Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

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Dead Man Walking
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Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Dead Man Walking » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:03 am

I've read most of the threads about internet security on this site as well as others. Many have posted regarding Vanguard's website security. The 2 factor authentication requirement has been a topic of discussion. I have signed up for 2 factor authentication; however, I still have questions about internet security. In an effort to receive the best advice, I'm going to describe my internet behavior:

I use a desktop computer for financial services. I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit operating system. I have a subscription for AVG Internet Security premium. My internet connection and my telephone service are provided by Spectrum cable service.

My computer is only turned on when I am using it. When I boot my computer, I manually update Windows and AVG antivirus software. I run a scan before and after I visit financial sites. I've registered for Vanguard's 2 factor authentication. I opted for receiving a code every time I logged on via a voice message on my Spectrum cable land line.

I don't use this computer to check email or surf the web. I use it for internet banking and investments. I also use it to make purchases using my credit cards.

My other attempts at internet security are that I have user identification that utilizes all of the characters available and are so complex that I have to follow a written key to log in to financial sites. My passwords also use all of the characters available and are so complex that I have to use a written key. My rationalization for this is that a hacker will decide that it is not worth the hassle to determine my username let alone my password. I may be wrong about this.

AVG Internet Security has offered VPN service for about $4 per month. Should I add this additional level of security to my internet security? Should I buy the AVG VPN or another VPN? How will I know if a VPN is compatible with my system?

If I appear to be clueless regarding internet security, that would be a rational conclusion! However, I trust posters on this site because we have similar interests. Thanks in advance to the knowledgeable Bogleheads who respond.

DMW

mhalley
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by mhalley » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:30 am

Sounds like you are taking appropriate steps. I don’t think von would add that much to your already good protocols. I think vpn would be more for protection if you were using public WiFi.To really lock it down, you could use a Linux or chromebook os instead of windows.

https://www.techradar.com/news/best-linux-distro

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/diy-chromebook-chromebox/

gtd98765
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by gtd98765 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:26 am

A password manager like Lastpass would make it easier to use your complex passwords and would not result in a lower level of security. You don't say, but if your computer is connected to your cable modem with an ethernet cable or WPA2-protected wifi that would be important. A VPN would be worthwhile if you took your laptop to coffee shops and other locations that use unencrypted wifi, but otherwise would not increase your security much.

Cruise
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Cruise » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:34 am

You might consider installing the premium version of Malwarebytes, running it concucurrently with AVG.

jalbert
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by jalbert » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:46 am

Definitely need to use a password safe like Keepass or Lastpass.

Be sure you are current with windows, browser, and network router patches. Don't install apps on this machine you don't need on it. Always use 2FA. Use strong passwords for your router admin and wifi passwords as well as all financial and windows accounts. Only use an administrator account for sysadmin functions.

Be sure router firewall rules have all inbound connections turned off for all ports.

No other browser windows or network apps should be open when accessing a financial site.

Why not move credit card purchases to your other machines? Your liability is limited there to at most $50/event. That also may be true of online use of a Vanguard account, but if large sums are involved it will be an unpleasant battle.

A VPN is counterproductive if you maintain your home network to be secure as you then have to worry about security at the VPN server.

If you have a Vanguard account set up, be sure to set up an enhanced phone security password or voice recognition authentication even if you do not call in.

You are in good shape. Some other possibilities:

You can reboot, update virus signatures, run a critical areas scan and do financial transactions, critical one first.

Using an ethernet cable for this machine only and setting up virtual networks on the router so the financial machine is segregated from the other machines is helpful. Then if another machine is compromised it doesn't share a virtual network with the secured machine. Segregating on separate virtual wifi networks is also ok.
Last edited by jalbert on Sun Jul 22, 2018 1:32 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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gotester2000
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by gotester2000 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:57 am

In layman terms - You are point A and accessing a system at point B. Security is important at A and B and path between A & B. 99% of the time hacking occurs due to system being compromised offline - e.g. simple thing as sharing your credentials, SIM fraud, employee frauds etc. - much easier ways than trying to hack a secure commercial system. So dont obsess over security too much - dont share your information or use a shared device for important purposes and you will be fine without expensive security software.

RickBoglehead
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by RickBoglehead » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:26 am

Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:03 am

I don't use this computer to check email or surf the web. I use it for internet banking and investments. I also use it to make purchases using my credit cards.

Where do you make purchases if not the web? You're surfing...

