Hackers and crackers are everywhere, looking for easy marks. Believe me when I say they're just as likely to hang out at your favorite Starbucks as you are, Ms. Entrepreneur. They could be sitting with a latte and a laptop on the sofa right next to you. And don't look for Boris- and Natasha-style cartoon characters here. ("Fearless Leader say we steal computer access from moose and squirrel!") They are far more subtle than that.
So for an entrepreneur who considers Starbucks -- or any other coffee shop for that matter -- his home office, what options are available to ensure the privacy and security of his or her data when accessing the internet on a free Wi-Fi connection?
One of the best ways is to use a Virtual Private Network to connect to the net. Until very recently, VPN was the stuff of corporations and large businesses. Small businesses, startups and independent entrepreneurs avoided VPN because it's highly technical to set up and administer.
Today, anyone can access the internet from a PC or Mac using what I call a "consumer grade" VPN. But don't let "consumer grade" fool you -- this is the same exact thing large corporations use. Think of a VPN as a secure tunnel that you use to connect to the internet -- a tunnel that's impervious to a hacker or cracker's attempt to see what you're doing and gain access to your data.
One provider of affordable and turnkey VPN is Connect In Private, which offers a secure offshore backchannel for internet surfing, e-mails and more on computers and mobile devices. CIP protects you from identity theft and fraud by providing a fully encrypted network that is impenetrable to hackers.
For about $15 a month (based on an annual contract), CIP provides a secure line for accessing the internet from anywhere you choose. This week, the company began offering a one-week account for $10, which gives you a chance to test-drive the service.
If you're accessing the net via a free and unsecured Wi-Fi spot, and you're working on something critical to the success of your startup, $10-$15 is a small price to pay to guarantee your data is secure!
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