January 13, 2011, 5:58 PM — With a host of new exploits and apps lurking out there to grab your data the first time you hook up wirelessly, sometimes using enough power to crack your whole house, not just the laptop, and evil cookies that will follow you farther than your permanent record, permanent portable encryption begins to look like a good idea.
Not if it's a pain to use, or is as fat, slow and crash-prone as half the commercial VPN apps I've been stuck with in various corporate jobs.
When you're looking for VPNs for personal use, free is the best price.
Hotspot Shield is a pretty good option at that price, though it comes with toolbars and ads you have to decline or block with add-ons like NoScript.
The ads were annoying, and its performance was often slow enough that I went looking for paid alternatives.
HMA! Pro (which is short for HideMyA@@) is one of a series of privacy and security tools available from hidemyass.com/vpn (which wouldn't pass the porn filters on many corporate firewalls, btw unless, of course, it was encrypted.)
It works well, has a non-threatening interface that's easy to navigate, and encrypts your connection to your choice of HMA proxy servers in several countries.
It's billed as being able to work with any applications, which it appears to do.
On the 64-bit Windows 7 machine I tested it on, however, it sometimes got confused when the machine went to sleep, preventing it from waking up again, or allowing it to recover, but FUBARing the network so I had to restart anyway.
Connecting through a proxy server is useful to avoid being tracked by nuclear cookies, but changing proxy servers occasionally -- and automatically on a pre-set schedule -- is more useful yet.