Q: After reading your recent article about virtual private networks, I was reminded that I have had issues with a number of websites not allowing me to connect when I use a VPN connection. To be specific, Bank of America will not allow connection via VPN. When contacted, they state they do not support VPN connections.
I try to use VPN for security, especially when contacting financial institutions or sites where credit card or personal information is exchanged. I am frustrated by institutions like BofA preventing my using this extra level of security while others like Chase or Vanguard do not seem to have a problem with VPN connections.
Is there any rhyme or reason to not accepting VPN connections?
— Tom Donnelly, Seattle
A: Yes, this is one of those debates that doesn’t seem to get resolved. Some sites, especially some financial institutions, track IP addresses for security reasons.
If you’re suddenly trying to log in from an unrecognized IP address – and especially if it’s from a foreign country – your connection might be blocked as a measure to prevent fraud. And truth be told, fraudsters do regularly use VPNs to cover their tracks.
So rather than trying to keep tabs on patterns of IP address usage by legitimate users, some organizations simply don’t allow VPN connections.
Most organizations that block VPN connections do employ the secure HTTPS internet protocol. That means all communication between you and their server is encrypted. That’s reassuring.
But use of HTTPS doesn’t mean that those organizations’ servers can’t be hacked. And financial organizations often don’t report when they’re hacked, so we can’t know how often this has happened.
Some users have suggested “voting with your feet” and moving your banking business to a bank that allows VPN connections. I’m in favor of that. If you do that, though, be prepared to have to confirm your identity more often when logging in.
Q: My wife and I are moving, and we want to get rid of our home computer with the tower and keyboard and get a big-screen laptop. We mostly use the computer for emails, photos, surfing the web and some financial bookkeeping. What brand and memory size would you suggest?
— Mike Cannon
A: Actually, I don’t recommend specific equipment unless I’ve recently done a comparative review. That said …
If you’re really only doing the things you say, you may be able to get by with an inexpensive computer that only has 8 gigabytes of system memory. You likely can even get by with a Chrome Book, which is even less expensive.
But here’s the thing. The main thing I tell people asking for advice about what computer to buy is to go into a store and put hands on! The feel of the keyboard, the look of the display – those are the most important issues in feeling good about your computer. So get a firsthand encounter with your device before you commit.
Q: I got the free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 when it was available. My C drive is now too small to do some updates, and I’d like to change it for a bigger one. I assume this means reinstalling Windows. But I have no media to do the install. Any idea how to reliably go about this?
— Terry Branthwaite, Carnation
A: Actually, the simplest solution would be to install an additional drive instead of replacing your C drive.
If it’s a desktop computer, you can almost certainly install an additional drive. If it’s a laptop, you can add more storage by attaching a USB drive. Just move enough of your data to the new drive to allow updates.