CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our.
Let me start by saying I'm no security expert. In fact, I've often taken heat for suggesting that third-party anti-virus software is unnecessary so long as you're careful about where you surf and what you click on.
That said, hackers are getting more aggressive -- and inventive -- all the time. And if you frequently connect to public Wi-Fi networks, there's one security tool you should definitely consider using: a virtual private network, or VPN.
And security isn't the only reason to embrace VPNs. They can also give you access to services like Netflix from outside the US. And you can use them to visit certain sites (like, say, your fantasy football league) from behind a firewall (like the one at your office). I'm not saying you should do these things, merely that VPNs make it possible.
Anyway, most VPNs will cost you a few bucks. But there's at least one freebie that won't take your credit card details or even ask you to register your email address: Betternet.
This would be a good time to mention, again, that I'm no security expert.
Betternet is a free VPN for Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS and Windows. A Mac version is "coming soon," according to the developer. You don't have to provide any personal information when you sign up, and you can use the software for an unlimited amount of time.
I took Betternet for a quick spin on my iPhone. After a quick and easy setup, it seemed to work invisibly in the background and I noticed no lag in my online activities. I did encounter a glitch with one of my Gmail accounts. But only one of them, so I'm not sure if Betternet was the cause.
So how does the developer make money? You won't find the answer on Betternet's Transparency page. It's interesting reading, but it doesn't fully explain the model. The model is this: ads. Read the terms of service to learn more. I've never had a problem with targeted advertising, but I know it's a deal-breaker for some of you.
Indeed, before you tear me a new one, let me say again that I'm not a security expert, and I'm not necessarily endorsing Betternet. I'm saying it exists, it's free, it appears to work and it strikes me as mostly harmless.
Bonus deal: If you're still paying for a landline phone, even if it's bundled with your cable plan, you may want to reconsider. Today only, and while supplies last, Meh has the refurbished Ooma Telo with Bluetooth adapter for $55, plus $5 for shipping. That's the lowest price I've seen for this excellent voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) home phone system. Apart from a couple bucks in fees every month, you get unlimited local and long-distance calling. I've used Ooma for years, and at this price it's a no-brainer.
Bonus deal 2: Got cloud? Exclusively for CNET readers, iDrive is offering 1 terabyte (!) of cloud backup storage for $14.88 for the first year. With your subscription, you can back up from an unlimited number of computers and mobile devices, plus your Facebook and Instagram accounts. And, of course, you can remotely access and share all your files as well.
Bonus deal 3: This printer is so cheap! ("How cheap is it?!") This printer is so cheap, it's $35! No, really -- I wasn't trying to make a joke. For a limited time, and while supplies last, Staples has the Dell E310dw monochrome laser printer for $34.99, with free shipping for Staples Rewards members. (You'll still have to pay sales tax, though.) What does that "dw" in the name stand for? Oh, just duplexing and wireless: The printer can crank out double-sided pages, and it doesn't bother with that pesky USB cable.
Take note, though, that although it can hop on your Wi-Fi network, it doesn't support AirPrint or Google Cloud Print. Update: My bad. It supports both AirPrint and Google Cloud Print.