One of the better ways to protect your Internet connection from a variety of dangers and threats is to use a VPN (virtual private network.). This is basically a secure line that is opened up on your computer that goes straight to the locations you want to reach on the Internet, preventing common attack forms such as network traffic dumping from being effective.
This is excellent if you are connected to a public network, say at your school's library, an Internet cafe or your hotel's wireless network, as it takes away many of the dangers associated with that.
In addition to that, it may also provide you with access to country-restricted contents, as the destinations that you visit communicate with the service's IP and not your local one. So, if you are from the US but abroad on holiday, you may use a VPN to access US-specific services such as Hulu or Pandora.
ZenMate is a rather new extension for the Google Chrome browser that is free to use during the launch phase. I could not find any information as to what is going to happen after that phase, but expect the service to go commercial. It is possible that they will keep a free service up, but it probably won't offer unlimited bandwidth or all of the locations it makes available anymore.
Anyway, it is free for now. Once you have installed the extension and entered an email address to complete the sign up, you are free to start using it.
Note: Your username and password are send to the email address. You do need the data to sign in to the ZenMate.
The extension displays a shield icon in Chrome's top toolbar that indicates whether the service is active or not. A click displays information about the VPN location you are currently connected to.
The left highlights your actual location, the middle one the VPN connection that you are currently connected to, and the last the website that you are accessing right now.
You can click on the middle icon at any time to switch to a different location. ZenMate supports five at the time of writing: US, UK, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong.
It is furthermore possible to turn off the connection for the time being, or sign out of the account. The extension tries to pinpoint your current location during setup which you can also change in the menu if it has not been set correctly.
ZenMate works considerably well for now. I had no troubles using the US location to access geo-restricted contents, and the streams showed up fine and without interruption or lag on the screen as if I were connected directly to the service.
The UK connection on the other hand did not work that well during tests. While it allowed me to connect to sites like the BBC, TV Catchup or ITV, I was not able to play any of the streams made available.
It is an interesting service for now, just keep in mind that it may go commercial in the future.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.