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Old 04-03-2022, 07:10 PM   #1
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secure wifi when traveling

We will be hitting the road soon for a multi-month trip.
Any tips for staying safe on the internet while traveling?
How safe is your phone connection vs wifi spots? I know public wifi is a big, BIG danger zone. Any way to help mitigate it?

I would rather use the phone as little as possible because I have minimum data use. Around home I rarely use data on the phone.
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Old 04-03-2022, 08:02 PM   #2
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MY Approach

I have two methods to secure our connection.
First method if connecting directly to a public WiFi from any of our devices I have a VPN server running at my house. I use OpenVPN and connect to my server, this creates a secure internet connection.
Second method if the campground has a pubic WiFi I use a router in the camper, currently using the WiFi Ranger that comes with the camper. This provides a basic firewall between us and the local campground WiFi.

FYI, I'm a IT Tech so the OpenVPN solution does require a degree of knowledge on how to setup. You can go with a commercial VPN such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or SurfShark if cost is an issue. I have no experience with any commercial VPN services so if you go this route shop for solution that fits your needs.
Note the three VPN providers listed above where selected by Toms Hardware.
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Old 04-03-2022, 08:02 PM   #3
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If you aren’t using your phone for data , what are you using?

Oops, posted too late!
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Old 04-03-2022, 09:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yukongold View Post
How safe is your phone connection vs wifi spots? I know public wifi is a big, BIG danger zone. Any way to help mitigate it?
Your phone connection is much more secure than public wifi. A wifi hotspot that you can purchase is as secure as your phone because basically it's a phone line. Some companies will sell you a basic data plan and you can purchase additional time.

The biggest problem with campground wifi is that it's rarely set up for anything more than checking email.

One thing we've found that decreases you data usage (usually) is using a tablet or phone to surf the net. A laptop is going to download much more data (think picture quality) than a tablet or phone.

Have fun on your trip.
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Old 04-04-2022, 12:33 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Theb2b View Post
I have two methods to secure our connection.
First method if connecting directly to a public WiFi from any of our devices I have a VPN server running at my house. I use OpenVPN and connect to my server, this creates a secure internet connection.
I have the same here. It is built into my router at home. Another advantage to the home network VPN is that I can access the NAS attached to my home network for pictures, documents, whatever I have on it that I might need. Also I can use my Xfinity streaming so it's like having cable TV on the road.

I have yet to stay at a location in my trailer that has WiFi. In my trailer I use my phone's hotspot. Hotel, all my devices have the OpenVPN client installed so I connect to the hotel WiFi, then start the OpenVPN service to securely connect to my home router/internet.
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Old 04-04-2022, 02:39 AM   #6
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Secure wifi is unlimited data on an iphone.
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Old 04-04-2022, 09:00 AM   #7
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Secure wifi is unlimited data on an iphone.
Not always. It depends on the data plan you have with your cellular carrier.
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Old 04-04-2022, 09:47 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the answers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capacitor View Post
If you aren’t using your phone for data , what are you using?
Oops, posted too late!
I purchased this "smart" phone about six months ago in anticipation of this upcoming trip. I wanted time to deal with any learning curve. And I was right - - I am still struggling to figure it all out. I hate it but will need it to pay utility bills, check email, make reservations and such while we are away. I really, really miss my simple flip phone but I couldn't connect to internet with it and it was 3G anyway and 3G is being done away with. While at home I use the phone as a phone - - I call people and people call me. I do not text, I do not stream, I do not play on social media. (I anticipate that changing while on this trip) The only "data" used is occasional checking for an address or something similar when I am out and about. I have only 2GB or something of "data" with my plan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARhappycamper View Post
Secure wifi is unlimited data on an iphone.
It appears that this is the general theme - - for (more) secure internet connections, the easiest way (for most) is their phone connection. I will have to check to see if I can get "unlimited" data on a month to month basis and see how to use the phone as a hotspot for the laptop I will be taking with us.


