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If you regularly browse the internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those in coffee shops, bars, airports, libraries or on public transport, then you must take action to protect your data from the snooping of others. Wi-Fi hotspots are an absolute boon for cybercriminals who want to snoop on the data of others. This is because all sorts of different people are connecting to a network where they do not have control of the security protocols which are in place. Even reputable companies, such as major coffee shop chains, have been subject to attacks in the past, that have resulted in their customers’ data being stolen when using public Wi-Fi.
Even if you’re not worried about the risk of cybersecurity, (and you probably should be), you also have to keep in mind that many providers of public Wi-Fi services monitor the internet browsing activities of their customers, to build up a profile of them that can be sold to advertisers. There are all sorts of reasons why you may object to this. However, agreeing to this type of tracking and monitoring is often a requirement if you want to use the public Wi-Fi hotspots.
One of the best ways around this problem is to protect your data with a VPN connection. This means that all of the information which goes between you and the wider internet passes through the secure server of a VPN provider. Simply put, this means that all of the data that flows to and from your computer is protected, and can’t accidentally fall into the hands of cybercriminals or advertisers.
VPNs were once tricky to set up and maintain and required a lot of computer knowledge. This is no longer the case. All of the VPNs which we are going to look at on this page, offer easy to set up apps that make it straightforward to use and manage the connection. Getting connected is a simple matter of signing up for an account, selecting the server that you would like to send your traffic through, and getting on with your browsing as before.
Aside from the security protections offered by a VPN, there are several other advantages which can come in very handy whether you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot or not. The biggest of these is your ability to send your traffic through another country. This means that your connection will appear as though it originates in that country, and you’ll have access to all manner of servers that are typically geoblocked and unavailable to users who are not physically located there. This is great if you want to use one of the major streaming platforms such as the BBC iPlayer or Hulu which are not available in some locations, or you use a service such as Netflix which offers substantially different catalogues in some countries, such as the United States.
If you’re worried about avoiding the logging of a public Wi-Fi provider, only to find that your VPN company is now keeping similar information about your private browsing habits, then put your mind at rest. All of the VPN companies which we cover in this guide operate a strict ‘no-logs’ policy.
Since it’s the primary concern of people who use public Wi-Fi hotspots regularly, the first thing which we have looked at when deciding which VPN services to put on this page is security protocols. All of the VPNs here offer high-grade 256-bit security that is incredibly difficult to crack, and we’ve also highlighted those that offer other features, such as IP address scrambling and kill switches.
We’ve also looked at the number of servers offered by the VPN company, and the geographic distribution of the servers. There are some VPN companies which provide a large number of servers which, on closer inspection, turn out to be mostly clustered in a particular country. Since most users are looking for as wide a selection of countries as possible, we’ve looked at the location of the servers, as well as the raw number that is on offer.
Finally, we’ve considered the price of the VPN, since this will obviously be a key consideration for most users. As well as looking at the cost of a month-to-month subscription, we’ve highlighted any significant discounts which are available for users who sign up for a long subscription period in advance, since this is an excellent way of saving money on your VPN account. We’ll also let you know how you can pay for the service, and whether or not it is possible to use a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin to protect your information, and avoid the need to share your personal financial details.
This is one of the best all-rounder VPNs out there on the market. While there are some more specialised VPN companies which do a better job in particular areas, there are few services that wrap all of the components that most users are looking for into an easy to use and affordable package as NordVPN does.
The first area where NordVPN excels is in its ease of use. If you’re looking to protect a desktop or laptop system with a VPN, then there are simple to use apps for Windows, macOS and Linux which can take care of the setup process for you, and save you the pain of manually configuring your network connection. On mobile devices, the same sort of apps are available for iOS and Android devices, meaning that your phone can be protected as well. NordVPN allows up to six devices to be connected at any one time via the same account. This means that it is possible to protect your laptop, phone and tablet without having to pay for multiple subscriptions.
Security is the main reason that you’d want to use a VPN on a public hotspot and NordVPN has you covered here. As well as IP address masking and the 256-bit security encryption which you would expect, NordVPN also offers a ‘kill switch’ in its software for extra protection. This works by monitoring your connection to ensure that all of your traffic is being sent through one of NordVPN’s servers at all times. If the software detects that there has been a glitch in your connection that has disconnected you from the VPN server, it will stop internet traffic from being sent to and from your computer until the connection has been successfully re-established. This is great if you’re worried about the risk of some of your data being intercepted. You can also set the NordVPN software to automatically open and establish a VPN connection whenever you power up your computer if you’re worried about the risk of forgetting to set up the VPN connection when you are out and about. The service will also warn you if you’re using an unprotected Wi-Fi connection that would benefit from extra protection.
The range of servers offered by NordVPN is also substantial. Almost 90 countries are covered, and there are thousands of servers around the world to handle the demand. This means that you won’t have any problem using a plethora of streaming services from around the world including HBO Go in the United States, All 4 in the UK and Hotstar in India. New servers are regularly added, so if there’s a country you are interested in which is not covered at the moment, there is every chance that it will be in the future.
