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Safe Hotspotting With For-Hire VPNs

When I travel, I'm a one-man show without an IT organization behind me to support my connectivity. That's particularly frightening at Wi-Fi hotspots, where enterprise users can be secure using their company's virtual private network (VPN).

One solution for the rest of us is to use service-by-service encryption, such as using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for retrieving e-mail messages, but VPNs are better because capture and encrypt all incoming and outgoing data. Combined with a firewall and an anti-virus program, a VPN-equipped laptop can be virtually impregnable.

Fortunately, while VPNs have previously been the domain of enterprises, publicly available VPNs that you can use for a reasonably low monthly fee are now available for individual travelers. Two in particular, HotSpotVPN and WiTopia's personal VPN provide different approaches, but both deliver strong security.

The Two Contenders was founded a few years ago to offer a VPN-for-hire for mobile people who don't have enterprise VPN and IT support. Priced at $8.88 per month or a prepaid year at $88.80, the PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) service works with any operating system that has a PPTP client built in or on which one will run. Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.2 and later both have built-in support for this standard.

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