Virtual Private Networks - Are they worthwhile?

 
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
(My apologies if this topic has been discussed here recently, the Railpage 'search' function didn't seem to work or at least didn't find any results for this topic)

I am heading overseas next month for just on 4 weeks. I am considering signing up to a VPN that I can use on my computer and phone when I am accessing public WiFi to check my bank account and make various purchases online.

I normally do not make any purchases when using public wifi, but it looks like I will need to purchase some train tickets through an app at some stage during my travels.
I would only log in to check my bank account when in the hotel room when using my phone as a 'data hotspot'; although I assume there is still a risk of cyber hacking to take occur here.

Would a VPN be recommended for these circumstances, or are they ultimately a waste of money only being capable of offering limited protection?  

Cheers.

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  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
A VPN is worthwhile at all times. I wouldn’t do most of my work without one.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

“I would only log in to check my bank account when in the hotel room when using my phone as a 'data hotspot'; ……….” implies that you will have a SIM card with a data allowance. If that’s the case, you are using the 4G private network of the mobile service provider, which would be as secure as using Telstra, Optus, etc here in Australia. The mobile phone then creates its own Wi-Fi network for use by your other devices. You set the level of security, either none or, as it should be, WPA2.

If you’re using the hotel’s Wi-Fi (the phone’s then not a hotspot), it would be as insecure as any other public Wi-Fi network, eg Starbucks or McDonalds, in which case you’d probably want use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service provider. Do some research on a good provider and what’s involved.

Most banks have mobile banking security suggestions on their websites. Here’s ANZ’s:
https://www.anz.com.au/security/account-protection/mobile-banking/

Global roaming and mobile data rates are separate issues and needs research to avoid horrendous bills. As far as your Australian SIM card is concerned, the general advice is ‘Leave home without it’ (apologies AMEX).
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
(My apologies if this topic has been discussed here recently, the Railpage 'search' function didn't seem to work or at least didn't find any results for this topic)

I am heading overseas next month for just on 4 weeks. I am considering signing up to a VPN that I can use on my computer and phone when I am accessing public WiFi to check my bank account and make various purchases online.

I normally do not make any purchases when using public wifi, but it looks like I will need to purchase some train tickets through an app at some stage during my travels.
I would only log in to check my bank account when in the hotel room when using my phone as a 'data hotspot'; although I assume there is still a risk of cyber hacking to take occur here.

Would a VPN be recommended for these circumstances, or are they ultimately a waste of money only being capable of offering limited protection?  

Cheers.
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From security point of view, I wouldn't be too paranoid and I do this frequently. Always using credit card while travelling, but there is always a time and place and use cash as well. Never let the credit card out of my sight and these days you often don't even hand it over, tap and enter your pin.

I used credit card to buy train tickets and alot of stuff while travelling, no issues. Its all secure sites these days for these sorts of things.

Certain WIFI's I wouldn't do it on, especially free unless its a secure type location, like business lounge, good hotel etc.

I don't know about the need for VPN for this. I tend to think its a waste of money.

As I get an sms for every bank transaction which includes the balance there is no need to log on to check my bank account and I would do this via phone banking anyway. Its easier and I can do without logging on so more secure.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Any connection between two secure networks over an insecure link requires a VPN to secure it.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE

Global roaming and mobile data rates are separate issues and needs research to avoid horrendous bills. As far as your Australian SIM card is concerned, the general advice is ‘Leave home without it’ (apologies AMEX).
kitchgp
It gets down to doing your homework and spending 15min reading the roaming rules with your carrier. People who get surprised by horrendous bills these days shouldn't be getting a passport for their own safety.

What i tend to do for business and personal travel is depending on where I'm going (country) and how long. Some countries are easy to get local SIm's, others not so or damn near impossible and the USA is one of the later or was in 2016. Meanwhile walk off the plane in Sri Lanka and before you have passed through Immigration you have a Sim in your phone, working ready to go and demonstrated to you that its working for $20-30 or so. India is hit and miss. Prague, took me 2 days to find one. More countries want passport copies to get local sim, so best take your own in case their copier isn't working.

