Download of the day: Hotspot Shield

Our daily pick of the best Windows software

The free Hotspot Shield is perfect for protecting your data from intrusive snooping, whether that's by hackers, governments or viruses.

Why you need it

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you'll know that online privacy is somewhat newsworthy (a possible contender for understatement of the year right there). An increasing number of companies are offering services to keep your data safe from prying eyes, and Hotspot Shield is one of the most trusted.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) like that offered by Hotspot Shield are used extensively by journalists seeking to protect their sources and by political dissidents in repressive countries, but they're very useful even if you just use it on an everyday basis. Hotspot Shield, for example, lets you browse the internet as if you were operating on a secure, private network, keeping you anonymous, your data encrypted and preventing light-fingered hackers from stealing your vital information.

There's more to it than just privacy protection, though. Hotspot Shield actively monitors for malicious websites and files, warning you if you're heading towards a dodgy site. It encrypts your personal data such as credit card numbers and passwords, making them much harder to steal and misuse, while the nature of VPNs – extended private networks, essentially – means you can bypass restrictions blocking you from certain websites.

There's a free version of Hotspot Shield that does all this and a little more too, while there's an Elite version for £18.95 a year if you want even more protection.

Key features

  • Works on: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Versions: Free, Elite (£18.95 per year)
  • Stay anonymous: Hotspot Shield protects your privacy: it hides your IP address and reroutes your traffic so it looks like you're browsing from a different location
  • Protect your data: All your important information is encrypted, while you'll be warned if you're heading towards a known attack site.
  • Bypass censorship: Browse websites that are blocked in your location or available only to viewers originating from a certain country (such as USA-only Hulu videos)

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