Portable WiFi can be as little as 20 bucks a month, but for the 200 or so MB you get and the slow speed that comes with it, you’d be better off upgrading to the $50-$60 for carrier WiFi with unlimited data on the faster 3/4G network.

But why pay when you can get it for free? Well, if you don’t have the time to hunt for WiFi or just need it occasionally, then you may have to pay. Otherwise, if you are flexible and can get around easily enough, there are plenty of resources out there for free WiFi.

Resources for free WiFi:

  • Mobiles: If you’re out and about, ask anyone if he or she has a mobile phone that acts as a hotspot. PC Advisor calls this setup tethering or internet sharing, and many smartphones provide this feature, including iPhones, BlackBerrys, Windows Phones and Android handsets. PC Advisor also has a list of phones that can do the trick.
  • Retail shops: Local coffee shops; retail stores; malls; hospitals; chains like Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King and many others provide free WiFi—often without you having to buy anything.
  • CableWiFi: Bright House Networks, Cox Communications, Optimum, Time Warner Cable and XFINITY allow one another’s high-speed internet customers to access more than 150,000 WiFi hotspots. CableWiFi is the wireless network name created as an extension of the WiFi services offered by internet service providers listed here.

WiFi locators:

  • WiFinder (iOS/Android) enables your WiFi card to find secured and unsecured wireless connections wherever you are. WiFinder provides the ability to quickly search for open WiFi networks from your home screen.
  • WeFi (Android) claims to be the most popular WiFi connection manager on the market. With WeFi, you always get the best WiFi connection while keeping battery consumption to a minimum.
  • Free Zone is the app that helps you find free WiFi hotspots—and it really works, with more than 300,000 WiFi totally free hotspots.

But keep in mind that “free” generally means unencrypted, wide open and unsecured, so they’re susceptible to hackers using sniffing hardware and software to steal your information.

When you’re hopping on free WiFi, make sure to download and install Hotspot Shield VPN on your mobile, tablet or laptop to encrypt your wireless communications so evildoers can’t see your data or install a Trojan on your device.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning AmericaDisclosures.

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