Virtual private networks (VPNs) have existed for years, both as a legitimate tool for business users to make secure connections to their corporate networks remotely and for consumers to circumvent geo-blocking on overseas content websites like Netflix. People also use VPNs to encrypt their traffic when pirating copyrighted content. Now a major security vendor, Norton By Symantec, is entering the already crowded VPN market with its Norton WiFi Privacy offering for mobiles. Here's how it differs from the other VPN services.
There are plenty of PC and mobile device VPN providers out there so why would Norton By Symantec want to join the fray? And why on Earth does it not mentioned 'VPN' in the name of its VPN product?
Firstly, Norton By Symantec is hoping that being a reputable brand will give it an edge in the VPN space as many of the existing providers are small operations that are nowhere near as well-known. Love it or hate it, people know the Norton By Symantec brand.
Secondly, the consumer product isn't being marketed as a tool for circumventing geo-blocked content or for piracy. Obviously, these are… ahem… very bad things that a legitimate organisation would not ever condone. Norton WiFi Privacy is being sold as an offering that can protect users from snoops on public WiFi networks.
WiFi hotspots are everywhere these days and it's easy to just tap a few buttons on your phone to connect to one of them when you're out. These connections are often unsecured but many people still access personal email, social media and even banking accounts on these public WiFi networks. Even if you access content on websites that use HTTPS, there is still a risk that cybercriminals can steal your information.
Using a VPN to facilitate a connection on public WiFi networks is one way to combat this but there are consumers that don't understand what a VPN is and how to use it. So while the Norton WiFi Privacy name doesn't contain the term 'VPN', it is a VPN. The name just makes it more accessible to those who don't understand the technology.
As with any VPN service, there is always going to be some latency when you access online content. Norton WiFi Privacy tries to ensure that performance doesn't suffer too much by allowing users to pick to make a connection with the closest hosting location. Yes, one of the locations is Australia. You can turn off the service if you're concerned about performance issues when streaming content that doesn't necessarily require an encrypted connection.
In terms of privacy, Norton By Symantec said it's not logging any data on the service and users are free to do as they please with the VPN.
The Norton WiFi Privacy is available on iOS and Android with an annual subscription fee of US$29.99 per device. It should be mentioned that both iOS and Android have built-in feature that lets you set up your own VPN connection when you set up your home computer to be a VPN server. But if you don't want to jerk around with the settings and you don't mind paying that an annual fee, you can try the new Norton product. It is free for the first 30 days.
Bear in mind that Norton By Symantec is only offering this on mobile devices. Other VPN providers can do both. If you want to find a list of VPN providers, hit the link to see our list.