Nov. 10, 2011 at 12:24 PM ET
If I had a buck for every time I've reminded someone to pay attention to how secure his or her Internet connection is, I'd be able to buy Apple, Google, and Microsoft — and have enough spare change for a cup of coffee.
In other words: The importance of securing your data can never be emphasized enough. Especially not when it happens to be International Fraud Awareness Week.
So let's talk about staying safe on one of the more popular mobile devices — the iPhone.
Just like your laptop, tablet, or other mobile device, the iPhone is incredibly vulnerable when you decide to use a public Wi-Fi network. Someone could hijack your Twitter or Facebook accounts, steal passwords, or even take a peek at your email and instant message conversations.
So what can you do to stay safe? You can create and maintain a secure Internet connection by using a virtual private network (VPN). And while that sounds like it'd be difficult to set up, it can actually be done with just a few taps and an app called Hotspot Shield VPN.
Hotspot Shield VPN comes from AnchorFree, a company known for its desktop VPN software, and it can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. The app itself is free, but the associated service will cost you $1/month or $10/year. (There's a free 7-day trial available if you want to give the app a shot before shelling out cash.)
Once installed, the app will run in the background and keep your Internet sessions safe. It will protect third-party apps, the iPhone's built-in Safari browser, and even encrypt your iMessage conversations.
It's worth pointing out that using a VPN service means you are trusting a third-party — such as AnchorFree — with all your data as everything passes through the secure tunnel created by the software. That's quite a leap of faith, but AnchorFree has a pretty solid history when it comes to keeping Internet browsing sessions private and secure. Its desktop software does occasionally include what some folks consider to be (optional) adware.
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