Edward Snowden will undoubtedly go down in history as the man who irrevocably changed the world’s perception of online privacy forever. Personally, I think it’s disgraceful that we should even need specific software dedicated to protecting our privacy from snooping governments, advertizing companies, and the myriad of other organizations who spy on and trade off our online activities.
I do believe that some users tend to take precautions to the extreme, however, in today’s privacy-centric online community, dedicated privacy software of some kind or another has become pretty much obligatory.
One such software is a browser add-on (or extension) called ZenMate – available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera – which promises complete anonymity by routing traffic through its VPN cloud-network of secure servers.
ZenMate uses superior technology to fully encrypt all traffic on your browser and mobile device. Your IP is hidden, your internet unrestricted and your privacy protected. We are using tested industrial strength encryption standards which we are delivering through our unique lightweight plugin, with no configuration needed at all.
ZenMate creates a tunnel similar to a virtual private network (VPN) between your device and our Internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers, governments and ISP‘s from spying on your web browsing activities, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network via your browser or mobile device.
ZenMate – Installation and Usage
One of the most appealing aspects of ZenMate is it’s sheer simplicity – firstly, because it’s a browser add-on, installation is quick and uncomplicated. ZenMate’s FAQ page puts it this way:
The ZenMate service is just a tiny and lightweight browser plugin. ZenMate is a 1-click install solution offering instant, hassle-free protection.
That certainly proved to be the case for me using Firefox, with ZenMate up and running in a matter of seconds.
Secondly; ZenMate just works right out of the box without the need for any complicated configuration or fiddling with settings. As with many similar add-ons, ZenMate plonks an icon at the end of the address bar (in Firefox), simply click the icon, choose a “location” and ZenMate is good to go.
ZenMate currently includes 5 locations to choose from:
I set my location to the United States and tested several sites I know are restricted here in Australia and had no problem whatsoever accessing content and services which would normally be blocked. A definite pass!
Next, I visited several sites that identify the user’s IP address, including Whoer.net, and all reported an IP address different to the actual as well as showing my location as being in the US. Another pass!
Of course, I don’t have the tools, nor expertise for that matter, to thoroughly test ZenMate’s overall protection and privacy features, but on the strength of what basic testing I did perform, it certainly appears to work as advertized.
ZenMate – Is It Free?
It seems the full featured ZenMate is free to use for the moment but not forever.
If you refer back to the second screenshot from the top, you’ll see that I’ve highlighted a section of text – Thank you for using ZenMate! You have unlimited free data during our launch phase.
ZenMate makes it clear on the official site that they intend to eventually offer both Free and Premium versions, at which time the Free version will obviously involve limitations. What is not clear is how long this “launch phase” will last, so, at his stage, there is no indication of how long unlimited free data will be included before payment is required.
This message from the ZenMate site:
ZenMate is free and always will be. You will never be charged without your consent.
During our market rollout, we are offering accounts with unlimited traffic to all new users for a limited amount of time. In the future we will offer free accounts with a limited amount of monthly traffic and several versions of paid premium accounts with unlimited monthly traffic and additional features.
Your account will always remain free by default and will only change to a paid premium account if you explicitly wish to do so.
I guess the current “free” offer could be construed as a trial period but it would be handy to have some information regarding longevity – “in the future” is all too vague. In the end, once the finalized Free and Premium versions hit the market, whether the user decides to continue using Zenmate or not will no doubt come down to just how much data is included with the free version. Plus, there will always be the option to upgrade of course, depending on pricing structure.
ZenMate – Bottom Line
ZenMate is a very simple and effective method to achieve online security and privacy, it appears to work very well with no discernible negative impact on browsing speed or page rendering. What stands ZenMate out from other similar add-ons is the encrypted connection providing a high level of security as well as anonymity, rather than just simply hiding the IP address. Now, if only it was free forever to boot!
- Learn more about ZenMate and its features here: https://zenmate.com/
**It should be noted that ZenMate is not a full VPN service and, as such, will only privatize and protect traffic through the browser and not system wide.
Next week I’ll be checking out and reporting on a very similar alternative called SafeIP, so keep an eye out for that one.