I’ve heard public Wi-Fi is insecure. How do I improve my safety when using it? Sophie via email

With the rise of smartphones, tablets and laptops, it has become increasingly common to use public Wi-Fi without thinking about security and privacy. Most people don’t understand how easily data can be intercepted. Wi-Fi networks that don’t have passwords don’t encrypt data, so it is relatively easy using freely available software to view information being sent to the website, and back to you. You can protect yourself by routing your data through a “virtual private network” (VPN), a secure “tunnel” that operates over a public network. Your connection to the network is encrypted, along with all your data.

VPNs are used by companies so employees can remotely access files while staying secure. The technology is also available to you and me through online organisations. Among the best I’ve found are HideMyAss and Cloak. HideMyAss works with Apple, Windows and Android devices. Cloak is aimed at Apple users. HideMyAss offers an unlimited service for $11.52 a month if you pay monthly, $8.33 a month if you pay six-monthly, and $6.55 a month for annual membership.