TunnelBear provides simple, private, free access to the global Internet.

Internet security is a real ‘hot button’ issue these days. Hackers and ‘creepers’ are able to break into our computers while we think we are on a secure network. The truth is, that sometimes there is no such thing. If you use your computer, smart phone or tablet in a public area or even at work, your system is vulnerable. So, how do you make yourself and devices more secure in public? Creating a virtual private network (VPN) is a good start.

tunnelbear-1Many people are already familiar with VPNs because of remote access to company intranets. It is a popular way for IT professionals to create a bridge for employees to be able to work from home. VPNs are also a great way to keep creepers from viewing your activity online. Unfortunately, VPNs can be cumbersome to set-up on your own. There are some apps that will do it for you, but many aren’t very user friendly. TunnelBear is a rare exception to that rule.

TunnelBear is a Canadian-based VPN provider that allows users of its apps (Mac and iOS) to create their own VPN for free. TunnelBear has marketed themselves as the ‘VPN provider with the cute cartoon bears.’ This is actually true. I think working with TunnelBear has brought me into a utility app with a storyline. When you open the app, you are greeted with an animated bear that ‘guards’ your internet connection from outside sources. On the iOS version, the guard bear will hibernate if there is no connection active and dig while you are connected to the TunnelBear service.

tunnelbear-2The service has a tiered service plan system, but you can use it for free. There are three sizes of bears – Little (free), Giant ($4.99/month) and Grizzly ($49.99/year). With the Little Bear, you receive 500MBs of data transfer per month with your TunnelBear and with the Giant and Grizzly, you receive unlimited data transfer. The big difference between the two unlimited account options is that the Grizzly saves you approximately 17% for the year.

As for its operation – TunnelBear is extremely easy to use. The Mac version is a menu bar utility. Once its installed, you simply choose your region/area – in my case, United States – and then click ‘on’. TunnelBear will connect to its online service and create a VPN for your privacy. The iOS version is similar. Once it’s installed, you open the app and see a sleeping bear. To set up the VPN, in iOS, you have to go to settings and then VPN. Once you look in the VPN settings, you can turn the VPN on or off and select which TunnelBear configuration (location) you want to use. When you return to the app interface, the bear is awakened and digging – or tunneling. It’s that simple. Plus, you can use TunnelBear to create a VPN as if you were in a different country. This can be valuable if you are trying to get around a certain country’s censorship.

Even though the Little Bear version is free, you are still required to set-up a free account through TunnelBear.com. You use this account to log-in to either version of TunnelBear.

If you are looking for an easy way to protect your Internet activities, I can highly recommend TunnelBear. It’s easy to set-up, inexpensive and fun to use. For more information, visit TunnelBear.com.