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Old 07-12-2009, 11:32   #1
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WiFi Security

My wife and I are heading to Mexico for about 6 months and we'll rely heavily on web-based banking. I'm concerned about the security of using wi-fi in marinas, anchorages, etc. How secure is data transmitted using wi-fi? Are there products/software that can improve security?

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Old 07-12-2009, 11:43   #2
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In short:
By default, if you are connecting to online banking or other such sites, they should all provide SLL or some type on encryption of the data from the site to your machine. Thus wifi security is (to a degree) thrown out the window, as the encryption through the banking sites software will be far superior to the encryption provided from the point to point wireless connection in which you are connected through. It would take an extremely large amount of data and time to decrypt the date from your browser if someone were to 'sniff' it and collect it. Not likely something that is going to happen.

So, all of that being said, simply make sure that if you are connecting to banking type sites where security is of concern, be sure that your connection is encrypted through the site and your browser. Indicated initially by https:// (note the 's') for http(secure)
There should also be a lock / key icon in your browser (FF or IE) which will indicate you are on a secure connection.

If you don't have either of the above, then any data you pass to and from your machine is wide open for the taking by someone else who is 'listening' and collecting data.

There are other secure methods, technologies, formats, etc. which could be discussed at great length, and debate, however that is a general overview.

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Old 07-12-2009, 12:02   #3
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I recently spent 6 months in Mexico using wifi with no security problems. But pretty much the same as along the California coast, with Marina and other paid services plus open relays. As already pointed out, as long as you use an https SSL secured website, there shouldn't be a problem. For email, be sure that your webmail uses https and also does an encrypted signon-I am surprised to see that some still don't. Better is to get an SSL POP3/SMTP account (or 2) from Gmail, which are also encrypted. Better because with crappy wifi signals the lower bit rate than webmail is a real advantage. VPNs are the ultimate, but again, there will be a lot of times you want to communicate with marginal signals.
As far as what to use as a secure browser, I recommend Google Chrome. Their architecture uses one process per tab, so wifi problems that occur with one tab do not close down the whole program (like they do with Opera, which I am using now).
And of course you need a good external wifi receiver. Many use an Engenius EUB-362ext or an Alfa (not the n version) as a USB adapter. You can move them outside on top of your dodger for a good view, and they also accept an external antenna. Lot's of others out there, but these are also cheap. Anything beats a builtin laptop antenna.
Have fun. BTW, there are also internet cafes, but these range from good to dangerous, OK if you can bring your own laptop.
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Old 07-12-2009, 16:43   #4
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You can also install personal VPN software to encrypt your online sessions, if you'll be using your own laptop. I use Witopia ( It's not free ($40/yearly), but neither is having your banking information stolen. It's a good piece of software and good company - no auto-renewals, spyware etc.

Not affiliated with 'em, just like 'em!
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Old 08-12-2009, 06:51   #5
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No matter what you use, (or how) when you finish with the transaction, whether it be an online bank or a online transaction involving credit card or other sensitive information, always dump the browser's cache afterward. Then close the browser down completely to make absolutely certain that the data has been purged from memory.
After all, there is no need to intercept and decrypt the transmission if the data can simply be gleaned from the browser's cache after the secure session has ended.
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Old 08-12-2009, 08:19   #6
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if you are using SSL (as stated above look for the key icon) you have 128 bit encryption which is secure wherever you are. email is generally not very secure.
some of the best times of my life were spent on a boat. it just took a long time to realize it

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Old 08-12-2009, 18:43   #7
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As secure as your protection. Get yourself a good firewall.

We came across this potentially dangerous situation (Martinique, Mango Bar):
- you log in to an open network,
- it disappears (we think due to jamming),
- you re-search the waves and you find an ALMOST identically named net,
- some got sucked in.

I am not sure it was a scam, but looked like one.



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