Ever since launching PRIVATE WiFi™ in March 2010, many people asked what motivated me to emerge from a fulfilling retirement to launch a new company.
After all, I had spent twenty hectic years running my previous company – you have to throw everything you have into being an entrepreneur. I had retired in 1997 and was very much enjoying the opportunity to relax a bit, travel a lot, and had become heavily involved in several rewarding non-profit organizations. So why start anew?
As soon as I read an article last year in The Wall Street Journal that talked about communication vulnerability and wifi hotspots, I realized the opportunity that was being given to me. The article’s conclusion was akin to “…so be careful what you transmit in hotspots.” A few weeks later, I read a similar article in the New York Times that offered equally feeble consumer solutions.
I had become sensitized to the problem while serving on the board of a technology company that was dipping its toe into online security but lacked the resources to do anything with it.
I explored whether someone else already had a viable consumer solution. Although every IT department in a large company offers virtual private networks (VPNs) to employees who travel or spend some time working in their local coffee shops, I was stymied when looking for a sophisticated yet simple consumer product.
All I could find were either super-techy “geek” solutions that don’t appeal to consumers or limited advertising-supported solutions.
Quite frankly, I believe it is contradictory to have the intrusion of advertising when what you’re trying to do is have privacy protection!
So, I bought the technology from the company whose board I was on, and I assembled a team to help develop what is now PRIVATE WiFi.
VPNs for the Rest of Us
Think of PRIVATE WiFi as your personal, state-of-the-art protection that helps:
- Individuals working on sensitive business matters in places offering free wifi (Starbucks, Panera Bread, hotel lobbies, airports, etc.).
- Those worried about credit card fraud, identify theft, or similar breaches.
- Consultants and other professionals, such as accountants and lawyers, who work outside their offices and transmit or review confidential information.
- Those working in the small-to-medium business market without the resources of a dedicated IT department.
Now you know how I wound up back at the helm of another software company — and about my desire to keep consumers safe from hackers — but let me quickly share a prime example of the type of consumer vulnerability that is largely being ignored.
You may have heard that Google just announced a promotion offering temporary free surfing from 30,000 feet above the ground on domestic AirTran, Delta, and Virgin America flights between November 20 and January 2, 2011.
Yet lost in the announcement was any warning about how to keep hackers at bay, which really makes you brutally aware that no one is taking your privacy needs seriously.
Thanks to a partnership with Gogo Inflight Internet (the company is waiving the normal charge of $11 for 24 hours, or $35 per month), passengers on more than 700 planes — serving approximately 15-million people — will instantly be brought to a Google Chrome start page. (Of course, free promotion for Google!)
Any web browser will work, and all wireless devices will be able to pick up and use the signal. It’s like Google is waving a huge antennae in the sky and shouting, “Hackers, take your pick!” Oh, wait…that is exactly what they’re doing.
OK, I’ll stop picking on Google’s “holiday present” of free wifi – just consider whether that free surfing – in the air or at your local coffee shop — will end up costing you more in the long run.
The private-i Blog is Born
Which brings me to why we created this blog, and that is to foster community and communicate quickly and efficiently on all industry trends.
This blog is our way to keep you current on news that matters to you, and I plan to post a new column every Monday. In addition, we’ll showcase other writers and industry experts sharing pertinent, informative content, including how to protect your privacy on social media sites and ways to prevent identity theft. We will also feature training tips, videos, podcasts, webinars, and much more.
Feel free to leave a comment below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any article ideas or want to share your computer privacy experiences. Be sure to friend us on Facebook and follow our Twitter feed as well. We’re happy you’re a part of our new community.