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Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 11:49 AM   #1
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Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Is it safe to access, for example, my VG account from a wireless connection at a coffee shop??
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 11:53 AM   #2
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Not safe enough for my comfort level.

At the very least be certain that you are typing your password in scramble mode, as suggested by Nords in a former thread. That is, p,3,backdelete,a,space space space, mouseclick, 3 characters back, a, etc. etc. so that key loggers get botched up.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 12:01 PM   #3
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

I'm not a computer security expert, but I think it is relatively safe. Like just about anything, there are things you have control over to make it safer, in no particular order:

1. Log on directly to the vanguard site; don't click on an email link (Vanguard now recommends this in recent email communiques I have received).
2. Set yourself up on Vanguard's fancy new security question system. This is now required for me by Vanguard and probably is or will be for you shortly also.
3. Make sure nobody is looking over your shoulder when you enter passwords or view sensitive data like account numbers and SSN's.
4. Make sure your PC is up to date on Windows security updates, has a firewall on, etc., etc.

Nothing is absolutely safe; many here go far beyond what I do to be "paranoid" about their financial data security but I am sure many also do less.

If you want the herd approach, personally I regularly access all of my financial accounts - Vanguard, checking, savings, credit cards, mortgages, college funds, etc. - through wireless connections at coffee shops, universities, bookstores, fast food restaurants, etc. My sums are modest compared to many here but are significant compared to most in the US and the rest of the world. I have never had anything happen to me or anyone close to me; I am sure that if something did happen I would become far more attentive to security measures. I guess overall I not only have faith that nothing untoward will happen to my money but also that if something did happen I would be able to work with Vanguard and law enforcement to get my money back.

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P.S. -- Just saw RIT's response. My reply above assumes accessing my accounts from my own laptop. I am somewhat more careful but not as careful as RIT suggests when using a public computer, but I also seldom use public computers anyway.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 12:23 PM   #4
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

I guess it's not worth the small risk. This will be the second year in a row I can't do my rebalancing on Jan 2.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 02:04 PM   #5
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

What SecondCor521 said. With those precautions and using my own computer I would not have a problem using a coffeehouse's wireless network.

There is no way I would use a public computer to log into a bank, or even web mail for that matter. It's just too easy to put a key logger on one of those. I only use computers that I own & administer for anything where security matters.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 02:25 PM   #6
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Is it safe to access, for example, my VG account from a wireless connection at a coffee shop??
If you are using your own computer, I'd say it is ok.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 03:06 PM   #7
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

this same question has been on my mind especially as i contemplate future travel. is it even safe when hard-wired as opposed to wireless? at home i only use comcast so i figure at least i'd know where to find the culprit. but what if i'm hardwired to a hotel here or overseas and enter my accounts? aside from what's been discussed, is there anything inherent about how information moves on the internet that this information is safe once it leaves my computer?
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 03:16 PM   #8
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Again, I am no expert, but I do believe that the information is transmitted across the internet using several different logical layers. The lowest layer is the physical layer, above that you have Internet Protocol, or IP, above which (maybe several layers, I'm not sure) is HTTP, which is HyperText T-something Protocol.

Certain layers support encryption and certain others don't. I know for sure that HTTP supports a secure version called HTTPS, so if you are using that (and I believe you always are if you see HTTPS in a URL), then your data is encrypted at that level even if the other transmission layers mentioned above don't encrypt it.

So in your case even if the underlying physical layer changes from comcast to a hotel or wireless, the upper layer is still encrypted. So it could be possible for someone to see that IP address 1.2.3.4 is sending stuff back and forth to IP address 5.6.7.8, but it would just be a bunch of jibberish.

I don't know the encryption level on the HTTPS protocol but I personally feel quite safe using it as most financial institutions seem to imply that if you are using HTTPS your data is sufficiently safe for them to claim that it is safe to do business that way.

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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 03:31 PM   #9
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

A while back I saw on raddr's board a reference to a "Portable Automated Password Manager, Form Filler, Password Generator for USB key" at http://www.roboform.com/pass2go.html and I am wondering if anyone has used it. If so, do you think it makes it safe to use public computers for financial transactions?
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 05:45 PM   #10
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Quote:
Originally Posted by jdw_fire
A while back I saw on raddr's board a reference to a "Portable Automated Password Manager, Form Filler, Password Generator for USB key" at http://www.roboform.com/pass2go.html and I am wondering if anyone has used it. If so, do you think it makes it safe to use public computers for financial transactions?
In my mind, no, there could still be software intercepting the username and password being sent.