I buy a daily data plan off my UAE provider which only activates when I activate the sim card on broad band on a rolling 24h connection basis and then I get 2GB, then repeat as required when required. So over a 3 week trip I might only access for 4 days in total, 4 days x $10/day, not a huge cost as a plan B if I cannot get a local Sim. Great for situations when you don't know what you are walking into and how easy to get local Sim and if you may need access to data before arriving at destination. Downloading maps in advance can reduce this need, but often with AirBNB type accommodation you need to be whatsapping  the host or Manager prior to arrival.

Most phones now have dual sim capability so SIM discipline and control is easy (if you don't have a dual sim phone, toss the old one and update). Leave your Aussie one off or only on request. You won't burn through data regardless unless you are watching videos and downloading stuff. I can leave my phone on accessing work emails for a week and still be less than 0.5GB.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Thank you for your replies and info. An interesting read.

Yes I will be using a local telco's SIM card which comes with a data allowance, so any online payments I need to make or logging into my bank account will be done via phone's 'hotspot' when I'm at the hotel on my computer.

So in theory, if I were to purchase a train ticket while on the train after boarding via my mobile phone's data allowance (not public wifi) should that be a sufficiently secure connection, or is there always the risk there are dedicated 'hackers' out and about in public trying to steal any accessible info from non secure devices?
  Carnot Chief Commissioner

If I was visiting China I would use a VPN (along with a burner phone) without a doubt.  But you get what you pay for - many VPNs are blocked even there.

Talking of burner phones - just have a absolute minimum set of apps on it so they can be deleted quickly (i.e encrypted messaging apps).
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
If I was visiting China I would use a VPN (along with a burner phone) without a doubt.  But you get what you pay for - many VPNs are blocked even there.

Talking of burner phones - just have a absolute minimum set of apps on it so they can be deleted quickly (i.e encrypted messaging apps).
Carnot
If you are roaming in China using a non Chinese Sim, your phone and most site access work no issues. ie Google, FB, WhatsAPp etc

If you are on a WIFI / LAN, you behind the Chinese firewall. So before you go set up Wechat and anyone you want to talk to in Oz.

Never bothered with VPN China, only useful if you want to access smeg, I'm not that desperate.

Used credit card, no issue over phone buying stuff, but only from high profile organisations. Chinese are moving fast to a cashless society, Wechat is used to make payments to even street food vendors.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
Thank you for your replies and info. An interesting read.

Yes I will be using a local telco's SIM card which comes with a data allowance, so any online payments I need to make or logging into my bank account will be done via phone's 'hotspot' when I'm at the hotel on my computer.

So in theory, if I were to purchase a train ticket while on the train after boarding via my mobile phone's data allowance (not public wifi) should that be a sufficiently secure connection, or is there always the risk there are dedicated 'hackers' out and about in public trying to steal any accessible info from non secure devices?
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Again I wondering why you need to log into your bank account?

Get your bank to send every transaction via sms and you are in constant contact with your account without having to log in. As soon as you pay for something, beep beep, you can see the transaction and remaining balance. Also works wonders if a vendor double dips as you know before leaving the store (yes, its happened to me in Dubai, but just once).

Regarding the train ticket online, respectfully I think you are being excessively paranoid. The site will be encrypted and you can see. Millions of people do this daily. I travel 2-4 x a year for work and business.


In my life by credit card has been hacked twice, none while travelling

Once by Swedish Post, how I have no idea. Yes I was in Sweden 2 months before for one night, had no interaction with Swedish Post and I didn't use my credit card. The bank called and asked about two large transactions and cancelled the card, issued a new card and refunded all monies before I even knew it happened. I had the sms , but didn't see it at the time as at work.

Another I think was 2 years ago, again the bank called before I knew.

My bank also requests notification of travel, which countries I'm going to and for how long to ensure the cards are active then, there and in that time frame and no longer. They also automatically block a vendor for 24h if the transaction fails more than twice i.e. wrong pin or other details you have to call to release. Lots of transactions in a short period of time and even if its something you normally don't do they call to check.

