Connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot on your laptop or phone carries risks, because the security may not be very good and it is possible that someone could snoop on your internet activity. A VPN (virtual private network) creates a secure and encrypted connection between you and the VPN server, bypassing anyone that might try to look at what you are doing, including the owner of the hotspot.
A VPN is especially useful for online shopping, banking and anything that requires you to log in, because it adds a layer of almost uncrackable security. Some VPNs such as Hotspot Shield (www.hotspotshield.com) will detect when you are using an insecure public Wi-Fi hotspot and automatically switch on to secure it. A VPN can be manually enabled, too – just don’t forget to switch it on!