Thursday, September 13, 2007

Personal VPN Protection for WiFi Hotspots

Now that I'm spending a lot of time on open WiFi networks so I decided to spring for a personal VPN. The crew at WiTopia has been providing this service for a few years. Why do you need this? If you're using a WiFi hotspot at the airport or the coffee shop, all those network packets are out there for anyone to snoop. (Sure the ones to your bank are encrypted with SSL, but whose to say the SSL connection is really going to your bank...)

Last week I was chatting with my wife who was having problems with our home computer. Before I thought better of it, I had IM'd her the password for our home computer. I actually woke up in the middle of the night when I realized what I had done. Anyone snooping packets at the cafe could have used the password to log onto our computer and snoop around. I got up in the middle of the night and changed the password (and checked to make sure there were no strange logins to the computer earlier that day.)

The folks at Witopia offer the service for only $39.95 per year. If you work for a big company, you probably already have a company VPN and don't need a personal one. (Unless you don't want the mother ship snooping in on your traffic either.)

Another benefit of using this service is that your traffic is tunneled to the US before going out into the internet at large. This means that if you're in a country that blocks certain sites or services, you can get around those restrictions. I recently met a pilot who travels to Dubai where Skype is blocked. He uses Witopia so he can call his wife back home while on lay overs in Dubai. Very cool.

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