While the world may have enough products with exclamation points in their titles, it could use some more safe public WiFi, and so Avast has introduced the avast! SecureLine VPN. Now available as a mobile app for Android and iOS, SecureLine purports to put some security and privacy between devices and the public networks that mobile users too often connect to with little more than crossed fingers.
Nearly 50 percent of all smartphone users connect to an open WiFi signal, such as at a café or airport, once a month, according to an Avast-commissioned study. Forty percent said they do so weekly or daily.
"Hackers target public hotspots, where it is easy to follow every move that users of the WiFi connection make, allowing them to access emails, passwords, documents and browsing behavior," Avast Software CEO Vincent Steckler said in a Jan. 28 statement.
"Open WiFi is not going away—we just need to make sure there's a more secure way to connect."
After the avast! SecureLine VPN is downloaded to a smartphone or tablet, users are notified of possible risks when connecting to an unsecure WiFi hotspot and presented with the option of connecting to Avast's virtual private network. A user can also set up the VPN to automatically connect when a device connects to open WiFi. Once the VPN is activated, says Avast, "all of the user's activities done over the Internet are anonymized and protected from hackers."
The app also allows a user to choose the virtual location she's connecting from.
The avast! SecureLine VPN app is available (in the App Store and Google Play) as a monthly subscription for $2.59 or as an annual subscription for $19.99 a year for Android devices and $29.99 a year for iOS.
Public WiFi Hotspots
Google, whose businesses depend on people hopping online, continues to make free, public WiFi easier to find. Last summer, it announced the rollout of free WiFi in 7,000 Starbucks locations (along with the promise that the signals would be 10 times faster than the AT&T connections they were replacing).
Google also gave the city of San Francisco a $600,000 grant last year to make WiFi available in 31 parks and open spaces, and has made the neighborly gesture of covering a swath of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, where it has its New York headquarters, with free WiFi.
Google has advised that when using WiFi at home users put a password on their router, and that when they're using WiFi in public, such as at a café, they pay attention to the connection. If the Web address begins with https:// the connection to the Website is encrypted. Some browsers also include a padlock icon in the address bar, to more clearly indicate that the connection is encrypted.
And of course, when not using a VPN, be smart about the type of sites you access on public WiFi.
"The service provider can monitor all traffic on their network, which could include your personal information," says Google.