Remember you are legally protected by the bank against bank fraud and hacking.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Thank you for your replies and info. An interesting read.

Yes I will be using a local telco's SIM card which comes with a data allowance, so any online payments I need to make or logging into my bank account will be done via phone's 'hotspot' when I'm at the hotel on my computer.

So in theory, if I were to purchase a train ticket while on the train after boarding via my mobile phone's data allowance (not public wifi) should that be a sufficiently secure connection, or is there always the risk there are dedicated 'hackers' out and about in public trying to steal any accessible info from non secure devices?
Again I wondering why you need to log into your bank account?

Get your bank to send every transaction via sms and you are in constant contact with your account without having to log in. As soon as you pay for something, beep beep, you can see the transaction and remaining balance. Also works wonders if a vendor double dips as you know before leaving the store (yes, its happened to me in Dubai, but just once).

Regarding the train ticket online, respectfully I think you are being excessively paranoid. The site will be encrypted and you can see. Millions of people do this daily. I travel 2-4 x a year for work and business.


In my life by credit card has been hacked twice, none while travelling

Once by Swedish Post, how I have no idea. Yes I was in Sweden 2 months before for one night, had no interaction with Swedish Post and I didn't use my credit card. The bank called and asked about two large transactions and cancelled the card, issued a new card and refunded all monies before I even knew it happened. I had the sms , but didn't see it at the time as at work.

Another I think was 2 years ago, again the bank called before I knew.

My bank also requests notification of travel, which countries I'm going to and for how long to ensure the cards are active then, there and in that time frame and no longer. They also automatically block a vendor for 24h if the transaction fails more than twice i.e. wrong pin or other details you have to call to release. Lots of transactions in a short period of time and even if its something you normally don't do they call to check.

Remember you are legally protected by the bank against bank fraud and hacking.
RTT_Rules
Thank you for the reply.
Yes I acknowledge me "being excessively paranoid" is certainly a fair and accurate description.

I am still quite the troglodyte when it comes to modern technology.
My (ignorant) belief is that it is 'safer' to access online banking via computer more so then on a mobile phone.
I do not have any anti-virus/security programs installed on my phone, only on my computer.

While overseas I will not have access to my Australian phone number and I won't know my international phone number until I arrive and purchase the SIM card.
There are probably ways around this which I will look into with a bit of research.
I do not trust putting my credit card details into my phone.

So that is the long-winded answer to "why I need to log into my bank account" while overseas.
If I can get around to setting up banking via a phone app, then I will learn towards that option.



From this thread it seems ultimately a VPN is beneficial, but arguably not essential for an overseas trip.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
Thank you for the reply.
Yes I acknowledge me "being excessively paranoid" is certainly a fair and accurate description.

I am still quite the troglodyte when it comes to modern technology.
My (ignorant) belief is that it is 'safer' to access online banking via computer more so then on a mobile phone.
I do not have any anti-virus/security programs installed on my phone, only on my computer.

While overseas I will not have access to my Australian phone number and I won't know my international phone number until I arrive and purchase the SIM card.
There are probably ways around this which I will look into with a bit of research.
I do not trust putting my credit card details into my phone.

So that is the long-winded answer to "why I need to log into my bank account" while overseas.
If I can get around to setting up banking via a phone app, then I will learn towards that option.



From this thread it seems ultimately a VPN is beneficial, but arguably not essential for an overseas trip.
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I don't have any security protection on my phone either, home we use Mcfee, although I've gone a few years with zip and or at least Windows defender apparently running. Only issue was the boy one night accessing Fortnight links and smothered the laptop with viruses. A full disk wipe, but preserving our data and reboot.

A few questions
Where are you going?

How long you going?

I'm not sure why you still want to do banking while traveling?


My strong recommendation from someone who travels alot in recent years

- Get a Roaming package before leaving with your telco, but limited in capacity, so 1GB data, receive sms

- Get a local Sim on arrival or when  ever it suits for what ever you need

- Do not do any online banking, you have no reason to, you are on holidays I assume, time to focus on experiences not bank balances.

