Tips for online banking and making your computer visible to other devices on a network | Q&A with Patrick Marshall

Q: I am planning to spend an extended period abroad after I retire and sell my home, but no more than three to six months per location. This transient living probably doesn’t make snail mail for financial statements and bills feasible. Any tips on how to keep financial transactions safe? How can I keep up on bills and statements? Am I being too nervous?

Sarah McCaghren

A: When I’m traveling … even if it’s to the Starbucks down the road … I always connect to the public Wi-Fi using a virtual private network (VPN). That way all transmissions to and from my computer are encrypted, so even if someone captured my traffic it’s virtually impossible for them to make any sense of it.

So that’s my first tip: If you’re on an insecure Wi-Fi network, use a VPN. They’re inexpensive and easy to use.

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Some financial sites don’t allow connections through a VPN, though. Since VPNs also prevent websites from knowing your computer’s IP address, hackers often use them to disguise themselves. Financial institutions don’t like that. So what to do? When you connect to your bank or other sensitive site make sure that the address bar shows HTTPS. That means you’re on a secure connection and transmissions are encrypted just as with a VPN. But make sure that each page you go to within that site begins with HTTPS.

And, of course, whatever else you do I recommend using strong passwords that are difficult to guess. That means no pet names. And above all, don’t use the same password for multiple sites. For each login you should have a unique password.

Of course, those of us who don’t have photographic memory can’t keep track of multiple, unique strong passwords, so use a password manager. Personally, I use LastPass. It has the added advantage of allowing me to designate “survivors” who can access my account. If they try to access my account and I don’t stop them for a user-set number of days, they’re in. In short, if something happens to me and I’m unable to stop them from accessing my LastPass account my family will be able to continue on managing finances and other important data.

Finally, if the site you’re connecting to supports two-factor authentication or use of an authentication app, take advantage of it. Then if someone does somehow get hold of your password they still won’t be able to get into your account.

Q: I have a desktop and two Surface tablets all running the current version of Windows 10 on my home network. Before Windows 10, I used to share its hard drives to my tablets because it had greater disk capacity. However, with Windows 10 that stopped because my tablets can no longer see the desktop on the network. The desktop can see the tablets without a problem and attach to their shared drives. Both tablets can “see” each other but not the desktop. Can you please help?

Wayne Hagan

A: I suspect that after the upgrade to Windows 10 the network discovery feature was turned off.

Here’s how to check: Click on the Start button in the lower-left corner and then on the gear icon to access Settings. Next click on Network & Internet, then on whatever network connection you’re using. The system will display a lot of information about your network settings. Look under the heading Network Profile. It lists two options: Public and Private. If Public is selected your computer won’t be visible to other computers on the network. If Private is selected you should be able to see that computer from your other devices.

Of course, that’s assuming those computers are connected to the same network. If you have both wired and wireless networks it’s worth double-checking on that.

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