Your steps are more than most would take. Email is fine, just don't download attachments. VPN totally unnecessary as explained already. Scanning as often as you do is unnecessary, it should be monitoring your system.

fourwheelcycle
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by fourwheelcycle » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:44 am

The things you are doing go a long way toward promoting your security. My greatest concern is that a company will be hacked, either by experts or because an employee or a miswritten computer code leaves a server open for an hour or more. If Vanguard or BoA loses my complex passwords the only things that will protect me are 2FA and changing my passwords frequently. A good password manager, like 1Password or Dashlane, will let you change your passwords as frequently as you wish. If you do use a password manager, make sure it uses zero knowledge password security for your master password. If it doesn't, and if your password manager company has a fraudulent employee or accidentally leaves a server open for an hour or more, then you could be toast.

Zero knowledge is important for cloud backup and info storage sites for the same reason. I use Sync.com, but there are other similar sites.
Last edited by fourwheelcycle on Sun Jul 22, 2018 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

3-20Characters
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by 3-20Characters » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:59 am

I think you’re going a little overboard and making your life more laborious than need be but if it gives you comfort, keep with your system. I suggest that you fully utilize all security features available at the source (the websites themselves). Sign up for alerts on all account transactions. Implement vanguard voice verification. Also, +1 on using a password manager but if you prefer your own system, that’s ok as long as you don’t get lazy and keep implementing unique and complex passwords for each login. I think that the 2 biggest concerns are:

A. Financial institution is targeted and hacked directly. Nothing you can do.

B. End user falls for phishing scam or downloads malware. Best practices: Special caution should be taken with emails, email attachments, clicking links, downloading files/attachments.

livesoft
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by livesoft » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:14 am

You are secure, but the other end (your financial services companies) are not secure, so there is still risk.

You will never be able to eliminate all risk.
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SimonJester
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by SimonJester » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:26 am

Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:03 am
I use a desktop computer for financial services. I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit operating system.
Just keep in mind that mainstream support for windows 7 has ended and Microsoft will end all support for windows 7 on January 14th 2020.
You should plan on moving off this OS sometime in the next year.

At the end of the day you need to meet the requirements your financial institutions lay out in order to remain under their guarantee. Beyond that it is their job to protect your money...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Dead Man Walking
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Dead Man Walking » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:03 pm

Cruise wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:34 am
You might consider installing the premium version of Malwarebytes, running it concucurrently with AVG.
I had the premium version of Malwarebytes; however, AVG updated their system and the new version was not compatible with Malwarebytes. Unfortunately, I had to uninstall Malwarebytes. Luckily, I only had 2 weeks remaining on my Malwarebytes subscription. I point this out so that others don't buy Malwarebytes hoping to use it with AVG. It may be compatible with other security programs, but it may be worth finding out before buying Malwarebytes.

DMW

Dead Man Walking
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Dead Man Walking » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:18 pm

Another question that I have is the choice of browser when accessing financial sites. I have heard that the Chrome browser is more secure than Internet Explorer. Is this true or it just another urban legend?

DMW

mortfree
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by mortfree » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:29 pm

Can you install a red phone that is directly linked to Mr. Bogle?

miles monroe
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by miles monroe » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:41 pm

i don't know enough to comment one way or the other, but on the vanguard security webcast last week they strongly recommended getting a VPN.

they also recommended getting a physical UBS "key".

UniversityEmployee9
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by UniversityEmployee9 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:43 pm

Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:18 pm
Another question that I have is the choice of browser when accessing financial sites. I have heard that the Chrome browser is more secure than Internet Explorer. Is this true or it just another urban legend?

DMW
Internet Explorer is no longer actively maintained by Microsoft beyond some basic security updates, and those will end in 2020 as far as I know.

Internet Explorer is widely considered to be the least secure browser. I would switch to Firefox or Chrome today if I were you.

2015
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by 2015 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 9:12 pm

UniversityEmployee9 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:43 pm
Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:18 pm
Another question that I have is the choice of browser when accessing financial sites. I have heard that the Chrome browser is more secure than Internet Explorer. Is this true or it just another urban legend?

DMW
Internet Explorer is no longer actively maintained by Microsoft beyond some basic security updates, and those will end in 2020 as far as I know.

Internet Explorer is widely considered to be the least secure browser. I would switch to Firefox or Chrome today if I were you.
IE, like most things Microsoft, is a dinosaur, IMO. I use Chrome based Comodo Dragon. When the laptop dies, I'm on to a Mac without looking back.

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telemark
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by telemark » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:11 am

A VPN is useful if you are sharing your local internet connection with people you don't know or trust. Examples would be the wifi at a hotel or coffee shop. This does not appear to describe you, so I would not bother with it. But you should probably turn on the Windows firewall, if it isn't already on.

