Hotspot Shield review

I was surprised during a recent trip to China to discover that many of the stories about TV and Internet censorship really are true. Even worse – I also found that I couldn’t use the wifi in my hotel to watch Doctor Who on the BBC iPlayer.

Hotspot Shield is a privacy tool that can help you get around problems like that when you’re travelling. If you’re using a wifi connection in a hotel or conference centre then the IP (Internet Protocol) address that is assigned to your computer on that network reveals your location to any web site that you may want to visit. That allows web sites such as the BBC iPlayer to block access to users outside the UK and, of course, also allows less tolerant governments to effectively censor web sites that they don’t approve of.

Hotspot Shield provides ‘anonymous browsing’ by hiding your IP address and assigning an alternative address that doesn’t reveal your location. The program also allows you to create a VPN – virtual private network – that encrypts the data you send across the network. That’ll be handy for business users who travel a lot and have to use public networks in places like hotels, coffee shops and airports.

The basic version of the program is free to download – and supported by ads – so you can download it and try it out on a trip just to see how it works. If you decide to use it regularly then the full ‘Elite’ version costs just £21 a year and also provides additional features such as protection from sites that may attempt to download malware onto your computer. There are versions for both Macs and PCs, and also an app for iOS devices that uses ‘bandwidth compression’ to try and reduce data charges when using mobile Internet services.

OUR VERDICT

Hotspot Shield could certainly come in handy for business users who travel a lot, and especially for those who are forced to work on unsecure public networks. It’s worth downloading the free version to try it out first, but at £21 a year Hotspot Shield offers a modestly priced service that could quickly earn its keep.

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