Customer support for NordVPN is provided via a live chat facility on its website. This is available 24-hours a day, and most queries are answered quickly. However, all support must be requested online. NordVPN customers do not have the option of receiving support over the phone.
Pricing for NordVPN monthly is reasonable, but not fantastic. The standard price is $11.95 per month. Things get far more impressive if you can commit to a more extended amount of service upfront. If you pay for three years of service when you join, you will save 75% compared to the price of paying month-to-month. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee available if you would like to evaluate the service before committing to several years of subscription. Just contact the support team via the aforementioned live chat facility if you would like to request a refund. Subscriptions can be paid for by credit or debit card but, unfortunately, customers do not have the option of paying via a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. This means that, even though NordVPN does not keep any logs of its customers’ activity, your bank will be aware that you have paid for the service.
This is a VPN service which has evolved significantly over the years. While it started out as a platform for technically-minded users who wanted to protect their security when they were using public Wi-Fi hotspots, and other connections that often have security and privacy issues, it has evolved into a popular VPN platform with easy to use software for less technically-minded users The branding is still somewhat geared towards its former incarnation though, so try not to let that put you off!
Security on the CyberGhost platform is robust. The company owns all of the servers which its connections are sent through. This means that it has a slightly smaller selection of servers compared to some of the larger VPN companies that we have mentioned on this page, but it also means that it is entirely in control of everything that goes on when people are using these servers. This is an extra layer of security and peace of mind. It also offers software with kill switches, IP address masking and all of the other privacy protections that you would expect from a security-conscious VPN provider. The company also operates a strict ‘no-logs’ policy which should serve as an extra reassurance for anyone worried about details of their internet browsing history falling into the wrong hands. This policy means that the company does not keep any information about the servers that users log on to, or the websites that they visit when they are connected. In the improbable event that a government or other legal entity was able to obtain a court order that compelled CyberGhost to hand over a user’s internet browsing history, the company would be unable to comply, as it simply does not have that information.
Setting up your connection on CyberGhost is easy, with software available for all of the major desktop and mobile phone operating systems. If you’re using the service at home, you also have the option of installing software on your router which ensures it connects directly to the CyberGhost VPN, and that all of the traffic that is sent to and from your network is fully protected. This is a reasonably advanced step though; while there are full instructions available on the CyberGhost website, you do run the risk of damaging your router if the process goes wrong, so make sure that you fully understand what you are doing before you get started.
Pricing for CyberGhost is the standard $11.95 a month and discounts are available if you commit to a long period of service in advance. Privacy fanatics will be pleased to know that they do have the option of paying for the service using Bitcoin, meaning that no paper trail with a bank or other financial institution will be created.
This is the VPN service which offers the largest selection of servers around the world. This does, however, mean that it has carved out space as one of the more expensive VPN companies and that it does not offer the aggressive discounts that some of its rivals do, to win new customers. If being able to access the internet through almost any country is important to you, though, this may be a VPN option that’s worth considering.
ExpressVPN has servers located in over 90 countries worldwide. They can either be accessed via the desktop or mobile apps which the company provides, (which will be the option you want to choose if you need to protect yourself when you’re using a public Wi-Fi hotspot), or by flashing your router and installing the ExpressVPN software.
Just because the volume of servers available is the main selling point of ExpressVPN doesn’t mean that they don’t take security seriously. If you connect to the service via one of its software applications, you will benefit from the kill switch tech, which we’ve mentioned in previous reviews. You will also have a constantly encrypted connection that cannot be broken into by outsiders. If you’re worried about the risk of your internet browsing activity being logged and potentially leaked or stolen at a future date, then don’t be! ExpressVPN operates a strict ‘no-logs’ policy which means that none of this information is collected or stored by the company. It doesn’t even keep records of the servers that you connect to or how long you stay connected.
Pricing for ExpressVPN is the one area where it falls down when compared to its competitors. The standard lead-in price is $12.95 per month. This is reasonable when you consider all of the services which are included, but does put it a notch above the other services that we have reviewed on this page. Discounts are available to customers who commit to long periods of service in advance, but these are not as substantial as those offered by some of the other VPNs that we have looked at. You also don’t have the option of paying for the service using a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin if you are nervous about your banking details being shared. However, do keep in mind that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, a financial centre with an excellent reputation for keeping information secure, so this may be less of a worry than you thought.
Hopefully, now that you know how easy it is to protect your computer, and the information that is stored on it, and sent to and from it when you are using a public Wi-Fi connection, you will browse securely from now on. Taking to the internet from a public Wi-Fi hotspot without the protection of a reputable VPN service is a considerable risk, especially if you are using your laptop for business purposes, and it contains sensitive business or client information. Not protecting this information is hugely irresponsible, and if you are regularly on the move and use Wi-Fi services in coffee shops, airports and on public transport, then finding and using a reliable VPN service is absolutely essential.
Remember that most of the services we have mentioned offer either a free trial or a money-back guarantee. If you are not yet fully convinced of the benefits which come from using a VPN, then take advantage of one of these offers to try one out. We’re sure that it will change the way you use the internet.