In an age where many of us now routinely hop from one Wi-Fi or cellular network to another to stay online, any thoughts of smartphone or tablet security can never be complete without considering protection of these connections amongst the streams of airborne data around us. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible for hackers or thieves with the right technical knowledge to “sniff” (intercept) data packets from wireless internet activities and gain access to personal or other details entered on a website.
When interacting with some websites such as online banking you may already get a layer of protection from an HTTPS connection, which forms an encrypted pipeline between a device and a given site. But this only encrypts the connection between a device and the individual sites which support its features. Ideally, we want to protect all of the data winging its way in and out of the digital ether.
Enter the Virtual Private Network (VPN). Once typically the preserve of businessmen looking to remotely access their corporate networks securely, personal VPN functionality is now both readily available and relevant to just about anyone who frequently uses their smartphone to access the internet.
When using a personal VPN all of the data sent from a computer or portable device is encrypted and passed over the Internet to a server run by the VPN provider. This VPN server then unencrypts the data it receives from the device (e.g. an online store URL entered into a web browser) and performs the plaintext action on behalf of it. In this example, responses from the online store are then sent back to the VPN server where they are encrypted before being sent back to the device.
In short, using a VPN service with a smartphone means that the web data sent to and from it is secured and virtually useless to anyone sitting nearby intercepting traffic and trying to access data they shouldn’t be.
Of course, not all VPNs are created equal and when choosing a service provider there are a variety of factors to consider including compatibility, the strength of the data encryption, the extent to which it using it slows your Internet connection, ease of use and as ever, cost.
SurfEasy VPN is an impressive service that ticks all of these boxes favorably, offering an easy to use app interface which allows connection to a variety of VPN servers around the world. In terms of the actual security provided, device data is cocooned in a strong 256-bit AES encryption package when used with iOS, and the respectable OpenVPN 128-bit Blowfish protocol with Android and Windows devices. Best of all, usage is free for the first 500Mb of data usage each month, making it ideal for lighter internet users.