I can't imagine any product that would make it safe to use a public computer for financial transactions. Even if you brought your own operating system and browser (e.g. if you could boot from a Knoppix CD) there are inexpensive hardware key loggers out there, and even keyboards with built-in key loggers are easy to come by. Okay, MAYBE if you booted into your own CD or DVD based operating system, AND you use the mouse to enter the characters of your password... but how many public computers will allow you to do that?

Besides, low-end laptops are pretty cheap these days.

Does anyone know if the current PDAs or cell phones with web browsing are up to the task?
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 06:32 PM   #11
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baxter
Does anyone know if the current PDAs or cell phones with web browsing are up to the task?
Yeah, I think most of the mobile OS's have SSL support, but I always have a small laptop with me when traveling. I'd never use a public computer for sensitive stuff, but borrowing a WiFi connection is fine as long as you're going over an SSL (including HTTPS) connection.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 07:10 PM   #12
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Well, we finally have both power and cable at the same time, so I was able to access Vanguard in the privacy of my own home, and do my rebalancing.

The stock percentage changed from 59% to 62% over the course of the year, so I just moved a big hunk from total stock to total bond. This year I'm at an allocation of 58% -- I'm dropping the stock part one percent each year.

Feels good to get that done and "lock in" those gains. I had visions of a major stock collapse while I was waiting for the cable to come back. Now I'll send in my HSA contribution for they year. This will be my first year with no SEP-IRA or Roth IRA contributions!
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 07:18 PM   #13
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Now I'll send in my HSA contribution for they year.
Al, do you make the full-year contribution up front? I started my HSA on 12/1 and have been wondering if I should make the 2007 contribution monthy, quarterly or do it all now.


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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 07:44 PM   #14
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Yes, full contribution as close to Jan 2 as possible. This lets me maximize the tax-free compounding. Worse case is I change to a non-HSA plan sometime during the year -- I can still fix things if that happens.

I'd recommend the same strategy with all tax-free investing -- it's a free lunch. Every day that your money sits in a taxable account you are paying taxes on the gain, but don't need to.

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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 08:13 PM   #15
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Yes, full contribution as close to Jan 2 as possible. This lets me maximize the tax-free compounding. Worse case is I change to a non-HSA plan sometime during the year -- I can still fix things if that happens.

I'd recommend the same strategy with all tax-free investing -- it's a free lunch. Every day that your money sits in a taxable account you are paying taxes on the gain, but don't need to.
Gotcha. Since I'm moving money from one tax-free account to another, I don't think moving it ASAP will make any difference for me. I'll probably do it quarterly.

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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-04-2007, 10:43 PM   #16
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

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Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Gotcha. Since I'm moving money from one tax-free account to another, I don't think moving it ASAP will make any difference for me. I'll probably do it quarterly.
REW, why would you move money from one "tax-free account to another" unless all of your money is in a tax-free account? The beauty of a HSA is that is gives people with high income or no earned income a way to make a tax deductible "contribution" to a tax-free account, but only if they use taxed money. Or are you just trying to make medical payments with an IRA/401K?
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-05-2007, 06:33 AM   #17
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

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Originally Posted by jdw_fire
Or are you just trying to make medical payments with an IRA/401K?
Yes, I'm retired, no pension or SS (yet) and don't have much after tax savings. What I do have I'm using to manage my income below the 25% tax rate plus convert some TIRA money to a Roth.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-05-2007, 09:57 AM   #18
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

BTW, I just came across a good post on WIFI security risks:

link
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-05-2007, 10:07 AM   #19
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

Thanks, Baxter. The relevant part for my original question is this:

* If you see the little padlock in the corner of your Web-browser window (or if the Web address begins with “https://” instead of “http://”), you’re connected to a secure Web site. Your transmissions are encrypted in both directions, so you have little to fear from casual packet sniffers. Banking and brokerage sites, for example, are protected in this way.
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???
Old 01-05-2007, 11:15 AM   #20
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Re: Access Vanguard from Wireless Connection at Coffee Shop???

I would never try it no matter how "safe" others say it is. Why in the world would I have a need to look at my ever-changing Vanguard numbers at any place other than at home where it is as safe as it can be?

The negatives are just too darn severe for me to consider otherwise.
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