Symantec’s Norton division today launched a new virtual private network (VPN) service designed to help protect consumers accessing the Internet via public Wi-Fi connections.
Initially available in the U.S. and U.K. for Mac OS and Windows based platforms, “Norton Hotspot Privacy” lets users establish a secure private connection through the VPN tunnel that essentially makes the user "invisible" on public networks, so their online activities cannot be tracked or monitored.
According to Symantec’s research, about two-thirds of online adults use free or unsecured Wi-Fi networks, from locations such as coffee shops, airports, and public parks—something that is convenient, but also brings risks of exposing sensitive information to cybercriminals.
“Norton Hotspot Privacy enables users to become 'invisible' on the network and also encrypts their username, password and other confidential information they may be entering online,” the company explained.
Symantec also highlighted how hijacking or "sniffing" Wi-Fi connections is easier than ever. “Using free, legal apps or hardware costing less than $100, hackers can gain access to online banking, email and social networking information transmitted via even password-protected Wi-Fi networks.”
"Increasingly, public Wi-Fi is a part of everyday life, providing people with a convenient way to connect on the go," said Dave Cole, vice president, product management, Consumer Business Unit, Symantec Corporation.
"With Norton Hotspot Privacy, consumers are able to take advantage of the convenience of public Wi-Fi, with the confidence of knowing their information is secure and their online activities remain private."
The service is available in multiple subscription options, from a 1-day pass for $2.99, a 1-month pass for $19.99, or $49.99 for a full year of Norton Hotspot Privacy. Each plan includes unlimited bandwidth on up to five difference devices.
Once signed up, customers can sign into the Norton Hotspot Privacy Web portal, download the appropriate client, and the VPN will automatically configure to establish a private connection.
Norton also announced a series of partnerships designed to add a new security layer to public Wi-Fi networks. By partnering with service providers including Hi-Tech Wi-Fi, OneWiFi, The WiFi Company, Contingent Network Services and Sputnik, Norton ConnectSafe (formerly Norton DNS) will be integrated into the Wi-Fi platform in a seamless manner to the consumer and will provide a safer public Wi-Fi experience in approximately 15,000 food and beverage locations.
Norton ConnectSafe acts as a first layer of protection, helping to prevent devices on a network from connecting to known dangerous or undesirable websites. The service is powered by Norton Safe Web, which contains information on millions of websites accessed billions of times each day, and also uses data from Symantec content filtering to protect the Wi-Fi experiences for businesses and their customers.