Category Archives: Road Warrior

Personal VPNs offer protection when using Wi-Fi hotspots

A number of personal VPN services are available to protect users of public wi-fi hotspots or even wired hotel networks where data can also be intercepted:

– AnchorFree’s HotspotShield (free)
HotspotVPN ($8.88-$13.88/month) – PPTP or IPSec
– JWire’s SpotLock ($39/year) being replaced with Hotspot Helper ($25/year or 30 minutes free per day)
PublicVPN ($59/year)
– Witopia’s PersonalVPN ($39/year) – IPSec – web-based IM client

If you need to log into AIM, Yahoo IM or MSN but don’t want to download and install a client application for each, and don’t want to download and install a crosss-platform program like Trillian, then you can either log into a web-based version of each service (AIM Express, MSN Web Messenger or Yahoo Web Messenger) or can use a single web-based service like meebo that supports multiple services at the same time. meebo is also useful if you plan on using IM from inside a corporate network that blocks certain ports used by IM programs or if you want to by-pass corporate systems that monitor IM conversations (an SSL version of meebo is available for “alpha” testing).

A mention on the PhoneBoy blog gave me the heads up on this service.

iPhantom vpn firewall device

I recently came across information about an interesting hardware-based VPN firewall. Its made by a company called Phantom Technologies and is called the iPhantom. The device connects to the ethernet port of a computer or router (so that it can be used to protect multiple computers at a remote location or for use in a small office). It then sets up a highly encrypted VPN tunnel to Phantom Technologies data center so that all traffic is routed back and forth to that data center. This can be useful to help protect a remote computer being used at a public location (such as a hotel) or in a foreign country where the information may be susceptible to interception. Unfortunately, its not very useful for laptops being used at wi-fi hotspots. It can also help protect against viruses and adware because all data being accessed from the Internet is scanned at the Phantom Technologies data center.

Note that the data is still susceptible to interception by anyone monitoring traffic moving into or out of Phantom Technologies data center. Also, an ongoing subscription is required in order to use the device.

Using multiple wireless devices in hotels

Many early adopters are now accumulating multiple devices that can connect to the Internet. These can include a laptop (and possibly a second laptop for a spouse or other partner), wireless-capable PDA, voice-over-IP phone adapter or telephone, handheld gaming consoles, etc. When traveling, it is now advantageous to carry a router or even a wireless router.
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Public Wi-Fi Hotspots and VPNs

In recent Security Now podcast segments on VPNs, Steve Gibson reviewed the importance of using VPNs when accessing the Internet through public Wi-Fi hotspots or even Ethernet connections (as for example, those available at hotels). The problem with Wi-Fi is that it can be intercepted, while the problem with even an Ethernet connection is that other hotel guests can run software to capture information and even passwords which are sent in the clear by many programs, particularly POP3 email programs.
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