I visit coffee shops and airports several times a month and have always felt a little uncomfortable logging into any of my social media accounts via public wi-fi networks. If you are like me you might have wondered if anyone is listening in on your internet traffic… just waiting to capture personal login credentials and then pretend to be you online. Not a pleasant thought.
I recently found a solution for this problem in the form of a Seattle start-up’s new product named Cloak. For as little as $8 a month (for 20GB of traffic or $15 for 50GB) this nifty little piece of software protects my Netflix, Facebook and other online account login credentials from prying eyes while I’m on a public network. I recently got to talk with Dave Peck, the Founder of GetCloak.com and asked him a few questions about the company, it’s first product and what the future holds for his team.
Where did the idea of Cloak, as a service, come from?
Peter, Nick, and I were all freelancers here in the Seattle area — Peter and I are software developers and Nick is a web and graphic designer. We spent a *lot* of time working from coffee shops here in Seattle. Great caffeine, but the wi-fi was a little troubling — doing sensitive client work on public wi-fi didn’t seem right. We had a habit of using SSH + SOCKS, but it’s easy to forget to set up a tunnel and SOCKS settings aren’t universally honored across OS X apps anyway. Not so good. We looked around for a trustworthy VPN service and we learned (1) a lot of them look sketchy, and (2) even the ones that look legit seem to be in the technological backwaters — if it takes more than a minute or two to set up, or if it requires fiddly configuration, it seemed to us to be too hard.
So we really saw an opportunity both to build the tool we wanted, and to make life better for a lot of other people who wanted something simple. To make the hard thing of security a little easier.
That’s basically what got us started. We wanted the thing and we thought we could build it better. Then we decided to charge for it last November — and, well, things have sort of taken a life of their own from there.
How do the three of you (that work on Cloak) know each other?
Peter and I have been in the same circle of friends (independent of work) for many years.
Nick and I met when I was freelancing — I ended up putting in time as a freelance developer at a startup where he worked.
Why should someone use Cloak?
At least today, public wi-fi isn’t safe. Hacker tools like Firesheep make it amazingly easy to see what other people are up to on sites like Facebook, Amazon.com, LinkedIn, The New York Times, etc. Firesheep has been downloaded many millions of times — it’s clear that it’s in use in the wild.
Cloak provides a great improvement over your threat surface: instead of having to trust everyone who uses or operates any public wi-fi network that you use, you can trust Cloak instead.
What makes Cloak a better VPN option than the others out there?
We’ve tried very hard to make Cloak amazingly easy to use. We want it to ultimately be so simple that it’s a no-brainer: there’s no good reason not to use it.
We built our own client apps. We built our own global server network. We tied them together end-to-end, which means we can do stuff that nobody else can. For example, our Mac client automatically detects when you’re on an insecure network and secures your connection — no need to even remember Cloak to use it. And as an example of a feature that requires end-to-end integration: every time you connect with Cloak, it first determines which of our server clusters around the world will give you the lowest latency for this connection. So if you travel, Cloak is the perfect companion. Nobody else does this. There are lots of other goodies in the mix too.
Finally, we think we’re better because we’re trying to build a company that we’d want to interact with. Great and responsive support, no nonsense policies, generally cool people behind the scenes, etc. You can let us know how we’re doing.
You currently only offer your service to Mac and iOS clients. Do you have a timeline for Android, Windows or Linux releases?
We don’t have a public timeline. We want to get to them just as soon as we can, although we haven’t started on them yet.
What kind of data speeds can someone expect when using the service?
Speeds vary depending on network conditions, but if your local network is in good shape you absolutely should be able to stream an HD movie, no problem.
Cloak is a product from a company called Bourgeois Bits. How long has that company been around and what other sorts of products can we expect to see released?
Bourgeois Bits LLC is a Washington, USA based company owned by myself, Peter, and Nick (my co-founders.) We formed it because we wanted to build cool software together. Right now Cloak is our one and only product and is getting 100% of our attention. We do have lots of cool ideas for other apps down the road — think a little like the Panic, Inc. mold — but we’re plenty busy with Cloak right now.
I think you guys have a great product here.
Thanks much — we really appreciate it.
Want to give Cloak a spin? You can signup for a FREE trail via http://GetCloak.com.
Editorial Note: If you click on the link above I can earn free usage credits on the GetCloak.com service. That would rock.