(BTW ARhappycamper - - will be staying several days at Iron Mtn Campground on DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia. Any tips, hints, suggestions while there? )
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Old 04-04-2022, 10:39 AM   #9
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Be sure to eat at The Fish Net just out north.of Caddo Valley
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Old 04-04-2022, 02:37 PM   #10
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Be sure to eat at The Fish Net just out north.of Caddo Valley
Thanks. Googled it. Looks like a great idea.
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Old 04-04-2022, 02:43 PM   #11
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Okay - one more question - I hope.

I've used ExpressVPN on the desktop for 4-5 years now. After comments here I installed it on the phone (Moto G(8) power). Express lets me load it onto any 5 devices at one time.

Have been doing some googling and the question:
If I use the phone for internet - either hotspot or USB tethered - and have a VPN installed on the phone, do I really need to have it installed on the laptop, too? If I install it on the laptop, also, do I use the VPN on both at the same time or just whichever one I remember to activate?
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Old 04-04-2022, 07:39 PM   #12
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The perception of public Wi-Fi as being insecure stems from when most sites were plain old unencrypted HTTP rather than HTTPS as the vast of majority of sites are nowadays. If the site is HTTPS it's probably more secure than using a third-party VPN service.

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Old 04-04-2022, 11:38 PM   #13
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I work for a fortune 200 corporation in health care. I run the Cyber Security Engineering team. I only say this to show I have some knowledge on the matter.

I would steer clear of commercial VPN services such. They are not actually a VPN, which is a virtual private network. They are simply a proxy service that could be TLS busting your traffic and even if they are not your traffic is ingressing into a server that is sharing traffic with other customers which does not make it actually private.

I call a spade a spade. So when I see a company selling a VPN which is not really a VPN but a proxy I get a little nervous.

Thia is my opinion: Have your own VPN setup, use something like the WIFI Ranger, purchase something like The RV It Guy service, or use your hotspot.

I have a WIFI Ranger as a backup if needed but I use The RV It Guy service as my primary.

Thanks,
Rick
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Old 04-05-2022, 01:47 PM   #14
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You don't say what phone / carrier / plan you have. Those details make a huge difference. Many RVers have two (or more) carriers and phones. One I use is VISIBLE. Visible is a Verizon MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator; there are many other MVNOs). Visible STARTS at $40 / month BUT, if you join a party pay group, the rate drops to $25 / month for UNLIMITED 4G & 5G Talk, Text AND data. This is on Verizon towers (of which there are many across the country). Users who join a party pay are responsible ONLY for their own account, NEVER for anyone else in their party pay group. If you'd be interested in joining a party pay group, send me a PM and I'll reply with an invitaion link. Those fees (either $40 or $25) are COMPLETE. NO extra "taxes, fees, surcharges" added on.
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Old 04-05-2022, 01:54 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rragsdale77
I work for a fortune 200 corporation in health care. I run the Cyber Security Engineering team. I only say this to show I have some knowledge on the matter.
I lead the operational cybersecurity teams for a large regional bank and a national insurance company. Not audit and compliance, real "Keep the hackers and criminals out" work.

Quote:
I would steer clear of commercial VPN services such. They are not actually a VPN, which is a virtual private network. They are simply a proxy service that could be TLS busting your traffic and even if they are not your traffic is ingressing into a server that is sharing traffic with other customers which does not make it actually private.
They can be a VPN but only from you to them. Every bit of traffic from them to the destination is only as secure as the destination makes it. There was (at least) one that got caught installing their own root certificate on client computers so they could decrypt everything. When caught, they claimed it was for "optimization".

Quote:
I call a spade a spade. So when I see a company selling a VPN which is not really a VPN but a proxy I get a little nervous.
ALL commercial VPN services meet that description. They are the biggest thing in "security theater", doing something that is solely for show. They actually are a single point of failure and a single choke point where massive amounts of traffic can be seen and tracked.

But so-called "security experts" recommend them even though the vast majority of sites are HTTPS now.

