written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 6/9/2010
If you don't want to give all of your passwords away to people with a little bit of hacking skill, then you can't use public WiFi hotspots and go anywhere that takes a password. That is, unless you use one of these Top 5 Wireless Hotspot Security Products.
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Hotspot Shield by AnchorFree
Hotspot Shield is the go to product for free wireless hotspot security. Yes, it has ads, that is how it can be free. Yes, it has a limit on how much traffic you can use, that is how it can be free. Yes, you have to download software to your computer to run it. Yes, it sets up a VPN between your computer and AnchorFree servers and encrypts the data in between so that balding bloated leather jacket in the summer wearing guy with the laptop can't grab your passwords out of the air without some serious work. Yes it takes over your whole network connection, no proxies, no worries about using your FTP client.
Encrypts all network traffic, not just the web browser.
3 GB Per 30 day limit
ADs. Big ad banner on the top of every page. You can close it, but it will be back with the next click.
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WiFi Guardian is a pay version of Hotspot Shield. Because you are paying for the service, you don't have to suffer through ads. Otherwise, it works pretty much the same way. A VPN connection is established between your computer and their servers. All traffic is encrypted. The free trial version allows for a paltry 50 MB, hardly worth the effort. But, if you need secure access and you are willing to pay, they have a package for you. 25GB for $25, 50GB for $40 and 100GB for $70.
Secures all traffic
Packages do not expire (take a year to use up your 25 GB if you want)
Free Trial Only 50 MB
Pay to Play
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Technically, The Cloak is for anonymous web surfing and not security, but they encrypt all the traffic between your browser and their servers which reroute your traffic to provide your anonymity, so BAM! free security. The catch is that it only works on your browser. Fire up that FTP client and you've just given away your password to the semi-reclusive girl with the too-tight pony tail over by the muffin display.
FREE - locks out if you use too much traffic
Only secures web browser
Will stop working if you use too much traffic
Freaks out Yahoo mail (and any other page that tries to autoreload while using a cookie)
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Ok, if you've got some technology cred and you also have a computer at home, this is your choice. Instead of providing a VPN connection to their servers, Hamachi provides you with a VPN connection to another one of your computers. You trust your home network right? Great, leave your desktop computer (or another laptop) on at home with Hamachi running when you leave. When you get to your hotspot fire up Hamachi on that computer and Presto! an encrypted VPN back to your home computer. Then, just set your proxy servers to point at your home computer.
No traffic limits
Secures all traffic (if you configure the proxy settings)
Requires two computers
You need to know a little bit about PCs and networking to get this one to fly
Must have Hamachi running on another PC
Only secures if you setup the proxy server setting on EVERY PROGRAM!
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Corporate IT Department
Ok, you can't really buy this, but you can make those guys in IT work for you. Many corporate networks have the tools in place to allow VPN access. Generally you have to request it to get it. If you ask for whatever it takes so that you can work at the Starbucks overlooking bikini beach, you can forget it. Instead, ask for remote access. Be careful to include something besides email in your request or you'll just get the remote email website and that won't help. Mention certain files that you need to access after hours. Once you have your VPN connection, you can use it anywhere.
No traffic limits (see below)
Secures All traffic
Have to get it from work
Cannot browse non-work allowed sites
If the network logs are filling up with your traffic, someone might want to speak with you.
Technically you are probably breaking some rules
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I've never heard of these guys before researching this article, so I don't want to go so far as recommending them, but they appear to have a similar product to the WiFi Guardian guys and they like to boast about their AES 256 encryption so they at least sound serious.
Last but not least. If you hear of something else, drop me a note or leave a comment. I'd love to find something better!