Cruise
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Cruise » Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:01 am

Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:03 pm
Cruise wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:34 am
You might consider installing the premium version of Malwarebytes, running it concucurrently with AVG.
I had the premium version of Malwarebytes; however, AVG updated their system and the new version was not compatible with Malwarebytes. Unfortunately, I had to uninstall Malwarebytes. Luckily, I only had 2 weeks remaining on my Malwarebytes subscription. I point this out so that others don't buy Malwarebytes hoping to use it with AVG. It may be compatible with other security programs, but it may be worth finding out before buying Malwarebytes.

DMW
I’d enable Windows defedefender to do do periodic scans.

rutrow2015
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by rutrow2015 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:23 am

Two additional ideas which cost nothing.

1) Don't use a browser that syncs across all of your devices - if you must then only open your financial sight in 'incognito' or 'private' mode (chrome and FF respectively).
2) Don't open a browser when logged in as a user with root/ administrator rights - create a guest account that has very few permissions. This limits the ability of malware to install anything even if you do inadvertently download it.

Previous posters are correct - the biggest vulnerabilities probably exist on the server side and there's nothing you can do about that.

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c.coyle
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by c.coyle » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:48 am

rutrow2015 wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:23 am
. . . Previous posters are correct - the biggest vulnerabilities probably exist on the server side and there's nothing you can do about that.
Exactly. But there are one or two small things you can do to at least reduce the damage caused by server side breaches: Use a unique password on each site (think password manager), don't let vendors store your credit card and similar info when given the option (not foolproof), and use 2FA.
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KarenC
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by KarenC » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:29 am

A recent perspective from The Wirecutter:
Information security experts told us that the built-in Windows Defender is good-enough antivirus for most Windows PC owners, and that both Mac and Windows users should consider using Malwarebytes Premium, an anti-malware program that augments both operating systems’ built-in protections.
https://thewirecutter.com/blog/best-antivirus/
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FrankLUSMC
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by FrankLUSMC » Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:50 pm

My information has been compromised by SC dept. or revenue in 2012, Office of Personnel Management in 2014, and of course Experian.

I have free credit monitoring for LIFE I hope. Anyway so far so good.

No matter how safe you are at home, someone is going to let the dogs out. Beware!

Dead Man Walking
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by Dead Man Walking » Thu Jul 26, 2018 11:48 pm

Thanks for the replies. I've Googled security issues; however, I like to hear from people who have practical experience with the type of things that I do with my computer.

Some replies suggested that I consider a VPN service; consequently, I have researched them. From what I have read, a VPN service is an excellent idea if one uses a cellphone, tablet, or laptop on public WiFi networks. VPN services provide privacy, but aren't really a solution for many security issues. Thatoneprivacysite.net provides a simple VPN comparison chart that compares the important aspects of 185 VPN services. A quick perusal of the complete list (select "all" to scroll through the entire list) is an enlightening experience! I found the "business ethics" column particularly interesting. Most services based in the USA or close allies are not recommended because privacy may be compromised. Mullvad, which falls under Swedish jurisdiction, is ranked highly in every category except privacy jurisdiction.

Since I never use public WiFi, I don't see a need for VPN. I actually don't use WiFi for any financial sites. If I were a criminal, terrorist, or frequented the dark web, I might want a VPN service. Of course, I'd want one based in a third world jurisdiction so that my activities would not be accessible to American authorities. For the sake of privacy, I'd also choose one that accepted crypto currencies. However, I'm a cynic and probably would not trust such a service to protect my privacy.

Spectrum and Google are probably selling my browsing history. That may be why I receive emails geared toward septugenarians with a variety of maladies. The NSA probably thinks that I should have a larger portfolio since I frequent so many investment sites. I'm a supporter of the 4th Amendment, but I realize that this is the 21st century and privacy may be a casualty of recent history. Recency is a topic referenced when mutual fund performance is discussed here. It is also a fact of life.

As one poster indicated, I may not be able to control my security on the servers of the companies with whom I deal. The best that I can do is to do my damnedest to control my security. That was the objective of my original post. Thanks again to those who helped me with my browsing security.

DMW

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BoglePaul
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by BoglePaul » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:08 am

Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:03 am
I've read most of the threads about internet security on this site as well as others. Many have posted regarding Vanguard's website security. The 2 factor authentication requirement has been a topic of discussion. I have signed up for 2 factor authentication; however, I still have questions about internet security. In an effort to receive the best advice, I'm going to describe my internet behavior:

I use a desktop computer for financial services. I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit operating system. I have a subscription for AVG Internet Security premium. My internet connection and my telephone service are provided by Spectrum cable service.

