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We're going to travel across Asia for 16-18 months. During that time, we'll need to conduct online banking activities such as checking account balances, paying credit cards, and filing our taxes. In addition to financial activities, of course we want to avoid making our email and social media accounts vulnerable.

What is the best way to make sure our online activities are secure, or as secure as possible?

We'll be carrying our own laptop and tablet. As I see it, the available ways to connect to the internet, and their relative security risks, are:

  • Shared computers at internet cafes and hotels (risky, and shouldn't be necessary as long as we are in a location with wi-fi access)
  • Wi-fi networks at guesthouses hotels (possibly risky)
  • Carry our own wireless hotspot (safer but added bulk to carry around and it's another thing that needs to be charged)

Are there other options missing from the above list? And, what other precautions should we consider to minimize the risk of our online accounts getting hacked?

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    a) Own wireless hotspot won´t help against wired stuff. (eg. if you plug it in in a hotel, the hotel management can still do something. Government level shouldn´t be underestimated too). b) If you some more or less thurstworthy IT "geek", ask if he has some VPN access for you (as you probably have no own public server somewhere) (worst situation is that you´re blocked to use it at all by hotel/government/etc., but your data is secure (even if some site doesn´t use SSL/TLS, and it includes the metadata)) – deviantfan Mar 5 '15 at 22:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it fits better in Security.SE – Nean Der Thal Mar 5 '15 at 23:49
  • And it is answered here and here – Nean Der Thal Mar 5 '15 at 23:51
  • @deviantfan: Using a VPN for internet access is not making it any "safer", it just moves the possible point of trust breach from the operator of the wi-fi network to the operator of your VPN endpoint. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 6 '15 at 12:24
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Well, I guess that the question is here because the OP thinks during his travel it will be less secure than at home... if he/she is ok with doing something at home, with a VPN it´s ok everywhere. With your argument, anything in the internet without meeting the other side in person is not good enough. And yes, even starting at home it could be routed through Asia etc.etc, but not through any hotel wifi etc. – deviantfan Mar 6 '15 at 15:48
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So long as you're using your own computers using SSL/TLS on websites should be sufficient, with a few caveats.

  1. Make sure you don't have any rogue CA certs installed. eg. Superfish.
  2. Make sure that the URL in the address bar always says https instead of http to protect against sslstrip style attacks.

Also, this question might be better posted on security.stackexchange.com instead of travel.stackexchange.com..

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Whenever you use a shared computer, be it internet café or hotel/hostel, make sure you open a private navigation session. This ensures that no cache, cookies, form data, and passwords are stored once the session is closed. To be extra safe you should also manually clear this data from the settings panel of your browser once you're done. This is a very basic yet extremely important measure you should airways take to safeguard your accounts.

Other, possibly more effective, measures include connecting to a safe VPN, and using that to tunnel you through towards the critical sites you need to navigate (bank accounts, emails, PayPal, etc). If you want to go the extra mile you can search for Tor browsing.

All of the advices above assume you don't have restricted user rights on the machines you use.

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