- Get auto SMS notification for your credit card transactions so you can monitor whats happening and with it your balance after the transaction. This is why you keep your Aussie Sim active, but data turned off.

(this has been standard in India and Dubai for a decade or more since we have been here, every transaction to any account we have, sms notification)

- Purchase train tickets, tour tickets, go shopping, what ever over your phone and/or laptop as you would back home. Prior to pressing send, check to make sure the message to say secure site comes up.

- If you buy something on a CC in a shop in person, never let it out of your sight, many shop keepers no longer even touch your card now, You do the work.

- Don't do financial transactions on free WIFI or ones at Cafe's

- Forget VPN

- Chill enjoy your trip, remember most people travel with their phone and do everything on their phone while travelling and nothing happens.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

The usual caveat; nothing is 100% secure. However, using the phone’s 4G data connection would be secure enough.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/technology/personaltech/security-wifi-lte-data.html

If you’re visiting friends, you could use their Wi-Fi network for privacy, presuming it is password-protected (WPA2).

Unless you are using them, switch off both Wi-Fi and Mobile Data. On Android phones or tablets, you can drag down the Notification Bar at the top of the screen and toggle the particular icon (it may just be an up and a down arrow icon for Mobile Data). You’ll probably have to go into Settings for an iPhone or iPad. Switch on Wi-Fi when you want to access free (or friends’) Wi-Fi or switch on Mobile Data when you want to access the internet via your 4G connection, including as a hotspot. Switch them off when finished.

When you’re using the computer, and want security, make sure it is connected to the hotspot, not, inadvertently, some other Wi-Fi network, such as the hotel’s. Use a strong hotspot password, which you can change in Settings. Turn hotspot mode off when not using it.

As well as the above, critical websites, such as banking, should use HTTPS, a more secure form of webpage, which has a lock icon in the address bar. If you’re not familiar with this, google it. This RP page's lock has an exclamation mark on it, which if you click on it gives ‘Connection is Not Secure’ and the reason.  If you go back to the parent The Lounge forum page the lock is normal, which if you click on it gives ‘Secure Connection’.  

Consider deferring any phone updates until you get home as they may take a big bite out of your data allowance. As mentioned by others, the destination may be something that also needs consideration.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
RTT_Rules / kitchgp - Thank you both very much for your replies and info. I am taking it on-board and are slowly getting a better understanding here.

Although I feel I have taken this this thread off topic with my travel-specifics, rather than the general discussion regarding VPN's.

In saying that.....just to answer a few of the above questions;
My upcoming trip is to America where I plan on purchasing an 8GB, unlimited txt AT&T simcard ($74AU) - as I have done previously.
That will be sufficient for my 4 week trip. That 8GB of data is what I will be using the majority of my internet browsing on via the phone's hotspot when on the computer.

My Australian mobile telco offers the $5 per day international roaming, however I believe that option isn't available to customers on a pre-paid plan such as myself.  

Cheers.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
RTT_Rules / kitchgp - Thank you both very much for your replies and info. I am taking it on-board and are slowly getting a better understanding here.

Although I feel I have taken this this thread off topic with my travel-specifics, rather than the general discussion regarding VPN's.

In saying that.....just to answer a few of the above questions;
My upcoming trip is to America where I plan on purchasing an 8GB, unlimited txt AT&T simcard ($74AU) - as I have done previously.
That will be sufficient for my 4 week trip. That 8GB of data is what I will be using the majority of my internet browsing on via the phone's hotspot when on the computer.

My Australian mobile telco offers the $5 per day international roaming, however I believe that option isn't available to customers on a pre-paid plan such as myself.  

Cheers.
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Hi
"The Lounge" is never off-topic, especially if its your topic.

Which Telco are you using?
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

Bon voyagee.
  Ads Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Hi
"The Lounge" is never off-topic, especially if its your topic.

Which Telco are you using?
RTT_Rules
Woolworths Mobile.

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