Q: I am unable to access BECU’s online banking while using a VPN. The tech department tells me I would be safe using public Wi-Fi access as they have robust anti-fraud protocols. BECU says the reason I am unable to access online banking is that a VPN assigns random IP addresses and that sometimes the address assigned has been associated with fraudulent activity. I was advised to keep trying to access my account with the idea the next IP address may be accepted. The problem with this is that after three attempts I am locked out of my account.

I might add, as often as I have tried to access my account while forgetting my VPN was active, I have never been able to access my account. Unless I’m missing something, all the safety protocols BECU may have on their end does not protect my computer from being hacked while using public Wi-Fi. With other online accounts, I do not encounter this problem. Am I being misled by the BECU tech department?

Jim Siler

A: I wouldn’t say you’re being misled by BECU. You’re just not getting the whole story.

Yes, some sites, including many financial institutions, won’t accept VPN connections for security reasons. Specifically, it’s not uncommon for hackers to use VPNs to hide their tracks.

Are you safe when connecting to a site that uses HTTPS over public Wi-Fi? Generally speaking, yes. As long as you’re connected using HTTPS all transmissions will be encrypted. But keep an eye out for sites that only use HTTPS for logging in and may direct you to HTTP pages after login. Those transmissions would no longer be encrypted.

Why would a site do that? Because all that encrypting/decrypting is very demanding on server resources. The good news is that I haven’t seen or heard of any banking sites directing visitors to unsecure pages.

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Still, you’re right that while the connection to your bank may be secure it does nothing to protect you otherwise. If you’re not using a VPN, all your other transmissions to and from unsecured sites are potentially visible to others.

Do you want to have to constantly check which protocol is in use on each page? Do you want to log into BECU without a VPN and then have to remember to turn it on again when you leave that site?

My “best practice” is to always use a VPN when on public Wi-Fi and do all my sensitive transactions on a protected network.

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Q: Comcast says it includes an anti-virus program. McAfee has been sending messages that I must use their system. I’ve tried to turn off the constant ads disrupting my online activities. I deleted McAfee on my computer but they keep hassling me. Is there a way to keep them away from my online activities?

Carl Carlyle

A: I suspect your computer came with McAfee preinstalled and those messages are reminders to activate it. Just deleting the program won’t get rid of those messages.

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McAfee offers detailed instructions on how to uninstall their programs completely even if they were preinstalled. You’ll find those instructions at https://service.mcafee.com/?articleId=TS101331 & page=shell & shell=article-view.

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