This article is a paid placement developed by dealnews in partnership with AnchorFree. The convenience of online shopping has been a staple in the retail landscape for years, but this holiday season has demonstrated that consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet for their retail needs. ComScore announced that the 5-day span of Monday through Friday last week saw $6.9 billion in business — an 11% jump from that period last year, making it the most lucrative such timeframe in online retail history. As this retail shift takes shape, however, and shoppers become more motivated to conduct transactions online, they may feel compelled to seek out an additional level of protection for the personal information that they will repeatedly divulge. Luckily, there's a fairly simple way for consumers to shield their activity. Protect Your Information with a VPN Protecting your digital information starts by securely accessing the Internet through a virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN. The California-based AnchorFree provides access to a VPN that it claims is the largest in the world, featuring more than 10 million users. The BBB-accredited AnchorFree offers a product called Hotspot Shield, which encrypts all network activity so that malicious software and users can't access your private information. It does this by establishing a secure connection to the Hotspot Shield servers, providing you with a new IP address. It also sends all your web activity through an HTTPS protocol, the same protocol that online retailers and banks use to encrypt your information. This prevents other parties from "eavesdropping" on the information you're sending across the network. That's what Hotspot Shield does, but what does this actually mean for you? Perhaps you're one of the 60% of Internet users who have the same password for multiple online accounts, and maybe one of those multi-use passwords overlaps with a retail site. Even though this online vendor may feature an HTTPS protocol of its own, if your login isn't encrypted on other sites, then it may be vulnerable. A malicious user that intercepts your information at an unencrypted site can then attempt to log in to any other account that uses that same email and password. Hotspot Shield thus protects all of your Internet use by making every site feature an HTTPS protocol. In addition to offering a significant level of protection, a VPN like Hotspot Shield also offers a series of consumer-friendly benefits. Through the secure connection, you're able to browse and search completely privately, and the rerouted access allows even users in restricted-access countries to connect and browse blocked sites. The most noticeable difference for the average user, however, will be the improved browsing experience. During a round of tests with Hotspot Shield Elite, CNET found that websites seemed to "resolve faster". Despite the fact that traffic is rerouted to the AnchorFree servers to become encrypted, pages in general loaded much more quickly. This is a particular advantage for anyone using heavily accessed public WiFi networks. Mobile VPNs Offers Smartphone Security Protecting your desktop and laptop is all well and good, but our society has also become more mobile-based. In fact, many recent reports show that more consumers than ever are engaging in mobile shopping via smartphones and tablets. As a result, dealnews has noticed a growing trend for retailers to offer special promotions that encourage this sort of shopping, including mobile-only discounts. Shoppers who hope to avail of these special promotions can bring that same "extra layer" of security to their mobile transactions with Hotspot Shield for iOS or Android. Once you activate the Hotspot app, any activity you undertake during that session — whether it's via a browser or through an in-app purchase — is protected. Moreover, much like its PC-based brethren, AnchorFree's mobile-based VPN also offers enhanced browsing speeds, as it automatically compresses data. In addition to a more speedy mobile browsing experience, the data compression has the added benefit of allowing users to access more information on a smaller cellular data plan. AnchorFree claims that, in cases where users paid a per GB rate for data, its VPN saved up to 30% on their monthly bills. Regardless of the platform, Hotspot Shield is available in a free-of-charge form. However, to take advantage of many of the aforementioned benefits, a paid plan may be required; for example, the enhanced connection speeds that were celebrated by CNET are attainable with the Hotspot Shield Elite service only. The app, too, requires an in-app subscription in order to access the data compression that contributes to reduced bills. With Elite service, you won't be subjected to ads, and you'll have the luxury of 24/7 live tech support. A 1-year subscription to Elite for your computer costs only $29.99. Although you'll need to expend some cash in order to receive the highest level of service through Hotspot Shield, for many of us, it's a product worth investing in. Visit the AnchorFree website to purchase a 1-year subscription to Hotspot Shield Elite for $29.99. To receive the service on your iOS or Android device, download the app and subscribe via an in-app purchase. This article is a paid placement developed by dealnews in partnership with AnchorFree. As its information has been provided by AnchorFree, the views and perspectives expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views of dealnews or of a disinterested third party. Follow @dealnews on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.