What’s the difference between VPNs and Proxies and which Option is more secure?

If you are overseas somewhere and want to access your Facebook page…don’t be surprised if you can’t do this. In fact, you won’t even be able to get onto the Facebook site (or YouTube, for that matter), depending on what country that you are visiting. This is because some countries limit website access for their citizens.

4WYou can get around this with a VPN (virtual private network) or proxy server. However, they are not one and the same. Let’s look at the features of each.


  • A VPN does the so-called scrambling or encryption of data so that hackers can’t tell what you are doing. To put this another way, a VPN provides a “tunnel” through which your data goes. This tunnel cannot be penetrated. Your transmissions are hidden, unable to be viewed.
  • This protected data includes e-mail communications, login information, instant messages, which sites you visit, downloads and more.
  • A VPN is private communication over a public network and can be used on all types of devices.
  • A VPN will alter your IP address, making it seem that you are using your computer somewhere other than the country that prohibits access to Facebook. You can navigate Facebook with ease while visiting that country.

Proxy Server

  • This makes the user anonymous. The proxy server does the job of anonymizing. The server of the site you want to visit receives requests from this anonymous server. As a result, even if you are in that country that bans Facebook access, it will have no idea where you are located. Hence, you can get on Facebook.
  • Your data, transmissions, etc., however, are not hidden by any tunnel or scrambled (encrypted).
  • Therefore, with the proxy server, even though you can spend hours on Facebook or YouTube in that foreign country…any transmissions or activities you conduct can be intercepted by a hacker if you are using public Wi-Fi.

Now if you have a VPN with the proxy server, this solves that problem. Nobody will be able to snoop or steal data like your credit card information when you shop online.

However, there is no point in having both, when one can do the entire job: the virtual private network. Think of a VPN as having a built-in proxy server.

Hotshot Shield is a VPN that encrypts all of your online activities in that non-penetrable tunnel, while at the same time making it impossible for your location to be identified. You are essentially anonymous. Hotshot Shield works for both wireless and wired connections.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

Strengthen Your Digital Defenses with the 5 Habits of Practically Unhackable People

At the start of the year, we all made our resolutions for 2015. Now it’s March—how are you doing on your resolutions? If you’ve already broken a few, no worries; New Year’s doesn’t have the monopoly on making goals to better yourself. This is especially true with digital safety. At a time when there are so many security breaches, it’s important to commit to strengthening your digital defenses year-round.

1DWhen making goals, it’s important to emulate people who have already mastered what you’re trying to learn. So in this case, what do super secure people do to stay safe online? Intel Security has the answer—here are the 5 habits of practically unhackable people:

  1. Think before they click. We click hundreds of times a day, but do we really pay attention to what we click on? According to the Cyber Security Intelligence Index, 95% of hacks in 2013 were the result of users clicking on a bad link. Avoid unnecessary digital drama, check the URL before you click and don’t click on links from people you don’t know.
  2. Use HTTPS where it matters. Make sure that sites use “https” rather than “http” if you’re entering any personal information on the site. What’s the difference? The extra “S” means that the site is encrypted to protect your information. This is critical when you are entering usernames and passwords or financial information.
  3. Manage passwords. Practically unhackable people use long, strong passwords that are a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Yet, unhackable people don’t always memorize their passwords; instead, they use a password manager. A password manager remembers your passwords and enters them for you. Convenient, right? Check out True Key™ by Intel Security, the password manager that uses biometrics to unlock your digital life. With True Key, you are the password.
  4. Use 2-factor authentication (2FA) all day, every day. When it comes to authentication, two is always better than one. 2FA adds another layer of security to your accounts to protect it from the bad guys so if you have the option to use 2FA, choose it. In fact Intel Security True Key uses multiple factors of authentication.
  5. Know when to VPN. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your information, which is especially important when using public Wi-Fi. Practically unhackable people know that they don’t always need a VPN, but know when to use one.

To learn more about the 5 habits of practically unhackable people, go here. Like what you see? Share the five habits on Twitter for a chance to win one of five prize packs including a $100 gift card to Cotopaxi or Hotels.com.*

You don’t need to wait for another New Year to resolve to become a digital safety rock star – start today!

*Sweepstakes is valid in the U.S. only and ends May 16, 2015. For more information see the terms and conditions at intel.com/5habits.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Safety Expert to Intel Security. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

10 Easy Ways to hide from spies

Who would have ever thought that that marvelous invention, the smartphone, as well as your tablet and PC, would give you cause for concern about hiding from spies? And when I say spies I mean anyone who has a vested interest in your information whether that is governments foreign or domestic or a spouse, employer, marketer or just some freaky weirdo.

