Norton WiFi Privacy is a surprising wonderful software package, it works on a desktop or laptop but having this on your smartphone allows you to do some pretty neat things while out and about, it provides encryption for sensitive login details, ad-tracker blocking and even global access to content thanks to a very handy built in VPN (virtual private network) service.
Norton is widely known for Anti-Virus but this is something else, it’s a very lightweight tool to keep your data safe even when you’re connected via less-than-ideal locations.
Before we dive into things though, let’s briefly look a bit closer at the topic of trust.
While I do trust the guys at my local petrol station to make me a great coffee, I’m a little more wary of the WiFi hotspot itself, not that I think the staff are dodgy at all, I’m just not educated on the security of this network, who set it up? does it log my traffic? did they get the recent security updates for their router and so on. Asking the service station staff validated concerns, they didn’t actually know where the hot-spot came from :/
What Norton WiFi privacy does is encrypt the data from my mobile device, so if someone was to peek in, they wouldn’t be able to see anything except me visiting the VPN.
Let's say our link chain is as follows
A (my smartphone) B (free wifi hotspot) C (the VPN) D (the website I’m visiting)
OK, so on my smartphone I login to a free WiFi hotspot while in a local petrol station.
We’ve already identified that spot “B”, the free WiFi hotspot is a bit of an unknown, but that’s ok, I’m encrypted now. Jumping ahead to spot “D” (the website I’m visiting) - let’s say this is something potentially identifying, like Facebook. The VPN would need to decrypt my communications to allow me to log into my Facebook account, which brings me to the question - who is the VPN? I asked them and received a concise response via email :)
Via Norton “Norton own the VPN that NWP (Norton WiFi Privacy) is using including all the server of it, no activity is tracked or stored regarding your online activity or location.”
Ahh excellent! With both the entry and exit covered I feel pretty good about this.
Now, having your data secured in is great, but it also means you’ll hit double security checks if you’re logging into things like internet banking - and rightly so! Thinking about it I appreciate that my bank is asking me security questions when I’m using the Norton WiFi privacy tools - after all, to them it looks like I'm logging in from outside of New Zealand!
Now, moving onto other features for the NWP - it’s got a nifty Ad Tracking Blocker too, it even keeps a tally of how many it has blocked - my total from a week while using the software is a whopping 414 - I didn’t realise my google antics were tracked this much! It’s important to note that this isn’t an ad-blocker, so I can still visit websites that rely on advertising revenue by showing me ads along with their articles. For those wondering about location based games such as Pokemon GO, no, this won't let you visit places to catch em all :P
Looking specifically at the VPN part of the app, this can be used to make you appear as though you’re in another location on Earth - Virtual Private Networks (VPN) were very popular before services like Netflix became available in NZ, allowing a user to sneakily access region specific content as though they were there. Of course, now we’ve got a host of our own streaming services here in NZ so the VPN is a bit of a non-issue in that respect - but hypothetically, it could still be used in this way :) I’ve been happily using it to check google news results from various country perspectives - and it has been quite the eye-opener!
Overall it has been a very enjoyable time using Norton WiFi Protection, I have noticed no loss of speed (though it surely must) and haven't experienced any instability or crashes while using it. The NWP service is available to try for free and you can purchase different versions depending on how many devices you want to use this with, we grabbed a 1 user, 1 device, 12 month subscription but if you wanted to install on your phone, tablet and laptop, this 1 user, 3 device, 12 month subscription option is the way to go :)