Not true.? A VPN is for secure access to a network over an unsecure link, not something the average person ever needs.? As long as the web site you're using is secure (HTTPS), the data is encrypted from the browser to the server.
A WiFi network is no more or less secure than any other network.? Any computer on the network can "sniff" the traffic with the right tools, whether wired or wireless.? As long as you're on a secure (HTTPS) server, you're reasonably safe.
As an aside, POP3 email protocol sends the user name and password in plain text yet very few people use secure POP3 email.? GMail is one of the few email services to offer secure access.
I think this portion of an SF Chronicle article on subject highlights the differing opinions. In addition most responders think of users as being able to turn on encrytion when in fact most public areas are wide open.
Q: Is it OK to log on to my bank account using public computers in an Internet cafe, at the library or somewhere else?
A: "We would strongly recommend against using any sort of public terminal for conducting online banking or bill paying," said Jordana Beebe, spokeswoman for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego nonprofit organization.
There are several risks involved. One is that the Web browser may save the pages you've visited in a temporary memory called cache, and someone who comes along later might be able to view those pages. Even more insidious, criminals have installed secret Trojan horse programs on public computers that lurk in the background, invisibly copying users' passwords and e-mailing them to the thief.
Q: What about using a wireless laptop at home or in public?
A: Security experts say that Wi-Fi users can strongly boost data protection on home networks by turning on encryption, closing their network if possible, enabling optional protected-access features and changing the default passwords supplied by their computer manufacturer and network provider.
Other safeguards include changing the Wi-Fi network's identification name and placing the Wi-Fi access point in the middle of a room rather than near doors and windows, which limits the reach of the network. However, experts generally suggest that even those precautions aren't foolproof.
Shared public Wi-Fi networks, such as at cafes and libraries, are considered more vulnerable.
Wireless security is complicated and generally carries risks, said Bank of America e-commerce executive Sanjay Gupta. "I wouldn't bank online if it's a shared network," he said.
Donald Duggan, chief technology officer for Bank of the West, said he doesn't bank over Wi-Fi, even at home, despite his strong confidence otherwise in online banking security. He added, "Most of your general consumers don't have enough knowledge to actually secure a Wi-Fi environment well enough."