When I’m on the road, wi-fi hotspots are essential to my work and they’re relatively easy to find. However, these hotspots are horrifically insecure unless you use a VPN.
Most people are aware that they shouldn’t be logging into their bank accounts or transmitting personal information over public internet connections, but frankly that’s only half the battle. Simply checking your email could open up your account — including all previously sent messages — to the world, putting you at risk of identity theft. Think about it: having your email account information could let someone access any passwords stored in your messages, look up paperless billing statements, or information on where you’ll be at a certain time.
I never used to bother with using a VPN, but now I wouldn’t consider any other way. As much as I hate to admit this, bringing my laptop around the world and pulling it out on a regular basis is what lets me travel. My phone’s data connection is great for looking up a few things and I love disconnecting for a few days, but it’s nearly impossible for me to get some work done without a laptop and the internet.
What is a VPN?
The short answer is that a virtual private network (VPN) is a tool to let you surf the internet privately by encrypting your data. Hackers will see gobbly-gook instead of your personal information and website trackers will be blocked so that your web searches and surfing data remain private. On a lighter note, a VPN can also help you pretend you’re connecting to the internet via a different country than the one you’re actually in, so you won’t face things like censored articles or websites and blocked applications.
Using a VPN helps protect your data and privacy.
My Guilty Pleasure
Using a VPN is always a smart idea, but it’s also one with more frivolous purposes. Using TunnelBear lets me access US-only websites, meaning I can still stream the latest episodes of Chicago Fire or work out to Pandora when I’m abroad. Go ahead and judge me, but my hour of mind-mush television keeps me sane after a stressful day of travel.
TunnelBear is the Best Free VPN
There are a few things that you should consider before choosing a VPN: efficacy, ease of use, speed, and price. I’ve tried a few, and TunnelBear has been my favorite.
Efficacy: My tech knowledge is too limited to check out how TunnelBear works on the back-end, but it’s highly regarded among experts and considered a reputable company. I really love that TunnelBear also promises to never log any of your information, sell your data, and to continuously improve their service to make sure they’re also up-to-date.
Ease of Use: TunnelBear has worked with the simple switch of a button on my MacBook, iPad, and Android phone. There’s a one-time quick install and after that you can just turn the service on and off as needed.
Speed: I’m not saying that wi-fi hotspots are always fast, but I haven’t noticed a decrease in speeds because things are routed via the VPN in an extra step.
Price: Amazingly, TunnelBear offers 500 megabytes of free VPN browsing each month. For a short trip or users who aren’t online too much, that might be enough. If not, you can get an additional 1 gigabyte simply by sending a single promotional message on your Twitter account. If that 1.5 GB still isn’t enough, you can buy unlimited TunnelBear use for $5/month or prepay for a full-year at $50. It’s even cheaper if you only use it on mobile devices instead of also including laptop access.
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Do you use a VPN when traveling? Do you have a favorite program?
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Purchasing a TunnelBear subscription provides a referral bonus to me, though the free accounts are the best deal around, so give them a shot! As always, I only recommend products I actually use!