While using a VPN could be optional in some other situations, turning it on while connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot is a must. These places are notorious for their lack of security and it’s not all related to the network operators.
Simply put, while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you may be connecting to the Internet alongside a tech-savvy hacker who could be able to intercept your traffic and potentially get ahold of your personal information. This could further lead to the mayhem which you’ll (obviously) want to avoid.
With a VPN, all your communication is encrypted, making it impossible for anyone to do anything with your data even if he/she manages to intercept it. In other words, when using public Wi-Fi – your VPN acts as a security tool (in addition to protecting your privacy).
What you should want is to have all your devices running a VPN, not just your computer. This would also include a phone and a tablet — and here are your best options:
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
What are the man-in-the-middle attacks?
A man-in-the-middle — also known as monster-in-the-middle, machine-in-the-middle, monkey-in-the-middle (MITM), or person-in-the-middle (PITM) — attack is a cyberattack in which the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communications between two parties who believe that they are directly communicating with each other.
An example of a MITM attack is active eavesdropping, in which the attacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messages between them to make them believe they are talking directly to each other over a private connection. In reality, however, the entire conversation is controlled by the attacker.
In order to perform a MITM attack, the hacker must be able to intercept all relevant messages passing between the two victims and inject new ones. In many circumstances, this is straightforward, especially when the attacker is using the same Wi-Fi hotspot as one of its victims.
Most cryptographic protocols include some form of endpoint authentication specifically to prevent MITM attacks. For example, TLS can authenticate one or both parties using a mutually trusted certificate authority.
Notable MITM instances
In 2011, a security breach of the Dutch certificate authority DigiNotar resulted in the fraudulent issuing of certificates. Subsequently, the fraudulent certificates were used to perform MITM attacks.
Two years later, Nokia’s Xpress Browser was revealed to be decrypting HTTPS traffic on Nokia’s proxy servers, giving the company access to its customers’ encrypted browser traffic. At the time, Nokia said that the content was not stored permanently and that the company had organizational and technical measures to prevent access to private information.
In 2017, Equifax withdrew its mobile phone apps following concerns about MITM vulnerabilities.
Also, in 2003, Belkin used MITM techniques to promote its products, periodically redirecting users to ads for other Belkin products. After an outcry from technically literate users, this “feature” was removed from later versions of the router’s firmware.
You need a VPN for public Wi-Fi
And, as you’ve figured it out, the most important reason is to protect you against the man-in-the-middle attacks. This way, you’ll know that your connection is secure with no hacker being able to snoop into it.
But that’s not the only reason why you — all of us — need a VPN, cause it has much more to offer. For instance, a good VPN will have your back for:
- Accessing content that could otherwise be restricted in your physical location.
- Preventing tracking and minimizing your digital footprint so that no one can track you online (at least not that easily).
- Avoiding throttling from your ISP – which is known to happen when you’re torrenting or accessing video streaming services.
- Bypassing firewalls in a workplace, university, school and so on.
- Bypassing censorship in places like China, North Korea, countries in the Middle East, and even Turkey and Russia.
- Securely connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots – with a VPN encrypting all the traffic coming to and from your devices.
The bottom line is – get a VPN that fits all your needs. The top contenders include the following: