When you're on the go, and you have to send sensitive information from your Android or iOS device, the last thing you want is to transmit that data over an unsecure connection. When your carrier connection isn't enough, and the only Wi-Fi available is the password-less network at a local coffee shop, what do you do?
You turn to an app like Private Tunnel VPN. This particular service is a spin-off of OpenVPN, so you know they understand VPN technology. Private Tunnel VPN does things a bit differently. The app (available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac) is free. You can sign up for a free account. What isn't free is data. You purchase data in blocks:
- $9.99 USD will get you 20GB of data
- $19.99 USD will get you 100GB of data
- $29.99 USD/year will get you unlimited data
When you sign up for the free account, you automatically get 200MB of free data, which serves for a good test run. Let's install and use Private Tunnel VPN on Android and see what there is to see (or not see, as it were).
To install Private Tunnel VPN on Android, follow these steps:
- Open up the Google Play Store on your device
- Search for Private Tunnel VPN
- Locate and tap the entry by OpenVPN
- Tap Install
- If prompted, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
Before you fire up the app, make sure you have signed up for a Private Tunnel VPN account. To sign up, you'll use an email address as your username and create a password (which will serve as the credentials for the app).
Locate the app launcher in your App Drawer or on your home screen (or both). Tap the launcher to start the app.
From the Private Tunnel VPN app login screen, enter your username/password you used to setup your account. Once you've authenticated, you'll be asked to choose a region (Figure A). Make sure to select the region nearest your location. The app will use your device's location services to automatically detect the closest region. Either tap the suggested region, or tap one nearer to you (should your location service be off or the app guess incorrectly).
When you tap a region, the app will prompt you to verify the selection. Tap YES if the selection is correct and then OK the setup of the VPN connection (Figure B).
At this point, Private Tunnel VPN will display a status window that includes your username, region, IP address, and data remaining (Figure C).
If you're running out of data credit, all you have to do is tap the BUY CREDIT button. The My Portal button will take you out of the app and to the Private Tunnel VPN website (logged into your account) where you can logout, add bookmarks, download client apps, earn data (by referring contacts). Know that, while connected, going to the Portal will use up your Private Tunnel data...so use this wisely. Mostly, however, once you've connected you'll do very little in the way of interacting with the app outside of buying credit and ending your connection.
While you are connected to Private Tunnel VPN, you will see a keyhole icon in the notification area (Figure D).
A slight caveat
While connected to one of the VPN regions, you'll probably notice a slight drop in speed. How much of a drop will depend on the quality of the server connection of the selected region. If you find one region overly slow, you can always switch regions by tapping the region entry in the main window, tapping a new region, okay the disconnect to the current region and connect to the new region by tapping YES, when prompted.
Speaking of ending your connection, you must always remember to disconnect from the service when you've completed the transmission of sensitive data (otherwise you'll be paying to view whimsical pictures of cats on Facebook or reading the never-ending flow of Twitter rants. To end your connection, simply tap the Disconnect button, verify the disconnection by tapping YES when prompted and you're done. If you don't have the app open, you can always open up your notification shade and tap the Private Tunnel VPN entry (which will open up the app) and then disconnect.
A solid VPN for on the go privacy
If your company doesn't offer their own VPN, and you need to transmit sensitive data while on the go, you should definitely give Private Tunnel VPN a chance. Not only is the app incredibly easy to use, the service is reliable and, considering it's based on OpenVPN (which provides the core software to nearly every VPN provider in the industry), it's secure.
- How to quickly deploy an OpenVPN server (TechRepublic)
- How to enable the Cisco VPN Client on Windows 10 (TechRepublic)
- Gain a new level of security with TunnelBear VPN (TechRepublic)
- Android Security Bulletin December 2016: What you need to know (TechRepublic)
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.