11D Today’s technological conveniences also act as portals through which the spies can gain access to your personal information. As a security analyst, I’ve come up with the following:

Easy Ways You Can Hide Your Data from the spies

  1. Use a VPN (virtual private network) such as Hotspot Shield VPN when online. This way your data traffic is encrypted—and thus difficult to detect by spies or any hackers, whether you use a phone, computer or tablet. Data transmission may still occur due to ads, but the VPN will put a stifling effect on it.
  1. Use Tor. You can hide from mass and corporate surveillance with a Tor installation—which the National Security Agency does not like—because it works.
  1. While playing games put your mobile device into airplane mode (which suspends data transmission). You don’t need to be online to play all games. Being offline means your personal data can’t be transmitted.
  1. HTTPS! Install HTTPS Everywhere, a browser plugin for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. It’s free, though currently not available for smartphones. HTTPS means security on the visited web site.
  1. Post on social media only when you’re connected with your password-protected, secure workplace or home Wi-Fi. And in some cases you may need to post via computer, not your smartphone!
  1. Hard drive encryption. A person who uses your computer or mobile will not be able to copy its data if you have an encrypted hard drive. Local storage can be encrypted on the latest versions of Windows, Macs, iOS and Android.
  1. Turn off cellular data connections. Unless you absolutely must know every single e-mail that’s coming in when you’re out and about, switch off the cellular data. Check your e-mail only when you’re on a secure network.
  1. Turn off the GPS and Wi-Fi on your mobile device. GPS, Wi-Fi and geolocation can pinpoint your location fast. Keep them off unless you need them (lost in the wilderness?). To turn off geolocation, start with your apps that take photos, then do the rest. Then you won’t have to worry about government agents finding you.
  1. Dumb down. Your phone, that is. If you’re really concerned about privacy, ditch the smartphone and use a “dumb” phone also known as a “feature phone”. Though even a simple cellphone can be used as a tracking device, it makes it hard for anyone to get your location and data since you can’t get on social media or play online games with a dumb phone.
  1. Never open e-mails with a blank subject line. Though your spacey friend may neglect to type into the subject line, a blank subject field can also mean a virus waiting to make its move. If the sender is familiar, send them a newly created message asking if they just sent you something with a blank subject line.

So there you have it: 10 ways that pretty much work to keep hidden from the spies and all other snoops.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

How to Get Free and Secure Wireless Anywhere

Portable WiFi can be as little as 20 bucks a month, but for the 200 or so MB you get and the slow speed that comes with it, you’d be better off upgrading to the $50-$60 for carrier WiFi with unlimited data on the faster 3/4G network.

But why pay when you can get it for free? Well, if you don’t have the time to hunt for WiFi or just need it occasionally, then you may have to pay. Otherwise, if you are flexible and can get around easily enough, there are plenty of resources out there for free WiFi.

Resources for free WiFi:

  • Mobiles: If you’re out and about, ask anyone if he or she has a mobile phone that acts as a hotspot. PC Advisor calls this setup tethering or internet sharing, and many smartphones provide this feature, including iPhones, BlackBerrys, Windows Phones and Android handsets. PC Advisor also has a list of phones that can do the trick.
  • Retail shops: Local coffee shops; retail stores; malls; hospitals; chains like Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King and many others provide free WiFi—often without you having to buy anything.
  • CableWiFi: Bright House Networks, Cox Communications, Optimum, Time Warner Cable and XFINITY allow one another’s high-speed internet customers to access more than 150,000 WiFi hotspots. CableWiFi is the wireless network name created as an extension of the WiFi services offered by internet service providers listed here.

WiFi locators:

  • WiFinder (iOS/Android) enables your WiFi card to find secured and unsecured wireless connections wherever you are. WiFinder provides the ability to quickly search for open WiFi networks from your home screen.
  • WeFi (Android) claims to be the most popular WiFi connection manager on the market. With WeFi, you always get the best WiFi connection while keeping battery consumption to a minimum.
  • Free Zone is the app that helps you find free WiFi hotspots—and it really works, with more than 300,000 WiFi totally free hotspots.

But keep in mind that “free” generally means unencrypted, wide open and unsecured, so they’re susceptible to hackers using sniffing hardware and software to steal your information.

When you’re hopping on free WiFi, make sure to download and install Hotspot Shield VPN on your mobile, tablet or laptop to encrypt your wireless communications so evildoers can’t see your data or install a Trojan on your device.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning AmericaDisclosures.

