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6/30/2010
06:21 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
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Have A Secure Summer Vacation

With summer now here officially, many of you are most likely planning vacations, and you probably want to be able to connect to the Internet during your vacation. But how do you do this securely?

With summer now here officially, many of you are most likely planning vacations, and you probably want to be able to connect to the Internet during your vacation. But how do you do this securely?When you are traveling on business, the answer is typically simple, if you are connecting through a hotel connection or public WiFi hotspot, you use the company VPN to provide added security to your connection.

But what about personal travel? Sometimes it isn't allowed to use a company VPN for personal use. And for many reasons you may not want to do that anyways. Also, not every company has a VPN, and if you work for yourself you most likely don't have one either.

So what to do to remain secure? The easiest solution is to use HTTPS enabled sites as much as possible. But not all sites have HTTPS or they only use it for logins and not subsequent traffic. Also, if the WiFi hotspot has been fully compromised by bad guys, there's always the possibility of man in the middle attacks.

Also, this only protects web connections, not other internet traffic that you may need to use. For these, the best option is a VPN. But how does an individual get access to a VPN?

There are several free public VPN options, such as AnchorFree Hotspot Shield. These are free to use and easy to setup, but they do insert banner ads at the top of web pages you are surfing while using the VPN, which depending on your outlook might be fine or very creepy. There are also commercial personal VPN products such as WiTopia, which are advertisement free but involve subscription fees.

Another option is to set-up a VPN solution in your home network. This can be as simple as using a free product such as or by configuring a home system to operate as a VPN. Whether you are running Mac OSX, Windows, or Linux, it is possible to easily create a VPN server.

However, in some cases this means that you will have to leave that system running while on vacation, no matter how long your summer vacation is. For many people, this may not be an acceptable option.

Another potential solution is in your home router. Many home wireless router vendors offer versions of their devices that include built-in VPNs. And if you have a router that can be upgraded with an open source Linux firmware, you may be able to add VPN capability even if your router didn't come with it.

I personally like the router solution, as it allows me to avoid third parties and have a home based VPN without the need to leave a system running in the summer heat. But many people will prefer one of the other solutions.

No matter what your choice is, you should seriously consider adding some layer of VPN security when using public networks at hotels and WiFi hotspots.

Because as easy as it is to secure a connection, it is much easier to sniff unsecured connections on a public network and pull all of the information off of them.

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