My computer is only turned on when I am using it. When I boot my computer, I manually update Windows and AVG antivirus software. I run a scan before and after I visit financial sites. I've registered for Vanguard's 2 factor authentication. I opted for receiving a code every time I logged on via a voice message on my Spectrum cable land line.

I don't use this computer to check email or surf the web. I use it for internet banking and investments. I also use it to make purchases using my credit cards.

My other attempts at internet security are that I have user identification that utilizes all of the characters available and are so complex that I have to follow a written key to log in to financial sites. My passwords also use all of the characters available and are so complex that I have to use a written key. My rationalization for this is that a hacker will decide that it is not worth the hassle to determine my username let alone my password. I may be wrong about this.

AVG Internet Security has offered VPN service for about $4 per month. Should I add this additional level of security to my internet security? Should I buy the AVG VPN or another VPN? How will I know if a VPN is compatible with my system?

If I appear to be clueless regarding internet security, that would be a rational conclusion! However, I trust posters on this site because we have similar interests. Thanks in advance to the knowledgeable Bogleheads who respond.

DMW
If your still on Win 7, you have way bigger security risk than which browser to use. Upgrade to Win 10. Also remember to update your drivers and firmware.

RudyS
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by RudyS » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:06 am

Cruise wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:01 am
Dead Man Walking wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:03 pm
Cruise wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:34 am
You might consider installing the premium version of Malwarebytes, running it concucurrently with AVG.
I had the premium version of Malwarebytes; however, AVG updated their system and the new version was not compatible with Malwarebytes. Unfortunately, I had to uninstall Malwarebytes. Luckily, I only had 2 weeks remaining on my Malwarebytes subscription. I point this out so that others don't buy Malwarebytes hoping to use it with AVG. It may be compatible with other security programs, but it may be worth finding out before buying Malwarebytes.

DMW
I’d enable Windows defedefender to do do periodic scans.
My experience was the inverse. I was using AVG Free, but got so tired of their nagging that I dumped it and went to Malwarebytes premium. When my Windows 7 desktop died, I went to a Windows 10 laptop. Kept Malwarebytes, but running it in tandem with Windows Defender.

DW runs same programs on her machine. But we both feel that the biggest risk is sitting at the keyboard - i.e., clicking on malicious sites, opening attachments, etc.

rich126
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by rich126 » Fri Oct 12, 2018 6:59 am

In most cases it is the company that gets hacked and not the end user. And with a determined adversary, most companies are vulnerable.

I think most other posts have covered the basics:
1. Use a complex password
2. Don't reuse passwords.
3. When traveling use a VPN.
4. Avoid using public wi-fi when possible. And when using it, avoid any financial dealings.
5. Malware bytes is a good thing to run weekly on a Windows machine (there is no need for the paid version).

Personally I'm not a fan of AV tools but for most people they may be necessary since they do things they shouldn't (click on unknown links, open unknown emails, etc.).

If you are super paranoid and semi-tech savy you can use a virtual machine and only do financial stuff in that VM. Then you can even blow it away and redo it periodically.

I do find it strange, I suppose since I work in computer security, how naive people are with their computers and I think most Windows users have some kind of malware already on them. I would often crash at my brother's place when in town visiting and it was always annoying using his computer. I usually would find some malware and spend hours trying to clean the computer up.

Anyone with kids should get the kids a separate computer because the games they play and things they click on, are almost a guarantee the computer will get infected. And apparently you can't convince people that free software often isn't really free, it often contains some bonus features, malware, adware, etc.

And getting an Apple device improves security greatly. While they are far from being totally secure, the bottom line is that the easy hacking/money is made on Windows since there are so many systems out there, and so many are not secured, and running old software. Unless you have someone or some country determined to get into your system, the odds of an Apple computer getting hacked/infected is much lower.

Still, the odds of you losing data via any home computer is much less than all of the companies out there that already have your personal data.

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c.coyle
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by c.coyle » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:09 am

jalbert wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:46 am
. . . A VPN is counterproductive if you maintain your home network to be secure as you then have to worry about security at the VPN server. . . .
The VPN server is one more possible point of attack between me and the bank server. Is that what you mean?
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gretah
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Re: Am I secure using my computer for financial services?

Post by gretah » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:12 pm

One thing my tech-savvy friends forget to do:
freeze their credit reports!

As of Sept 21, it's free to freeze and thaw our credit reports.

Clark Howard's instructions with links
https://clark.com/personal-finance-cred ... haw-guide/

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