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Old 09-29-2012, 12:01 PM   #1
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Mobile WiFi Hot spot on board

I'm thinking of getting one of those mobile wifi hotspot devices from verizon and using it on board. The device transmits a wifi signal that can be used by up to 10 devices after receiving a data signal from verizon's mobile data system.
My concern is how secure is this connection. I've avoided using WiFi in hotels to connect to my bank due to security issues. I'm also thinking of discontinuing my DSL service at home and just using the WiFi hot spot there too, but again security issues are a concern.
Anybody know anything about this?
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:08 PM   #2
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Tim,

I am interested in this as well. Are you using an iphone?
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:26 PM   #3
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Using a Mifi device or tethering to your smart phone (the same concept) is secured through the encryption/authentication used between the device and your computer. This is the same for any 802.11 (wifi)device you use. If you use WPA as your authentication you'll be fine.

On our boat I have two methods of accessing the internet. The first is through the KVH satellite system. On this I have a wireless hot spot with WPA authentication. This is the expensive internet path, so I only use it when out of cell range.

The other method I use is to enable the personal hotspot on my Iphone. that provides a wireless hot spot as well. This is very cheap internet so its the one I prefer to use.

As far as security, there are two levels. The first evel is the encrypted link between your computer and the wifi hotspot. This is only a risk if someone is within the range of the hot spot (generally around 150'). Think about your boat. What are the chances of someone within 150' of your boat having the advanced computing capability to break WPA encryption? Not very likely.

The second level of encryption is the encryption between your computer and your bank. This is not going to be broken either. Yes it could be done, but it would have to be done by an IT professional that was directly connected to one of the routers between you and your bank, and who had the advanced computing power available to break the encryption. This just doesn't happen, thats why online banking, credit card machines, etc... are generally considered safe.

As far as the signal between your cell phone and the cellular data gateway at the phone company, I wouldn't worry about that. The equipment to monitor that is very specialized and you'd have to be within the reception range of both the cell tower you're on and your phone. Its just not worth it for someone to do that, especially with the encryption for banking as described above.

Now, here's another issue, and the issue isn't banking. Banking isn't the risk as described above. When connectiog to a public or free hotspot, that information can be monitored, and quite easily. All it would take is someone at the local router or switch using port mirroring and some monitoring software. They could see where you are browsing, and see any information you send in clear text (like your TF posts). So, just be aware that your free browsing might be monitored and act accordingly.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:29 PM   #4
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We had a Verizon hot spot for years. It has a s aecurety mumber, usually its phone number. We recently up graded to a Samsun Gallazy tablet that can also be a hot spot. I am replying on the tablet, and my wife is on her note book using the wifi. We have had not problems and works great. We take the tablet with us when we leave the boat as we use it as an e reader.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:48 PM   #5
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Ksanders, thanks for the detailed reply.
So in summary a secure connection between my computer or wifi enabled device and the mobile hot spot device using WPA authentication is considered a secure connection?
My current home computer setup has a router that broadcasts wifi that I use thoughout the house on my tablet and laptop. To access this wifi signal I had to setup a password. Is this the WPA authentication you mentioned?

Blue Heron; I have an android phone, but per this discussion I don't think it makes any difference.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:52 PM   #6
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For the reasons ksanders pointed out and more I would not be concerned with wireless network security. I have been using wireless for banking and my investments for years. The biggest security issues are at the interface(ATM, point of sale machines, etc)

The only wire coming into my house is an electric utility line. Everything else is wireless and completely secure.
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:04 PM   #7
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The only wire coming into my house is an electric utility line. Everything else is wireless and completely secure.
That's interesting as I'm thinking of doing the same.

My only concern other than the wifi security issue is the phone. I travel for business and there are times when I've tried to reach my wife on her cell phone but for several reasons she's not be reachable (dead cell phone, unable to find it, etc). I however can always reach her via our land line.

But there are alternatives. All the cell phone companies now have a device that allows your home phone to connect to it and the device uses the companies cellular system to place and receive calls. It is of course the same as a cell phone but calls are routed to your stationary home phone. The device and setup costs 20 bucks a month.
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:27 PM   #8
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I travel for business and there are times when I've tried to reach my wife on her cell phone but for several reasons she's not be reachable (dead cell phone, unable to find it, etc).
That is the only wildcard in this equation for me. I have 5 phones on our family plan and one is always on the charger at the house to act as a "home phone" for just that reason. I also have 2 of the smartphones tethered so as to have internet available for our sons I-Pods while traveling.

Clearwire internet takes care of the internet at home. TV is local stations on the antenna augmented with streaming Netflix via the Clearwire connection. TV is also watched online via the stations website, the 24 hr delay never bothers us as we where DVR junkies anyway. A small older laptop connected to our 47" TV via and HDMI cable handles the TV/Internet interface.

We had a small learning curve when we first made the switch to all wireless but have no regrets 5 years later. I added up the savings 2 months after the switch and it was about a $200-300/month savings in our case.

My neighbors think it's cool as during a blackout we are the only ones in the neighborhood with power and internet etc. as I also have a generator that is capable of handling the bulk of the normal house load.
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Old 09-29-2012, 02:26 PM   #9
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For all the reasons stated below, using tethering is very safe, same for your home Wifi as long as you use standard WPA security and a strong password. ( We were anchored in Barlow Bay, Lopez Island and my son, who is not a hacker, was playing around with his laptop Wifi and an external antenna. He found one home network that was totally unsecured and another who's password was the same as the networks name.) Not very smart!!

