Does using 3G modem is safe?
September 14, 2008 11:11 AM   Subscribe

When I'm using my laptop to surf the web with a USB modem on AT&T 3G network, Does the surfing is secure as landline? can I check my bank-account that way safely? Does some security-issues exist? (like using a public wi-fi hot-spot)
posted by nagalr to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
as long as you're connecting to sensitive sites using SSL, you'll be secure. (you can check this - there'll be a little lock icon in your browser somewhere, and the address will start with 'https://'. if you don't see them, think twice about what you're typing into that webpage.) SSL encrypts the data going from your computer to the server, and it starts doing it before it actually gets to the network.

3G would be more secure than WiFi - WiFi is easy to snoop on, especially on a public hot-spot, and GSM snooping stuff is much more expensive. a physical wire is more secure than 3G. using 3G rather than a hotspot protects you from people who might want to do clever things to your data before it hits the internet. but, as long as you check for the 'https' in your address bar before logging into, say, your bank, it really doesn't matter what your connection is, because the data will be scrambled in such a way that someone trying to snoop into it would not really be able to figure out what's going on.
posted by mrg at 11:22 AM on September 14, 2008

It's incorrect to assume that your physical internet connection is secure. It's (at least theoretically) possible for your neighbors to be listening to cable-modem communications, and it's also possible for servers between your ISP and your bank to be listening in as well.

That is why SSL exists. They encrypt your traffic, and also certify that your bank is the same bank who Verisign knows about. So http URLs are always not "secure" regardless of how you're connecting to them, and https URLs are (assuming the certificate checks out and everything, and your browser isn't buggy or hacked, and your bank's site isn't hacked).
posted by aubilenon at 11:43 AM on September 14, 2008

Cable modems use DOCSIS which also encrypts each modem. It may not be possible to sniff your neighbor, unless the ISP has disabled this feature.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:00 PM on September 14, 2008

As long as you are sure the source machine is secure then you have little to worry about checking an account that uses SSL (https), generally speaking. This data is automagically encrypted when when you connect to the destination site via your web browser. While it is possible to man in the middle attack and false certificate attack SSL connections, there are a number of things you can further do to preclude this avenue of attack.

If you use firefox, install the Perspectives extension, make sure your AV software is up to date and that you are running a firewall.
posted by iamabot at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2008

Here are the answers to a similar question I asked a few months ago. In short it's several times encrypted and even if it wasn't no one is likely to have the hardware to snoop on it.

Security issues always exist. But you aren't adding any by checking your bank account via 3g.
posted by Ookseer at 5:54 PM on September 14, 2008

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