Get All Access for $5/mo

You're Probably Being Tracked Online Right Now. Here's How to Protect Yourself. For a limited time, you can save hundreds of dollars on a VPN Unlimited subscription.

By Entrepreneur Store Edited by Jason Fell

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you'll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Rawpixel

Starbucks added a then-groundbreaking item to its menu in 2010: free Wi-Fi access via AT&T. Stephen Gillett, the coffee giant's chief information officer at the time, told The New York Times that the network was meant to serve as a "very versatile tool for people who are using Starbucks for what we call the third place, between home and work."

That "third place" can now be found beyond the exposed brick walls of your local café. It's in the hotel where you stayed at your last business trip, on a bench at the grassy park near your apartment, and at the McDonald's where you stopped to get a McMuffin this morning on your way to work. It's public Wi-Fi access, and it's virtually ubiquitous.

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network will rarely cost you money, but you do pay a price for its convenience in the form of privacy loss. You see, "T-Mobile and AT&T—the largest providers of Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, bookstores, and airports—don't require encryption of data traveling wirelessly between laptops and the Internet," ABC News reported. "Neither do hotels and municipalities with free Wi-Fi hookups in public areas."

Essentially, you put yourself and your data—pictures, emails, bank account passwords, what have you—at risk to hackers every time you connect to a public Wi-Fi network. And that's on top of the data lurking that your internet service provider (ISP) may already be doing.

Fortunately, the remedy to this digital threat is simple: sign up for a virtual private network (VPN), a service that lets you create a safe, secure network using a public internet connection. A VPN encrypts all of your traffic while concealing your IP address so that your online activity is completely private and protected, hidden even from your ISP, as The VPN Guru points out.

Although a VPN has a few minor downsides—they're not free, for one, and they'll slow down your connection speed by just a bit, per Lifewire—there are several compelling reasons to invest in such a service.

You can use public Wi-Fi in confidence.

As previously mentioned, Wi-Fi networks at hotels, restaurants, and other public places are vulnerable to interception—not just because the traffic isn't encrypted, but because a network isn't always as it seems. Max Eddy of PC Mag puts it well: "Just because it's called Starbucks, Wi-Fi doesn't mean it's really owned by a well-known coffee purveyor."

If you're someone who travels frequently or works on the go, you'd be smart to lock down your online activity and identity by encrypting your traffic.

You can download and upload P2P files in privacy.

The MPAA, among other authorities, has been known to monitor ISP connections in order to catch users sharing movies, music, and other files. P2P users can also be traced through their IP addresses, which are added to torrent swarms when files are downloaded through P2P software.

Do you engage in the occasional P2P sharing? Do you want to avoid a copyright lawsuit? Get a VPN.

You can watch home-specific broadcasts while you're traveling.

Want to watch Hulu at your Airbnb in Madrid? Sorry, it's not available to viewers outside of the U.S. even if you have a subscription back home. If you have a VPN, however, you can easily bypass the geographical restrictions of your favorite streaming services—and even access local sporting events and news broadcasts—while you're abroad.

Sold on the idea of a VPN service? You're in luck: For just a few days, Entrepreneur readers can get a lifetime subscription to KeepSolid's award-winning VPN Unlimited service at a savings of more than $450. Deemed PC Mag's Top VPN of 2017, VPN Unlimited has full bandwidth capacity at all times and can be used on up to five devices per account. Plus, it features special services for torrenting and provides connection protocols for any situation. With more than 400 servers in over 70 locations and 24/7 customer support, it's the gold standard in online data protection.

Click here to purchase a lifetime subscription to VPN Unlimited for just $39.99—92 percent off the original price of $499.99.

Entrepreneur Store

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Entrepreneur Store

Your one-stop shop for the latest technology, online courses and productivity tools to help your business and personal growth. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Growing a Business

How a Local Greek Restaurant Seized Opportunities and Won a New Food Network Competition

After starting as a food truck in 2014, Think Greek has evolved into an award-winning restaurant by creating innovative menu items and taking advantage of opportunities that extend its audience reach.

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Growing a Business

3 Branding Strategies That Will Make Any Brand Stand Out

Here's how to differentiate your brand in three essential steps — understanding your unique selling proposition, leveraging storytelling, and valuing feedback.

Leadership

How to Spot the Perfect Executive for Your Company

Hiring senior talent to run a team is a crucial moment in the story and trajectory of a company. Whether you need to hire senior talent now or are looking to gather insights for the future, it's important to be prepared for a gap in a crucial leadership position.

Science & Technology

There's No Margin for Error in Cybersecurity — Here's How to Build a Strong Online Defense through Everyday Habits

Learn how everyday habits and practices can enhance your organization's security posture.