VPN recommended for coffee shop wifi?

biggles

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
1,883
Once per week I do an hour of work on the Windows 10 laptop at coffee shops using free wifi. Client emails, project tracking with Evernote, shopping on Amazon, Ebay, etc for clients. Is it recommended to get a VPN?

What types of risks are there without having a VPN? Passwords stolen? Credit cards stolen? ID theft? Viruses/malware? Other?

Are the risks same if using an Android smartphone or iPad on public wifi?
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,532
Is it recommended to get a VPN?
You could have titled the thread with this, and the answer would be 'yes'.

What types of risks are there without having a VPN? Passwords stolen? Credit cards stolen? ID theft? Viruses/malware? Other?
All of the above, and then client data, which is even worse. The risk is simply having your traffic snooped, in general due to known vulnerabilities in all WiFi protocols.

Are the risks same if using an Android smartphone or iPad on public wifi?
Yes.


In general, while you might have WiFi security with WPA2 through a 'secure' network as well as SSL/TLS with whatever website you're accessing over that network, an additional layer of encryption is highly recommended. I'm quite surprised that this isn't already furnished by your organization and would recommend pursuing a solution there, and in the meantime, to use something.

The only thing I don't recommend using is a 'free' VPN; there are of course paid VPN services, and you may host your own VPN service through your home if you have a decent router as well.
 

biggles

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
1,883
Well I don't have client data. I work in the performing arts, so it is stuff like music and video editing. So no risk of clients data loss. No financial info or personal info on the clients. Also, being self-employed, there is no organization to advise on such matters. FWIW, I have no formal background in computers and tech and have learned everything from websites like this one. Always appreciate advice from tech experts, thank you.

Back to the VPN stuff. As a Comcast customer they have xfinity hotspots all over the place. Those require a password, is that a good option? Another question, what about using the Android smartphone as a mobile hotspot?

There are probably tons of choices on VPN's, so that will take some research before picking one. Perhaps the xfinity hotspot or mobile hotspot idea is a temporary solution?
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,532
Back to the VPN stuff. As a Comcast customer they have xfinity hotspots all over the place. Those require a password, is that a good option?
Most of the issue is that you'd be on the same WiFi network as everyone else using the hotspot- that opens you up to attacks / snooping. That's what VPNs help secure against.

Another question, what about using the Android smartphone as a mobile hotspot?
Yes, but so would an LTE (cellular) modem, which is essentially what a smartphone providing hotspot functionality is doing.
 

ThreeDee

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Sep 5, 2001
Messages
10,725
I second PIA .. (Private Internet Access) .. great speeds, pretty inexpensive, lots of servers and no logging
 

Nicklebon

Gawd
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
624
The biggest risk in a public hotspot is AP spoofing where someone spoofs the AP and you connect to that vs the actual shop AP. If that is done and then you blindly click through cert warnings then all the VPN layers in world won't help you. If you're the type to not blindly click through cert warnings then the only thing at risk is someone sniffing or spoofing your DNS. All the things you mention are nicely wrapped in TLS additional wrappers only pad someone else's wallet. There are reasons for a VPN but the things you list and the laughable comments above aren't. Personally when using public wifi, I tunnel all traffic back to my home network to avoid DNS issues and filtering,
 

dvsman

2[H]4U
Joined
Dec 2, 2009
Messages
3,114
I just use PIA as well. It's been a few years and no problems so far.
 

Haven

I Only Post Important Stuff
Joined
Oct 11, 2002
Messages
6,252
I have been using VPNUnlimited for years now. It always works, and they have servers around the world. Mostly these days I connect to their server in Chicago.
 

Mac2

n00b
Joined
Feb 3, 2020
Messages
32
You can also get fairly inexpensive router for your home connection and use it without monthly fees. On the plus note it will always appear as if you were connecting from home. I used it on my vacation overseas for nextflix to avoid their innoying limitation on the origin of the account, worked perfect.
 

x509

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Sep 20, 2009
Messages
1,998
You can also get fairly inexpensive router for your home connection and use it without monthly fees. On the plus note it will always appear as if you were connecting from home. I used it on my vacation overseas for nextflix to avoid their innoying limitation on the origin of the account, worked perfect.
I'm not sure I understand you here. Where is the VPN? Which service?
 

Nicklebon

Gawd
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
624
I'm not sure I understand you here. Where is the VPN? Which service?
He means terminate the vpn from the proverbial coffee shop on your own device at home. Thus connections will appear to outside 3rd party services such netflix to originate from your home. No 3rd party vpn "service" is required.
 

Nicklebon

Gawd
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
624
I seen some coffee shops prevent you from using a VPN then what?
Lot's of if not most places will block ipsec but absent mitm good luck preventing a TLS connection to an unknown IP. One more reason reason not to pay for a "service."
 
Last edited:

FrgMstr

Just Plain Mean
Staff member
Joined
May 18, 1997
Messages
49,360
Love Mullvad. Can't get it to run on my phone though.
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,532
Love Mullvad. Can't get it to run on my phone though.
While I doubt this is your issue, maybe it will help: I installed Mullvad on Android and Windows 10, had it work for a while -- then it stopped. I had assumed that access points were blocking it, but when it didn't work on private WiFi, I tried reinstalling, and both started working again.
 
Tags
vpn
Top