There is no shortage of WiFi hacks horror stories, but free hotspots are just too convenient to ignore, so most people, including me, often connect at random places without worrying too much about the potential hacks that can happen. That’s exactly what Private WiFi was designed for: provide easy security against folks trying to snoop in WiFi traffic to gather passwords, cookies and other key information that may leads to a hacked accounts.
But first, it is important to have some understanding of the common risks involved with a 3rd party WiFi hotspot. The basic idea for most of them is that someone may intercept your web traffic by either creating a “rogue” WiFi access point which records the data packets for later analysis, or by intercepting traffic of a legitimate WiFi access point. With FTP passwords and browser cookies sent in clear over the network, there is ample room for bad things to happen.
Private WiFi solves this by using a solution that Enterprises have been using for a long time: a virtual private network (VPN). Their technology is based on a modified OpenVPN, which has been altered mainly to make it easy for users to connect. Basically, just install and log into your account.
VPNs work on a simple principle: the web traffic is encrypted on the source (your laptop), goes to the router (legit or rogue), then goes to a Private WiFi server which decrypts it, and sends it to the final destination (whatever site, you’re browsing). Because the encryption persists from your laptop to the Private WiFi server (which is considered secure here), an interception of the web traffic wouldn’t matter much. This is typically not the only reason for using a VPN, but in this case, that’s the important feature.
Private WiFi beta 3.2 has four statuses: Red (not activated), Yellow (starting up), Green (activated), Blue (not required because your connection is already secure, in v3.3 only). In conclusion, Private WiFi is built on top of a proven technology, which has been adapted “for the rest of us” as setting up a VPN is something that most people won’t bother with. It works on a $9.95/mo subscription and many users will find it convenient that the newer version of the app allows you to choose an public IP address from a specific country – handy if you want to watch Netflix from a foreign country… especially if you take into account that there is no bandwidth cap.