How to Protect WiFi When Flying

When getting on a flight that’s three to five hours (or more), many business professionals wrestle in their heads whether to spend the $12.95 on airplane WiFi, take a nap or watch the movie—or, if their company is paying for it, they might do all three. But here’s the thing: If you are connecting to WiFi on a plane and have all these company secrets on your device and all this client data, do you really think it’s a good idea to connect?

What savvy business travelers aren’t savvy about is security—or, specifically, the lack thereof in airplane WiFi. When logging onto an airplane WiFi, there isn’t any encryption preventing other users from seeing yourdata. The majority of the security in airplane WiFi is built into the payment system to protect your credit card. Beyond that, you’re pretty much left to the dogs.

Another issue flyers face when booting up is that their WiFi card generally defaults to seeking out a known WiFi connection and then automatically connects, like when you are home and you automatically connect upon booting upbecause at one point in your settings you checked that option. But on a plane (or anywhere, really), an evil hacker can set up what’s called an “evil twin,” which is a rogue wireless network specifically set up by a bad guy to trick you into manually connecting or to trick your device into automatically connecting. Once you’re hooked, all of your information travels through his device and he captures every packet of wireless data.

Protect yourself.

#1 When WiFi is not in use, head over to your wireless network manager and right-click to disable your wireless network connection. Some laptops have a switch and others have a keyboard key.

#2 If you plan to connect to in-flight service, you need to protect your information with a VPN. Hotspot Shield VPN is a free proxy that protects your device’s data by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS. With Hotspot Shield, your device basically will be surfing through a protected tunnel throughout the in-flight service.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

To VPN or Not to VPN, That is the Question!

This question revolves around whether or not you want or need to head out into the wild, wild web wilderness exposed. By “exposed” I mean letting anyone within 300-500 feet of your device peek at the wireless data packets floating through the airand seeing all your raw data, or revealing who and where you are, what you like and don’t like, or revealing your IP address if you decide to comment on a blog or news article.

Most people feel they have nothing to hide or don’t think anyone’s really paying attention. But, in fact, we are all being stalked to a certain degree. Advertisers are watching so they can send you targeted ads; governments are watching to see if you are plotting to take them down or conducting illegal activities; your internet service provider is definitely monitoring your usage and wondering if you are downloading pirated movies, music and software; your employer may be similarly vigilant and criminals are trying to steal your identity or the identities of all your clients.

So, to VPN or not to VPN? I VPN specifically when I’m on my portable wireless devices. If I’m on my PC laptop, iPhone or iPad and I’m traveling on business, I know I’m going to be connecting to various free public WiFi clients at the airport and in my hotel. Before I connect to any WiFi, I launch Hotspot Shield VPN. It’s a free VPN, but I prefer the paid version; the expanded paid option is a little quicker and offers a cleaner interface. Either way, it’s agreat option that will protect your entire web surfing session, securing your connections on all your devices.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was StolenSee him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

5 Steps to Securing Portable Devices

If it’s portable, it is subject to being lost or stolen—and the data contained can be accessed or the applications running may have access to additional information, resulting in your data being compromised. The good news is, you don’t need to be an IT professional to put systems in place, download security programs or create certain habits to protect your device and, inturn, protect your information.

#1 Encryption. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that eavesdroppers or hackers cannot read it, but that authorized parties can. Installing encryption can be as easy as downloading an app or requiring your employer’s IT department to install an enterprise-grade program for its fleet of devices.

#2 Lock it down. If your device is lost or stolen and it doesn’t have a password on it, then all your data and apps are accessible. Most people lock their car doors after they park and secure their front and back doors when they leave the house,but relatively few protect their devices with a password or store sensitive data in a secure locker app like Keeper. This is not complicated.

#3 Install lost/locate/wipe software. Some devices come equipped with this feature; others require a download. Activate this software so the location of the device is turned on and you can find it—and if you can’t, you can lock it and also wipe all the data from it.

#4 Destroy it. This might be a little after the fact, but if you upgrade to a newer device and are left with the old one, you could donate it, give it away or sell it…but I recommend destroying it. I mean, get a hammer and kill it to death. Murder it, because on some devices, even if you wipe them (I’m talking specifically to you, Android), much of the data is left behind.

#5 Use a VPN. Use a secure virtual private network (VPN) such as the free Hotspot Shield VPN proxy that protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

How Protected is My Tablet on WiFi?

To understand how protected you are, you need to understand how unprotected free public wireless is. This has nothing to do with how secure Apple devices are compared to Android.  By default, free public wireless is open and unencrypted, and the data that travels over it from each device to the router is naked for all the world to see. This is true regardless of what anti-virus (AV) software you do or don’t have on your tablet.

