$5 per month, or $30 per year
It’s a scary dog-eat-dog world out there. It’s no exaggeration to say that breaches and security flaws happen every day. You can protect yourself, however. Freedome VPN, an app from the Finnish security firm F-Secure, gives smartphone users an easy tool to protect their Internet traffic and, if they choose certain options, can obscure where their own traffic is coming from. The app also promises to protect you against attacks over mobile networks and WiFi, as well as blocking advertising trackers. Each can be turned on or off in a few steps.
The iOS app has a slightly longer process, while the Android app is more or less a toggle switch. As with the mobile, the connect-to-any-Wi-Fi-you-can-find lifestyle comes a certain amount of risk. It’s not a simple deal, but unscrupulous types can hack unencrypted communications between your mobile device and Wi-Fi hotspots or routers. That’s where F-Secure’s Freedome – a combination of VPN (Virtual Private Network) service and malware protection for your iOS or Android – steps in.
VPN services are nothing new. A VPN is a secure, encrypted connection between you and another computer (or Internet appliance). In the case of a VPN service, a remote server relays Internet traffic to and fro using its IP address while hiding yours. If, say, you’re in Chicago surfing via VPN through a server located in San Francisco then, for all intents and purposes, denizens of the Internet think you’re in Northern California.
VPN service definitely guarantees privacy, but there is a kind of performance penalty. How much depends on your location, the location of the relay server, and the infrastructure in between. I tested Freedome from my home in Chicago using my iPad and Ookla’s free Speedtest. I didn’t take much of a hit at all: about 0.1 megabits per second downloading and 0.05 megabits per second uploading. If, however, you live in the boomy-ass suburbs or out in the country you could end up running a fair bit slower.
Freedome actually has overseas servers, though not the density and power their Euro rival TunnelBear offers. Freedome are in London, England; Espoo, Finland (F-Secure’s home-sweet-home); and Sachsen, Germany. This is useful if you’re traveling or simply want people to think you’re not where you actually are.
One severe downer is that you must reinstall the Freedome VPN profile every time you turn your iOS app on or off, or change the relay server. While the Freedome app may be simple to use, and the Android version is just on/off, you can’t simply disable the iOS version using the normal VPN switch. It then turns itself back on. Instead, you turn it on or off and choose a different server using the app; the app communicates with the F-Secure Web site, recreates the Freedome VPN profile and you re-install. This is the same way other VPN services install under iOS, but after that they can be turned on and off using the VPN button. It doesn’t take long, just a few more steps. No big deal, but time-consuming.
The circuitous configuration is one way Freedome protects you from malware. As I’ve never had any sort of malware attack on any of my mobile devices, I can’t sincerely say if this or any other measures Freedome takes are actually necessary. Freedome do business not to be secretive or above the law, Timo Laaksonen, VP for content cloud at F Secure, told Forbes, but to provide users with a certain level of privacy. At the same time, however, if a request for your data is legitimate, they will not stop a proper investigation from the authorities. Nevertheless, he claims, Freedome makes sure your content cannot be combed through and picked up by intelligence agencies or advertisers without your knowledge or through illegal means, and promises that everything from the thumbnail to the content itself and the metadata is all encrypted. If you destroy information, the content’s gone for good.