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Five Applications to Secure Your Wi-Fi Hotspot Connections

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Don't risk eavesdroppers capturing your email, passwords, and other sensitive info! Eric Geier, the author of Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access, reviews five helpful apps that encrypt your wireless traffic.
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Most Wi-Fi hotspots don't use encryption to protect your web browsing and Internet activity like private networks can. Additionally, encryption doesn't exist on most wired connections you hook up to in hotels, airports, and other public places. Securing entire public networks just isn't very feasible.

However, you can easily secure your Internet sessions to prevent other nearby Wi-Fi users from snooping on what sites you're visiting and possibly capturing your emails, passwords, and other sensitive information.

You can use a solution, called a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which was originally designed for securely accessing remote networks. In this public network security scenario, a VPN server is hosted by a company, such as the ones we're going to discuss. They also provide a VPN client application, which you install on your computer.

Once you connect to the company's VPN server, no matter where you are, all Internet browsing and traffic is routed to and from the company's network through an encrypted tunnel over the Internet.

VPNs offer a few benefits in addition to protecting your network traffic from eavesdroppers:

  • They bypass network filtering to view blocked websites.
  • They use any restricted services: like VoIP, chatting, and instant messaging.
  • They hide your IP address—surf anonymously.
  • They avoid a country's Internet restrictions.

There are a few varieties of VPN solutions. The most popular for public network security is an SSL-based VPN, which uses similar encryption to what we trust for our banking and government sites.

Without further ado, here are the five hotspot applications and services you can use to secure your public browsing.

#1: UltraVPN

This solution is based on the popular OpenVPN client/server. Fortunately, they follow a stricter open source approach and don't run ads or otherwise try to gain revenue—they accept donations. Plus they don't impose traffic limitations, so you can use the service as much as you want.

The UltraVPN client is basically a modified version of the OpenVPN client, offered for Windows and Mac OS X. The settings are preconfigured, a system tray icon is added, and a customized GUI provides a more user-friendly experience.

Linux users can download the UltraVPN source code and build the binaries. The UltraVPN servers are hosted by Lynanda.

Although you must create an account to use the free service, the process is very simple. Just enter a desired username and password. You don't have to do an email verification or even enter an address.

Once installed in Windows, you'll see an icon in the system tray. To connect, simply right-click the icon and select Connect.

This icon also features shortcuts to enter Proxy settings if needed.

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