As many of you will be aware, public wifi hotspots very frequently do not use encrypted connections, so anyone with a packet sniffer and the will to use it can just about trace anything that you do whilst using one. The usual advice is to not use public wifi for anything personal. That might be OK if you are just popping into Starbucks for a coffee, but if you are about to spend 5 years on a university campus it is not very practical, so here is another way, it is completely free (you don't even have to login) and very easy to set up. Virtual Private Networking is something I have always overlooked before as being either too difficult, costing money, or requiring additional software. I might have been wrong about this in the past, I am definitely wrong about it now. To see why go to:http://www.bestukvpn.com/
On their homepage you want two pieces of information, the PPTP password which is at the top of the page and your ip address which is in a blue box at the bottom of the page, so write them down.
Setup instructions are below, I have done this using Mint 13 and the standard gnome network manager, if you have a different version of either the procedure may differ slightly.
1) Click on tray network manager icon, go to VPN Connections, Configure VPN.
2) Click the add button, leave the connection type alone (PPTP), click Create.
3) In the 'Gateway' section type "bestukvpn.com" (without quote marks). The username is "free" (again remove quote marks), and leave the password blank, but change the password setting to "Always Ask" using the drop down box.
4) Click the advanced button then check the tick boxes for "Use Point to Point Encryption" and "Stateful Encryption". Click OK then Save then Close.
5) Now go back to your tray network manager icon, click it, scroll down to VPN Connections and click on VPN Connection 1 (unless you renamed it or have more than 1 VPN)
6) Type in the password you noted down earlier. The connection will renegotiate and Mint will eventually display a pop up saying "VPN Connection Successfully Established". To confirm this go back to http://www.bestukvpn.com
, reload the page and check the ip address in the blue box at the bottom. It should now be a different address and as you will read on the home page, all your network data will now carry 128bit encrpytion.
Once the setup has been completed obviously the vpn connection is available for any network that you choose to use it on, just click the VPN Connection 1 link in the network manager tray icon. Obviously public wifi hotspots are the main reason for this service to exist, but you don't have to restrict it to just that if you don't want to.
On the bestukvpn.com website you will see instructions as to how to configure systems such as Android and Apple as well so it is available for you mobile devices too. There are no instructions for Linux of course which is why I made the post.