachi; even the manufacturers do not suggest that it secures your wireless LAN. Please revise this page so as not to dupe others in missinformation.

  23. Hi Chris,
    Hi Chris,
    Hotspot Shield is fine,I am also a user and have been since it became available. Now though, the ads cost me screen real estate, and sometimes HSS is balky and won’t connect. Earlier versions could ditch the ads, but that is harder now.

    I found PureVPN 3 years ago, and use them regularly now. Hamachi, etc, have their purpose and are great tools, but I am a web surfer and researcher not tied to a corporate system or remote server.

    PureVPN is not free: ~$6 for 1 month and ~$28 for,6 mo. [shared IP]. Private IP is higher. Setup is automated. L2TP and PPTP dialers are both included, and the customer service is incredible. Uzair Gadit at Pure has probably been the best Customer Service guy I have ever encountered.

    Servers are in DE, UK, CAN, USA. If one is down, open properties and switch on the fly.

    If you do try PureVPN, email Uzair[at]PureVPN.com and use PayPal. Plimus is their payment processor, and I have to say that they are balky and can be a hassle. I worked around that and stayed a customer ONLY because the product is well worth it for me.

    I don’t impress easily, Chris. Please try this one out and see if your perceptions match mine.
    [NO, I don’t work there],
    Thanks, and keep up the good work,
    botNOT

  24. HOTSPOT SHIELD Terms and Conditions are dangerous. They tell your data “may” be transferred (SEND TO) ¿So what the word “private” means to then?. Check.

    Find ULTRA VPN, it does not abuse you neither fill you with ads and annoying automatic redirection of your page to their news and search site.

    HOTSPOT SHIELD is a pirate buccaneer waiting for assault!

  25. I think HotSpot is good free VPN software. But it too slow, I ‘m using VPNing that ‘s better than HotSpot just i think.

  26. This is an awesome post–the main issue with VPN is educating people on what it is and how to use it. You may be interested to learn about my free VPN service, known as Hostizzle. You can get more information at http://hostizzle.com
    We offer 3Mbps for free, with no restrictions on use. The server is located in the US. Check us out–I am sure you will find the service superiod to hotspot Shield or Hamachi.

  27. SuperVPN offers great VPN service for free. You just have to share and follow them on sicial networking sites.

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