Sometimes, when you log onto free public WiFi, whether at a hotel, airport or coffee shop, you may first have to read a Terms and Conditions (TC) statement and click “I Agree” before you logon and connect. If you actually read the TC, you’d realize the organization providing you the free wireless is telling you point blank that its wireless is unsecure, your data is visible to the world and it is not responsible for your data being stolen.

On the other hand, if you are connecting to WiFi that employs WPA or WPA2 encryption, then your data is pretty tight…but it’s never 100 percent secure. For added security on WPA, add a private network (VPN) such as Hotspot Shield VPN. Nobody, including your mother, can hack your wireless on a VPN.

So check out Hotspot Shield VPN, a wireless VPN that has been downloaded more than 120 million times on tablets, PCs, Macs, iOS and Android platforms. The new version of the popular application includes:

  • Privacy protection for anonymous web communication, browsing and sharing online at dorms, cafes and offices.
  • Twenty percent greater mobile data savings capabilities, saving users up to $30 per month in mobile data fees.
  • The ability to access US and UK TV shows and other services online by switching IP addresses—a must-have when traveling abroad.
  • A new user interface that makes it easier than ever to view bandwidth savings and manage features.

Are you a student? Learn about the Hotspot Shield College Privacy Challenge and get their premium product for free at http://college.hotspotshield.com.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.


5 Ways to Browse the Web Privately

You’ve probably never even thought that “browsing the web privately” was something that you needed to take extra steps to do. Most people think all web surfing is relatively private and nobody is really paying any attention. Unfortunately, there are many people, particularly in the form of marketers and advertisers, who watch almost every website you visit and record almost every click. Then there is your government. It may or may not be happening in your country, but many oppressive governments watch every move their citizens make.

But browsing privately may mean a few different things. Are cookies being installed on the device? Is the user’s IP address visible? Can someone see the data you are transmitting? Fortunately, there are a bunch of things you can do to reduce the potential for Big Brother surveillance to happen on your PC.

#1 Use your browser’s “anonymous” or “incognito” tab. Chrome definitely offers a private browsing option that leaves no cookies or cache behind. This is generally used when a PC is shared amongst many people and a user doesn’t want others peeking at his or her history.

#2 Remove cookies. Each browser has its own setting for removing cookies. For example, in Internet Explorer, hit Ctrl-Shift-Delete and a dialog box will pop up that will allow you to delete whatever you want in your history. More browsers are listed here.

#3 Install a free tool called CCleaner. CCleaner cleans your Windows PC of all the stuff that you don’t want on there. Added bonus: It makes your computer faster, too.

#4 Checkout PrivacyChoice, which is also free. PrivacyChoice is a browser extension that instantly checks your privacy settings across websites and companies collecting your data.

#5 Use free Hotspot Shield VPN. Out of all the above options, Hotspot Shield VPN provides the most privacy by proactively protecting your IP address by assigning an IP address of its own. Used in combination with an incognito or anonymous browser, Hotspot Shield VPN will make you pretty close to invisible on the internet.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

How Can I Ensure My Social Network Interactions are Secure on Wireless?

Privacy on social networks seems a little oxymoronic to me. We tell the world about our lives, but we don’t want everyone to knoweverything. I know many people who only want some people to share in their experiences, but those same people often friend people they don’t know. See what I mean? Anyway, it is still a good idea to lock down all your privacy settings and avoid friending people you don’t really know.

But what about security?

When using WiFi, the information that travels from your device to the wireless router can be seen/read (or “sniffed”) if a hacker has the right tools. Keep in mind that not all hackers are criminals; some are what are called “penetration testers” who use software specifically designed for seeking out vulnerabilities in wireless networks or in websites themselves. The problem here is some of the tools penetration testers use can also be accessed by criminals, making your information vulnerable to a bad guy.

Back in 2010, a (non-malicious) “white hat” hacker created a tool called Firesheep. Firesheep is an extension for the Firefox web browser that uses a packet sniffer to intercept unencrypted cookies from websites such as Facebook and Twitter. As cookies are transmitted over networks, packet sniffing is used to discover identities on a sidebar displayed in the browser, allowing the user to instantly take on the login credentials of the unsuspecting Firefox user by double-clicking on the victim’s name.

Since then, social media sites have done a much better job of securing their sites with SSL, which is short for Secure Sockets Layer, a security protocol that provides communication security over the internet. However, many sites that exchange personal or private information still use HTTP without the SSL, and numerous tools for auditing (hacking) WiFi or wired Ethernet connections exist.

To protect yourself, do the following:

  • When sharing data, always login via sites that encrypt user data using SSL, which is designated in the address bar as HTTPS.
  • Use a secure virtual private network (VPN).Hotspot Shield VPN free proxy protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen  See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.