Although many more people are now smart enough to encrypt their wireless networks at home, many people are still unaware of the fact that public wifi networks are largely not encrypted and can leave your data exchanges vulnerable to interception. Then there are the risks of criminals setting up fake public wifi networks in order to fool users into connecting and hacking their personal information. Since there has been a large increase in banking and e-commerce activity on the internet across the board in recent years, it’s especially important to ensure that your data transmissions are secure.
This is where programs such as Tunnelbear come into play. Tunnelbear is a virtual private network that is simple to use, yet powerful. It brings VPNs to the masses in a very user-friendly way, and their growing popularity is a testament to the need for this type of software.
Setup And Interface
One of the defining qualities of Tunnelbear is the ease of installation and setup. All you need to do is download the application, run the setup, open a Tunnelbear account (you can start out with a totally free account), and then run the software. I’ve set up quite a few software programs in my time and this was pleasantly easy and fast. The account setup was also impressive and I didn’t have to fill out a lot of unnecessary information.
The application itself is quite aesthetically pleasing, with a wooden old school radio look and rounded corners. The interface is simple, with a single on / off switch to turn on the VPN itself. More complex settings can be accessed by the gear button where you can drill down to more complex options.
The data displays on the program itself give you information on how much data you have left (free membership gets you 500mb per month) as well as what cookies and trackers the software has blocked (if you turn that feature on). It also shows you what country you are connected to with the program.
Options And FeaturesTunnelbear has enough options to keep even advanced users happy. The first of these is the option to connect to the Tunnelbear servers in several different countries. There are many different reasons to connect your VPN through different countries than the one you might be in presently, including bypassing country restrictions on video and internet content. For example, if you cannot watch a YouTube video because it’s being restricted in your country, you can point Tunnelbear to a different country (perhaps the origin country of the content) and you can then access the video.
This is one of the primary uses of VPNs: to get around restrictions, blocking software, and other location tracking restrictions. (It seems the software still does not help in terms of Chinese censorship, however). The Tunnelbear motto is “We think the Internet is a much better place when everyone can browse privately, and browse the same Internet as everyone else.”
You can also turn on an option called “Maul Trackers”, which is a way of blocking Facebook and Twitter buttons and other similar tracking devices that can open up on websites you visit. Facebook buttons, for example, will report what pages you’re visiting whether or not you “like” the page or not yourself. If this feature is turned on, Tunnelbear will block Facebook from knowing what websites you are visiting.
So how secure is Tunnelbear? As far as VPNs go, it’s pretty darn good. You have to read the fine print for all VPNs because some of them will keep data on hand about your surfing habits, and should the government try to access this information it could still do so. However, Tunnelbear does NOT keep this data on their servers. They are also located in Canada, where their security policies are pretty good, and the border could help insulate people from other countries such as the United States.
However, it’s worth noting that Tunnelbear is not really something that you should use if you’re trying to conduct criminal activities:
If you’re a direct target of the NSA… well, this isn’t something you should be using Tunnelbear for. Being in Canada, we have a degree of legislative protection from things that are happening in the US – Silent Circle and other serious security vendors have their servers located in Canada – but at the end of the day what we do is simply not store or log what our users do. So, in the event that we are forced to hand over something, we’d be handing over nothing that users should really be concerned about. – CEO Ryan Dochuk, in a Forbes interview
Overall ConclusionsTunnelbear has quickly become my favorite choice as far as VPNs go. Their slick interface and cute bear mascot illustrations reeled me in quickly, and the powerful options as well as the fast speeds made me stick around.
Although you’ll have to buy a membership for unlimited data use, it could be well worth it if you spend a lot of time connecting to the internet from public wifi hotspots. As someone that does a lot of computing at coffee shops and on the road, this is a very valuable asset for me as sometimes I have to conduct banking or business purchases away from my secure home network.
At the moment this article was written, you can get 500 MB/ Month data for free, and upgrading to unlimited usage only runs $4.99 USD per month, or $49.99 for a year.
Click here to head over to Tunnelbear and try out the program for free (500 MB / Month limit)