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Geeky Travelers and Public WiFi's

(10 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by ReadandShare
  • Latest reply from LadyFitzgerald
  • Topic Viewed 422 times

ReadandShare
Posts: 127

I am retired, and a couple of months each year, I travel abroad -- backpacking solo, staying in hostels... and accessing the net using public Wifi (preferably the free ones). I travel with my Asus Transformer - an Android tablet. I am not particularly paranoid, and don't much care if anyone "snoops" when I'm browsing websites like CNN or HTG, etc.

But i also check email's regularly and do banking when needed. These, however, are automatically done via HTTPS encryption. This means everything between my tablet and the destination computer is encrypted, both directions, correct? I am not too worried about risks on the tablet itself -- I am the only user, my tablet is password protected, it is set to load only apps from Google Play, and I also have AVG installed to (hopefully) detect malware.

So, am I reasonably safe? Do I really need to use a VPN (which I believe will slow down traffic significantly)? Would like to read about traveler insight and experience.

Posted 1 year ago
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LadyFitzgerald
Posts: 2232

About the only time I use a public Wi-Fi is when I'm on the road and use the one at the motel I'm staying at; those are usually password protected or the range is so lousy, it's unlikely anyone but guests will be able to use it. I have a good fitrewall in place as well as a good AV and anti-spyware/malware protection (MBAM and SAS). I tend to avoid dodgy sites anyway so I've yet to have a problem.

My banking doesn't use Java (which I uninstalled a long time ago) but does use SSL protection. I go to my credet union as little as possible when on the road and spend as little time online there as possible. My email recently got the option to use SSL to connect but I have that turned off because I had to log in everytime I checked my email. At home, I don't really need that extra layer of protection. The next time I do need to use a public Wi-Fi, I will be turning it on.

Posted 1 year ago
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presence1960
presence1960
Posts: 280

I never do banking from Windows or wifi. I won't even access my bank's site from my android smart phone. Did you hear about the Russian-led syndicate who is infecting the major banks systems? What they are doing is installing a malware load to your machine when you connect with the banks servers. You can guess what their next step is. They have already stated they are getting Wells Fargo, Citibank and other major banking institutions. Fortunately right now the malware will not run on linux. I haven't done banking from windows in over 5 years. Maybe that is paranoia, but rather be safe than sorry. If I can find the news article from my local news station web site here in philly I will supply a link.

Posted 1 year ago
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LadyFitzgerald
Posts: 2232

If malware has infected a bank's website, your accounts there are already in trouble, whether you access them or not. I suspect the banks that were affected recently were using Java based software (I'm amazed by the number of financial institutions that do). Fortunately, my credit union doesn't; if it did, I wouldn't have been able to access my accounts at all since I uninstalled Java a long time ago and I would have been looking for a new financial institution...fast!

The only time I had a problem with one of my credit union accounts was several years ago when a credit card clearing house down in Tucson was hacked into and my debit card number was used at a car rental agency in Georgia (even thought the card had been blocked since it was used initially before the block). I had my money back within 24 hours. There was nothing I could have done to have prevented that from happening other than paying cash for everything. It's less likely to happen now since the credit card source my credit union uses (different than the one they used to use when my account got hacked) monitors my account for charges in unusual locations and for unusual amounts (if I'm going to make a large charge, I have to call the first or it will be blocked). I also have to let them know ahead of time if I'm going to be traveling somewhere I've never been before.

Although I don't have a smart phone (mine is a dumb a** phone), even if I did, I wouldn't use it for banking transactions since phones aren't as well protected as computers can be.

I agree safe is better than sorry but where does one draw the line between safety and convenience?

Posted 1 year ago
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presence1960
presence1960
Posts: 280

Lady F that is a question each individual has to answer on their own. I opt with safety, especially in the case of wifi which is basically like a radio signal, however limited in range it is.

Posted 1 year ago
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presence1960
presence1960
Posts: 280

http://www.computerworld.com/s.....U.S._banks

http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/1.....index.html

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/.....jor-banks/

The second & third links are about the specific one I referred to.

Posted 1 year ago
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ReadandShare
Posts: 127

My concern is more with me, as an individual, using public Wifi -- as described above. As for this supposed upcoming massive attack against bank websites -- and/or planting malware onto devices that visit said websites -- I am not too concerned. Why? Something about "strength in numbers". When people are getting hit systematically -- then the government, the banks, the security firms, the browser makers, etc. -- all get involved. I am more concerned about 'lone victim' scenarios.

Posted 1 year ago
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LadyFitzgerald
Posts: 2232

As presence 1960 (curious name) points out, everyone has to decide for themselves where to draw the line between safety and convenience. Most malicious hackers go after the easier targets because, basically, they are lazy and don't want to do anymore work than they have to. There are enough easy targets out there, most people who take reasonable precautions will not need to worry.

Even if you never bank online, your account still can be accessed online by a determined hacker so eschewing internet banking will not make you any safer than if you use reasonble precautions if you do access your account online. As I pointed out earlier, several years ago, my debit card was compromised by a hacker(s) that broke into a credit/debit card clearing house (I had my money back in 24 hours). The only thing I could have done to prevent that would have been to close the account and never, ever use a debit/credit card. Obviously, that's never going to happen because it is too inconvenient. Everything we do in life has risks. We risk getting killed everytime we get in a car. Are we going to quit driving? Heck, even walking is dangerous because we could get hit by someone else's car. We risk getting robbed everytime we leave our houses with valuables on us. Yet we still do. A movie theater became a massacre scene. Are we going to quit going to movies?

I'm not worried about the predicted massive attack. While plenty big enough to be stable, my credit union is small enough to not likely to be worth the effort to hack. With the same effort it would take to hack into a smaller bank, one can hack into a bigger bank and reap bigger rewards. And some of the bigger banks are notorious for poor security; in fact, Bank of America is downright notorious for it. All my accounts are Federally or State insured so, even if the worst happened, I would eventually get my money back.

As long as one is cautious about which public WiFi one uses (open hot spots are frequently unsafe, especially at airports), your bank doesn't use Java based software, and is SSL protected, you are reasonably (there's that word again) safe using public WiFi. Just don't use a public computer, such as at a library or in the lobby of a motel/hotel; those can have keyloggers or other spyware loaded on them. I wouldn't even use them to check my email.

Posted 1 year ago
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presence1960
presence1960
Posts: 280

presence is from the Led Zeppelin album of the same name. 1960 is my birth year. "presence" is the black figure in all the pictures on the album.

Posted 1 year ago
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LadyFitzgerald
Posts: 2232

Thanks for explaining. I'm not a fan of Led Zeppelin's genre so I never would have figured it out.

Posted 1 year ago
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