If you often hop on the wifi hotspots in a café, you need to be aware that hotspots such as Starbucks hotspot or hotel wifi are not safe for confidential email and browsing. Your online traffic is broadcast for a hacker to eavesdrop.
However, there is no need to be panic, there are ways to protect yourself. One way is to use a VPN service, the other is to use browsers which offer VPN type of service.
Using a VPN service
The concept of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service such as NordVPN is simple. When you connect your computer (or a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. It forwards all your network traffic to the network over the secure connection.
Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from hackers.
NordVPN supports both Andorid and IOS. Check out NordVPN in Review Apps.
Using Tor Browser
The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers, its users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels, not making a direct connection, hence protecting their privacy. Tor is also an effective censorship circumvention tool, allowing its users to reach otherwise blocked destinations or content.
You also need to be aware that
• Tor only protects your applications that are properly configured to send their Internet traffic through Tor.
• Don't torrent over Tor. Torrent file-sharing applications have been observed to ignore proxy settings and make direct connections.
• Don't enable or install browser plugins. Tor Browser will block browser plugins such as Flash, RealPlayer, Quicktime, and others: they can be manipulated into revealing your IP address.
• Use HTTPS versions of websites. Tor will encrypt your traffic to and within the Tor network, but the encryption of your traffic to the final destination website depends upon on that website.
• Don't open documents downloaded through Tor while online. When you download documents via Tor (especially DOC and PDF files, unless you use the PDF viewer that's built into Tor Browser) as these documents can contain Internet resources that will be downloaded outside of Tor by the application that opens them. This will reveal your non-Tor IP address.
Tor browser supports both Andorid and IOS. Check out the Tor browser in Review Apps.
Apart from Tor, the other browser you can use is Opera. The concept of how opera works is similar as Tor. It has a built-in VPN which you can turn at Privacy & security via the browser settings.
Opera browser supports both Andorid and IOS. Check out the Opera browser in Review Apps.
The drawback of using VPN or VPN enabled browsers is that the encrypting and decrypting data requires processing power. The stronger the encryption used, the slower your internet access. However, as the power of modern computers improves rapidly and continuously, this issue is relatively minor compared to losing your private data.
Cover image source: Unsplash, Lewis Ngugi.