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How to browse safely on free WiFi

How to browse safely on free WiFi

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I am by no means an IT expert and would greatly appreciate any tips or pointers from any Aweb members who are more technically savvy than me!

I have read about how unsafe free WiFi in airports, hotels etc is and I now find myself in a poistion where I will need to access my emails whilst I'm away. I will be using an iPad 2.

My research so far seems to indicate that it is not possible to "protect" my emails on my iPad (I can't seem to change the settings so that I am asked to enter a password, for example - but I'm not convinced that would solve the problem anyway), and that using a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) whilst out of the office would be the answer.

I don't really want to sign up for a paid service as I will only be using the VPN maybe for 3 or 4 weeks during the year, in a hotel or airport situation, mostly for email access and some browsing. I will not be using my iPad for internet banking or making online purchases. I just don't want anyone else to be able to have access to my emails.

I have read that PureVPN might be suitable. Does anyone have any recommendations please?

Thanks in advance.

PS My only other requirement is that it would have to be easy for me to set up!

Replies (11)

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By Captainblack
14th Mar 2012 09:16

More information needed

Are your e-mails hosted "in the cloud" or on server(s) of your own?


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Replying to Tom 7000:
By JazzySasha
14th Mar 2012 09:25


Thank you for responding - I don't have my e-mails on my own server. If it's of any further assistance, I will be using Yahoo mail.

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By Captainblack
14th Mar 2012 09:44

Simplest thing you can do

The odds on your mail being intercepted are low (lets not exagerate the risk) but OK it's still a risk. Since you want simplicity there are a few things you can consider:

1) Use GMAIL instead and YAHOO and set GMAIL to always use HTTPS (secure connection).

2) If you want to stick with YAHOO the simplest solution to accessing your Yahoo emails more safely on the iPad is the use the inbuilt iPad Mail application rather than using Safari to get to your mail via the web. The Mail app 'knows' how to access Yahoo's servers securely. Tell the mail App you want to use IMAP to connect to Yahoo. This works for GMAIL and HOTMAIL also.

If you are logging onto Yahoo via Safari (i.e. webmail) you may find that the password entry stage is secure (HTPPS) which gives confidence BUT the rest of the session won't be secure and you mail messages are being send in clear text over WiFi.

3) Accessing your messages over 3g instead of WiFi makes the potential hackers life a lot more difficult, but uses up your data plan (assuming you have a 3g SIM and data plan for your iPad).

General point. If you are not using WiFi and Bluetooth turn these off in settings.

Beyond these simple steps you are indeed into VPN territory and there are technical limitations with iPad which limit your options. VPNs are not straightforward to setup.

Does that help?


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By JazzySasha
14th Mar 2012 10:15

Many Thanks

Thank you Captain for taking the time and trouble to respond - I only got so far with my own research and then I reached an impasse because things get too technical for me to fully understand!


I will use the inbuilt iPad Mail Application as you suggest, but if the need to access my mail remotely becomes more frequent I can see that setting up a GMail account would be a good idea.




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By Captainblack
14th Mar 2012 10:34

Or you could

Further idea then

If you want to keep your YAHOO mail you could (if YAHOO allows) set it to auto-forward mails to your (new) GMAIL account. Then use GMAIL to access the forwarded mail.

But to be honest, the Mail App works so well you may end up preferring using it to accessing your mail via a browser/Webmail. It's a much better tool for creating/editing e-mails than a browser window.

Beyond these simple suggestions I see that there are suppliers who will host an email account for you in a secure way. Such an email account would have your own domain name and would, in effect, replace your YAHOO account.

So to summarise:

1) use 3g instead of WiFi

2) disable Bluetooth and Wifi if you're not using them

3) use the Mail App and IMAP instead of a web browser

4) for GMAIL via a browser turn on "use HTTPS always"

How secure will these steps make your e-mails? Well, if someone in the NSA wants to read them they will! They can afford the kit and time that's needed. But these simple steps will make it far too much trouble for a casual hacker. There will be easier targets around the next corner.

Good luck!



Thanks (1)
Replying to stepurhan:
By JazzySasha
14th Mar 2012 11:49


As Nick used to say on Crimewatch, the fear of crime is often much greater than the actual likelihood of falling victim. If I were to take on board everything I have read, then to stay safe on the internet I should never use free WiFi and never use my credit card online.  But life's not like that is it? 

If I can take some simple steps to reduce the risk as sensibly as possible - which you have helped me to do - then I'm happy. 

Thanks again for your assistance.

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By RogerNeale
16th Mar 2012 14:47

Gmail - AVOID like the plague

I am surprised, given the publicity recently, that anyone would still consider using Google for any business purpose.

Their Ts&Cs effectively allow Google to pass details from your emails and documents on to your competitors.  Why anyone would want to allow them to do this is beyond me, maybe people still don't understand the risk.

Look up the "Gmail man" video on Youtube and you'll see what I'm on about.

I understand that people like to use "free services" but there is no such thing as a "free lunch" and the price of these "free services" is access to your data, client list and whetever else Google choose to "scan"!

Using an iPad to read your email is no more or less secure than reading them on your mobile phone, after all the iPad is really just a big smart-phone.

So, use a "proper" email address with your company's domain and avoid the free mail services.

Move your email to Microsoft Office365 or a similar service and you can't go far wrong.  For £4 per month, per user, you get access to 10Gb of data storage space and 25Gb of mail storage.

I've moved quite a number of my clients over to Office365 and they love it because they can access their emails and files from virtually anywhere, so long as they have an Internet connection.

Roger Neale
Perkeo Computer Systems Ltd
07714 670789

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By pauljohnston
16th Mar 2012 15:56

I agree with Roger

invest to protect.use your own domain and have it properly hosted in the cloud.  Once you have done it you will wonder why you did not do before

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By Hansa
16th Mar 2012 17:00

Free Wifi

The above replies, reading in sequence, give good advice.

To re-summarise:

1. As a general rule, Yahoo to me (and many others) looks rather unprofessional

2. G-mail is an absolute security risk 

3. As are Ipads (they store deleted data and send out information without your consent).

4. A fairly good free email provider is "" 

5. Try ""  This encrypts your connection (making it hard to hack), can be bought for SFr6 per month (£4.20) and has an Iphone "app" (see FAQ's on the site)

6.  Register a domain with email & webmail (a few quid a year) 

Using this solution (4 & 5) you would establish a SwissVPN connection to the Internet and then log into GMX web interface to see/read/reply to emails.  I'm not sure if you can establish a VPN connection for pop mail so unless you want to investigate, set it up, I would stick to webmail if you can as this WILL be encrypted.

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By Captainblack
17th Mar 2012 10:37

Hansa makes useful further comments.

I have not tried SwissVPN but a glance at their website seems to indicate that setting up their VPM product on an iPAD (or Windows PC) is reasonably straightforward.

The original question did not request information about moving e-mail from free providers to a chargeable solution, own domain, etc, but yes, for business purposes that would look more professional and remove all the adverts, etc.

Microsoft 365 (underpined by MS Exchange) is one solution to that but the same facilities can be purchased even more cost effectively from other reputable suppliers such as  In fact we use this supplier to host our business e-mail solution.

Good luck with whichever route you take.



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By SteveHa
01st Mar 2019 08:16

For an incredibly inexpensive and permanent VPN, invest in a Raspberry Pi and setup OpenVPN on your own network, then connect to that whilst out and about. A one time cost of around £35 and that's it.

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