Keezel's hotspot purifies your public Wi-Fi network (hands-on)

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Keezel isn't your typical hotspot. Instead of creating a personal network for you, it encrypts existing, unsecured Wi-Fi to protect you from lurking hackers (don't scoff, it happens).

Open Wi-Fi at cafes, bars and airports is alluring, but dangerous. Anyone on an unsecured, password-free network can hack you, and, extreme as it sounds, the network owner could monitor your goings-on. Peeping Toms might not be able to see the things you actually type and your mouse's movements, but they could track the apps you open and the websites you visit.

Keezel encrypts iffy cafe and airport Wi-Fi.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I checked out Keezels' Indiegogo-funded prototype puck in a restaurant near the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, to see how it worked in the wild.

The one-button device turns on easily and intuitively. From there, your laptop, phone or tablet latches on to the secure network you've named. Remember that the Keezel doesn't generate its own Wi-Fi; it gloms on to an open network and encrypts your session.

In the end, restaurant Wi-Fi and the pre-production Keezel didn't play well together, so I wasn't able to connect my laptop to the Keezel. Its Dutch founder, Aike Muller, who has a background in IT security, walked me through the app, and how to turn on one of its better tricks: convincing websites your IP address originates from another country. This lets you access content you might not be able to normally get in your country, say Netflix streaming, as one (alleged) example.

The device itself is huge and heavy, owing to the 7,000mAh battery that can keep it charged for marathon streaming. It can also top up your other devices.

What you need to know about Keezel

  • 7,000mAh battery power
  • Estimated battery life: Up to 10 hours Wi-Fi use
  • Encryption: AES 256-bit (some partners use 512)
  • Non-removable battery
  • 1 USB port, 1 Micro-USB port
  • Charging from a drained battery could take up to 7 hours
  • Network speeds could slow down slightly with Keezel
  • Speeds also depend on local network strength

Pricing

  • $100 (It sells globally; this converts to about £70 or AU$140)
  • $5 monthly access fee gets you global VPN access, faster speeds
  • No premium service means no global VPN access, slightly slower speeds
  • Promotional deal at time of writing: $110 for Keezel and 15 months of premium service

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Where to Buy

Keezel

Part Number: CNETKeezel

MSRP: $100.00

Visit manufacturer site for details.