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HolidayBuyer's Guide
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Quickly create a VPN with the Hotspot Shield browser extension

Access blocked content and protect yourself at public hotspots with the Hotspot Shield extension for Chrome or Firefox. It's free, easy and effective.

Can't watch Netflix from where you are located? Can't check in with your fantasy football team from behind your office's firewall? Can't use a public hotspot without worrying about your unencrypted data being seen by prying eyes?

A VPN can assuage these issues, but VPN software typically either costs money or bombards you with ads. Hotspot Shield from AnchorFree might be the most popular VPN with more than 300 million downloads, but you'll either need to pay or suffer through its ads. Or you can take the easy yet effective way out and try AnchorFree's new Hotspot Shield browser extension for Chrome or for Firefox. The extensions are free and ad-free and don't even require an account.

I tried the Chrome extension, and it couldn't have been easier to use. Hotspot Shield installs a button to the right of Chrome's URL bar that when clicked provides a toggle switch to enable and disable the extension along with an option to set your virtual location. There are five countries from which to choose: Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the US. You can choose one of the five countries by clicking on its flag or choose the globe to have Hotspot Shield choose for you.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

In addition to letting you jump virtually to another country to bypass geographical restrictions, the Hotspot Shield extension uses "banking-level encryption on any public or private network" to keep you and your data safe. And where the Hotspot Shield desktop client caps your data usage at 750MB per 12 hours, the browser extensions offer unlimited access.

So, go ahead and binge on Netflix no matter where you might be located. Or set your fantasy football lineup before you leave work. Or simply feel safe about browsing the Web at your local coffee shop.