If you never leave the comfort of your home and office networks, then you’re probably not too worried about prying eyes spying on your Internet use. (Unless of course you don’t adequately protect your own network, which is another post entirely—remember to password protect those wireless routers!) However, if you’re like most small business owners you’re probably frequently on the go and sometimes have to resort to public wi-fi connections in places like coffee shops and airports. When you do, all your online activity is laid wide open to those prying eyes.
There are things you can do to protect yourself when using an unprotected hotspot (or even just using your computer in a hotspot area), such as turning off your wireless radio if you don’t need the Internet, not accessing sites that require you to enter passwords, and making sure that your antivirus and firewall software is on and up-to-date. But, your best defense is to use personal VPN (Virtual Private Network) software whenever you access the Internet via a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
There are many paid services that offer VPN. (Watch this video to learn more about VPN.) Many companies have a VPN set-up for their remote workers to use when accessing email or the corporate network drives from off-site locations. You might also get an Air Card so that you always have your own personal Internet connection from anywhere, or just browse using a smartphone with a data plan.
However, if you only have an occasional need to use public Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet from your computer, then paid services can be prohibitively expensive. The free Hotspot Shield VPN software may be just what you need.