Public Wifi systems are subject to abuse and a hacker within range of the public Wifi can easily intercept your unsecured connection. Many marinas now have public Wifi and it is no safer than Starbucks or your public library Wifi. Maybe worse because they cover a much larger area with multiple nodes. I see people with laptops setup at the ports picnic tables and sitting in cars in the parking lot using the Port free Wifi all the time. I doubt they have boats in the marina. The Ports password. . . . .is . . . the Ports phone number.

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Old 09-29-2012, 03:01 PM   #10
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Tim, I have a Droid phone from At&T. Because I am away from home or office so much it is my only internet. It will make a hot spot for 5 devices. I do not trust any internet connection enough to do banking. I will not post my bank account numbers for any reason. I will use some WIFI hotspots because of their increased speed, but still will not post things that need to be very secure. If hackers can get through government firewalls for secure data, I think ours would be a piece of cake.

I transact a lot of business over my Droid hot spot, but usually it would be of interest to no one else.

Oh yeah, I live in an urban setting. It is not unusual to see questionable characters walking around with portable computer devices looking for open or WIFI networks to hack. In suburban neighbor hoods they just drive around in cars looking for signals. If they can hack your bank or credit card company, there is no way that our stuff is secure.
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:33 PM   #11
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Don, do you not do any banking via wifi, even the one at your home?

It sounds like from the discussions on this thread that wifi properly encrypted is safe and with the limited distance a mifi unit broadcasts it's likely to reach only a few people near you.

As a precaution, my investment accounts where most of my money is, can only transfer money to my local bank. So a hacker would have to break into my investment account know where to send money and then know how to get into my local bank account before any money is stolen. I'll probably get replies telling me this is not as secure as I think it is!
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:43 PM   #12
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Reference entering account #s & passwords, I've read it's more secure to copy & paste those in rather than type them in. I have an email to myself with lots of jib bearish (sp) containing my data that I copy from when checking sensitive data when traveling. Efu483juoo879WwSeuy contains a string that is a password.
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Don, do you not do any banking via wifi, even the one at your home?
Correct. I do not post account numbers for banks or investments on line To do banking when away, I phone a bank officer that takes care of it for me. Same with my investments. I am not really paranoid as my psychiatrist says they really are out to get me.
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Old 09-29-2012, 04:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
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So in summary a secure connection between my computer or wifi enabled device and the mobile hot spot device using WPA authentication is considered a secure connection?
My current home computer setup has a router that broadcasts wifi that I use thoughout the house on my tablet and laptop. To access this wifi signal I had to setup a password. Is this the WPA authentication you mentioned?

Blue Heron; I have an android phone, but per this discussion I don't think it makes any difference.
Yes, a WPA authenticated connection encrypts all data traveling between the wifi hot spot and your computer.

When you set up your wifi hot spot/router wou will be given a choice between WEP and WPA encryption. Choose WPA. WEP is an older technology that is easier to break.

The encryption is stripped off at the WIFI hot spot and the data is sent in its native format to the internet from there.

The big lesson here is to not consider public wifi as a secure connection. Encrypt your data from public hot spots using encrypted browsing (https), but this is what banks use anyway. The risk at public hot spots is more along the lines of your unencrypted data like your TF posts, that kind of stuff.
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Old 09-29-2012, 04:37 PM   #15
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Thanks ksanders.
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Old 09-29-2012, 04:54 PM   #16
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timjet,
Before you buy that hotspot device, check if your phone isn't one already. I almost bought one until I learned that my iphone also serves as a hotspot.
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Old 09-29-2012, 05:09 PM   #17
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I use my iPhone as a wifi hot spot. In fact, I just typed this reply while floating on the Napa River in California. The encryption provides a secure connection. However, like Don, I avoid banking or investing on any wifi...just in case!
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Old 09-29-2012, 05:56 PM   #18
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timjet,
Before you buy that hotspot device, check if your phone isn't one already. I almost bought one until I learned that my iphone also serves as a hotspot.
Thanks mahal, my droid incredible can probably be used as a hotspot. However I'm trying to reduce my monthly fees on everything as I'm nearing retirement. My verizon cell phone bill is #2 behind my electric and I consider that ridiculous. So I found a cell carrier that's much cheaper, Page Plus. They charge 29.99 a month for 1200 talk minutes, 3000 texts, but only 100 mb of data. That's only enough data to check e-mail once or twice a day and some light surfing. My verizon HTC droid incredible works with Page Plus (one of the few smart phones that does), and they use verizon's network.

So my plan is to get a mifi device for 50 bucks a month and get rid of my land line phone and DSL. The mifi device is portable so I can use it on the boat or at home. The only problem with this scheme is that I get a very weak cell phone signal at home and may have to consider a cell phone signal booster.
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:51 PM   #19
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If you're concerned about financial or bank account security using WPA encrypted wireless. Then think about how many times you hand your Debit/Credit card to a waitress, store clerk, bank clerk, use a store, restaurant, or gas station card scanner, cash machine, etc?

Ever heard of a card skimmer? Works with all these things?

I bought a $17 lunch in Athens, Greece a couple of months ago. (I hope I enjoyed it, because I sure don't remember being there??)

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Old 09-29-2012, 11:29 PM   #20
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I don't know anything about security issues but I am very satisified with the performance of Verizon's Mobil Hot Spot using my Thunderbolt phone.
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