We last looked at Cloak’s excellent Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution after Macworld 2013. Cloak 2 is now available, having been simplified, streamlined, and made even better than it was before. Oddly enough, this is because there’s less of it—Cloak 2 features fewer plans and a single, consistent interface across iOS and OS X, and this dramatic simplification made an already great tool even better.
I work in the field of IT security, so I’m pretty well versed in VPN technology; I also travel and spend a great deal of time wondering whether the hotel WiFi is really secure enough for me to do my online banking. With Cloak, I can easily shield my private communications from prying eyes with no effort. The installation is simple and easy, and the interface of both apps is now exactly the same. The OS X interface is a drop down from the menu bar, which displays a window with the same controls as the fullscreen iOS Cloak app. All the settings are cloud synced across devices so Cloak behaves the same on my iPad as it does on my MacBook.
The other big news about Cloak is the simpler pricing: there’s $2.99/month for 5GB of data (plenty for basic web surfing and email) or $9.99/month for unlimited data—and you can use it on as many devices as you’d like. The previous pricing was more complex and required you to know your data usage. The iOS app also has in-app purchases in the form of passes—a weekly/monthly unlimited pass for $3.99/$9.99 respectively, or a yearly unlimited pass for $99.99 which gets you two months free. The weekly pass is especially useful, as it provides a no-brainer solution for casual VPN use when traveling.
Cloak of Secrecy
When last I wrote about Cloak, it was still possible to have a little bit of hope that your movement on the Internet wasn’t being completely tracked (ah the blissful pre-Snowden leak days). Ars Technica did a great collaborative piece with NPR that demonstrates just how much information about us is available on the wire even when we’re done actively browsing/doing work. Any additional protection is valuable, and four of Cloak’s features really stand out as winners in this easy to use VPN package:
- Auto-secure: When you set Cloak to auto-secure, it will automatically establish your VPN connection and begin encrypting your traffic with no interaction on your part. This makes it easy to forget about security in a good way; just like Apple’s Touch ID, it provides security without getting in your way.
- Overcloak: Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac all communicate with a vast array of online services, from your email server to Facebook, Twitter, Apple…the list goes on and on. As soon as your device senses an Internet connection, it will try to contact all these services. Cloak can shut down that communication until a VPN connection has been established. This feature prevents your device from exposing sensitive information over an unencrypted connection.
- Trusted Networks: Your home network is probably secure, so there’s no need to use a VPN to prevent local eavesdropping (e.g. a hipster in your local Starbucks snooping your traffic looking for your bank information). You can designate trusted networks on which Cloak will not establish a VPN, which saves you money and can improve your network speed.
- Transporter: This feature was available in Cloak 1 but was rather difficult to use. Because a VPN acts like a tunnel, it has an entry point and an exit point. Cloak’s Transporter feature lets you choose the country for your exit point, so you can make it look like you’re in the US when you’re really in South America (just as an example). This can be useful when accessing services like Netflix or iTunes, which may have different content or not be available at all in certain countries.
Security and privacy are topics that more everyday users are becoming familiar with, so it’s great to see an app like Cloak that makes adding security simple. The development team deserves kudos for simplifying a gray app without losing functionality—something even Apple doesn’t always get right. Cloak is aimed squarely at everyday users who want extra protection for casual browsing on public WiFi networks, and the new look makes it one of the best looking security apps I’ve ever used.
Provides: VPN protection for iOS and Mac OS X
Minimum Requirements: OS X 10.7 or above, iOS 7.0 or above
Price: One month free trial. Monthly plans start at $2.99 for 5 GB or $9.99 for unlimited data. In-app purchases include weekly/monthly/yearly passes at $3.99/$9.99/$99.99