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Old 04-05-2022, 01:58 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by rragsdale77 View Post
I work for a fortune 200 corporation in health care. I run the Cyber Security Engineering team. I only say this to show I have some knowledge on the matter.

I would steer clear of commercial VPN services such. They are not actually a VPN, which is a virtual private network. They are simply a proxy service that could be TLS busting your traffic and even if they are not your traffic is ingressing into a server that is sharing traffic with other customers which does not make it actually private.

I call a spade a spade. So when I see a company selling a VPN which is not really a VPN but a proxy I get a little nervous.

Thia is my opinion: Have your own VPN setup, use something like the WIFI Ranger, purchase something like The RV It Guy service, or use your hotspot.

I have a WIFI Ranger as a backup if needed but I use The RV It Guy service as my primary.

Thanks,
Rick
What about the end to end encryption most VPN's claim? From user's computer through their proxy to website or company computer.
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Old 04-05-2022, 05:28 PM   #17
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The perception of public Wi-Fi as being insecure stems from when most sites were plain old unencrypted HTTP rather than HTTPS as the vast of majority of sites are nowadays. If the site is HTTPS it's probably more secure than using a third-party VPN service.

Ray
This.

And now browsers are constructed to redirect anything to https without a lot of coaxing and user interaction for this very reason.

So the perception that public wifi is terrible is somewhat dated.

If you are good about using different passwords for everything and pay attention that a site is https before you type in any personal information, you really should be OK.
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Old 04-05-2022, 05:35 PM   #18
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What about the end to end encryption most VPN's claim? From user's computer through their proxy to website or company computer.
A true VPN uses completely different ports and protocols than a web site does.

The only way it could be end-to-end encrypted and a VPN is if the VPN company had an agreement with the destination so that they will accept VPN connections from the VPN company. There's nothing in it for the destination and there would need to be a an agreement with every destination that every one of their customers, current and future, could possibly ever use.

The reason is that the destination would need a set of encryption keys from the VPN company to authenticate them and to encrypt the traffic. They would need to vet the VPN company and sign a contract and then install and maintain the encryption keys. Not going to happen.

You <-> HTTPS web site

You <-> VPN company using VPN protocols to you and HTTPS to the destination <-> HTTPS web site

The above is the traffic flow and why a consumer VPN company makes pretty much no difference in security, and actually can worsen it.

The VPN company probably has some language buried in their Terms of Service that says the only way they can guarantee end-to-end encryption is if the destination uses HTTPS. Because all they're doing is connecting to the destination the same way you can.

Hope this helps,

Ray
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Old 04-05-2022, 05:35 PM   #19
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...will need it to pay utility bills, check email, make reservations and such while we are away. I have only 2GB or something of "data" with my plan.
I will have to check to see if I can get "unlimited" data on a month to month basis and see how to use the phone as a hotspot for the laptop I will be taking with us.
Based on the fact you're using it only for email, reservations, paying bills, etc., you've got other options.
- One would be to buy a separate hotspot where you can buy additional data if you need it and get someone to show you how to connect your laptop to it. Something like this https://www.straighttalk.com/plans/hotspots
- The next option would be to get a tablet and connect that to the phone or separate hotspot. Tablets use less data than a laptop and you can get a 'pay as you go' for those too.
- The last options which I would not recommend is getting a high priced plan with unlimited data. You're only going to be gone a month.

Get someone to show you how to connect your phone to your computer while you're at home. Have them show you how to see how much data you're using. Most phones have a setting to show you what you've used. It will give you a general idea as to what you need. Then practice looking for reservations, etc.

Also, have a backup plan to pay your bills. We use our banks automatic bill pay for those bills that absolutely have to be paid on time. You're going to areas where getting a phone signal may be impossible. We live in Houston and sometimes going one hour west to a campsite puts us out of touch with the world.
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Old 04-05-2022, 05:38 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by rragsdale77
I call a spade a spade. So when I see a company selling a VPN which is not really a VPN but a proxy I get a little nervous.
Oops, I left one small part out of my previous reply. "Nailed it." Because you are absolutely correct.

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