Explained: Do I need a VPN? Are VPNs Safe for Online Banking? (2023)

Infopackets Reader Janie T. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I wanted to know if I should use a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to my bank website. A service I came across called saferweb.com claims that they will encrypt my connection, but I don't know if they can be trusted or not. What do you think? PS: I love your daily infopackets letters - they are very informative. "

My response:

This is a good question. When visiting saferweb.com I noted the following statements on their site: "Safer Web gives you an extra layer of security against Internet hackers. By hiding your IP, we keep your online activity anonymous and private. Using a VPN keeps your browsing activity private and secure."

Those statements certainly make it sound like it would be triple secure connecting to your bank, but I suggest otherwise. I'll try to answer that question in depth below; in fact, I'll even answer the question "Should I use a VPN?" as well (even if not connecting to a bank), for those who are considering using a VPN service.

So, How does a VPN Work?

A VPN (virtual private network) is software that connects your computer to another computer (a VPN server) somewhere else in the world. The connection between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted. That is what a VPN is, but a pay-for VPN service offered by a third party is slightly different.

Let's look at an example:

Let's say you purchased a VPN service online. Let's also assume that the VPN service has VPN servers located all over world - and there's even one located in China, which you decide to connect to, for lack of better judgment. So, let's assume you decide to launch Internet Explorer and access website abc.com in the browser. When you access website abc.com using your VPN connection, the server in China is asked to carry out that request. From there, the China server then makes a connection* to website abc.com, which it then relays that information back to you using the VPN.

HTTPS + VPN = Fully Secure. HTTP + VPN = Not Fully Secure

So is your encryption secure if you simply plug in a VPN? The answer is no.

Let's look at this question a little more closely.

Regarding the asterisk in the previous section above (see: connection*): If website abc.com does not use secure http (https) to serve its web pages, then your connection to abc.com is in fact not secure; the only thing "secure" is your connection between you and the VPN server in China.

In other words, using a VPN to access a non-secure website (ex: http://example.com) will only anonymize the traffic between you and the VPN server - should you be worried about being spied upon; it does not provide a secure connection from the VPN server outward UNLESS the connection outward uses https to serve up its web pages (ex: https://example.com). The website will only serve up https webpages if it uses a security certificate (SSL) that has been signed by a certificate authority.

How a VPN works: a Notation Example

Using the example above, I'll use notation for brevity. The connection would look like this:

You -> China (secure via VPN) : China -> http://abc.com (not secure because abc.com uses http and not https) = you're only 1/2 way secure in your connection to China, but not from China and onward. If website xyz.com was secure using https, then the connection might look like this: You -> China (secure via VPN) : China -> https://xyz.com (secure because xyz.com uses https) = you are using a 100% secure connection.

So, Should You Use a VPN when Connecting to Your Bank?

Frankly speaking, I don't think it's a good idea. It certainly does not add any extra layer(s) of protection - especially with respect to SaferWeb's claims. In fact, using a VPN to connect to your bank may backfire on you.

Provided that your system is not infected with malware, your operating system is up to date with the latest security patches, and you're using the latest web browser version of Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer, then connecting to your bank should be perfectly secure and nothing else needs to be done. Millions of people do it like that every day.

Using the notation example: if you are connecting to your bank without a VPN, then the connection would look something like this: You -> Bank (secure, because you're using https already). So is there any point of using a VPN to do this?: You -> China (Secure because of VPN) : China -> Bank (Secure because of https)? Probably not.

How can Using a VPN Service Backfire on You?

It's also worth pointing out that if a VPN server was ever compromised, any and all communication between you and the VPN server can be sniffed and potentially decoded. So if you ask the question "is using a VPN [server] secure"? I would say, "only if the server itself is secure," which is likely impossible to prove. Servers are managed by human beings, and human beings are prone to error, so it stands that there is a possibility that the server may not be secure. Also, servers, just like PCs are prone to exploits, and if not patched in a reasonable period of time, can be compromised.

Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), if you try and connect to your bank using a VPN server located in China, I am guessing that your bank is going to throw up some major red flags (no pun intended), and possibly prevent you from logging in. The way the banks sees it, someone (a computer, or server) from China is trying to access your local bank account. Is that a good thing? Probably not.

Now, if you repeatedly use random VPN servers to anonymize your traffic (which happens to be another feature offered by VPN services), AND you try and connect to your bank on a regular basis, then I'm guessing the bank is going to throw up some more red flags. The way the bank sees it: a computer, or server located somewhere in the world keeps trying to access your bank account - and it keeps happening from different places around the world. Is that a good thing? Definitely not - at least, not the way the bank sees it, because cybercriminals often use VPNs to anonymize their web traffic as well. It would be a safer bet if you just stick to using your local IP address when accessing your local bank.

What about SaferWeb's Comments that "VPNs are Safe"?

As for saferweb's statements regarding VPNs, let's take a look at those now that we have a little bit more knowledge about how VPNs work:

  • They say: Safer Web gives you an extra layer of security against Internet hackers. I say: using our examples above, that is only true if the entire connection is secure and the VPN server is also secure. Also, a hacker can 'hack you from the inside' if your system in infected with malware, so a VPN will not prevent you from being "hacked".
  • They say: By hiding your IP, we keep your online activity anonymous and private. I say: yes and no. If you are worried about being spied upon locally by governments, or are otherwise paranoid, then using a VPN is probably a good idea. That said, you should also ensure that your antivirus, antimalware, operating system, and web browser are all up to date and infection free in addition to using a VPN, otherwise you can still be spied on because your information will still propagate outward somewhere onto the Internet whether you use a VPN or not.
  • They say: Using a VPN keeps your browsing activity private and secure. I say: yes and no. This is really only true if the connection is 100% secure. Even so, if someone was to compromise a website you were previously connected to, they could still access information about you. A VPN won't protect against that type of an attack.

So, Should You Use a VPN Service?

Whether or not you decide to use a VPN service (such as those offered by SaferWeb, for example) really depends on your circumstances.

If you need a VPN service to simply anonymize your IP address - for example, to gain access to certain services (such as accessing content that would otherwise not be available to you due to geographical restrictions), then yes, a VPN service is going to help you. If you are asking whether or not a VPN service is going to make you more "safe" online, then I would say - read this article, and then compare it to your circumstances, and then make your decision.

As for VPN's themselves - they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, really. I use my own VPN usingOpenVPN (a freeware program), which allows me to connect to my remote web server in New York. Since I already own a server, I don't need to pay for a VPN service to access my server; I simply made my server run the 'server service' and I use a 'client' to access the server. At any rate, the traffic to and from the server is completely encrypted and no one can access the server without going through the VPN, first. So in that respect, it is fantastic because it offers unparalleled protection from outsiders / hackers, etc. If anyone needs help setting up something similar in order to access a remote system through another system, you are welcome to contact me for help.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If you are still not sure about whether or not a VPN is going to help in your circumstance, you are welcome to contact me for help. I can also assess your PC's health - in case you are unsure whether your PC is vulnerable online. Simply contact me for help and I will connect to your system and review and discuss your options with you 1-on-1.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing -please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the websitecontact form.


Is online banking safe without a VPN? ›

You should always use a VPN when online banking. If possible, only do your online banking when you're at home (not using public Wi-Fi). However, even when you're home, you should use a VPN for added privacy. This is especially important when online banking.

Does a VPN help with online banking? ›

This is why it's really important to use a VPN to securely access online banking. Once you connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), your internet traffic is encrypted and can't be read by anyone.

Which VPN is best for online banking? ›

ExpressVPN has the best security and privacy features for online banking. NordVPN is much cheaper than ExpressVPN, but it's also a reliable option. Surfshark, CyberGhost and PIA are much cheaper VPNs for online banking, especially on the long-term plans.

What is the most secure way to do online banking? ›

What is the safest way to bank online? The safest way to bank online is to access your bank's official online or mobile banking app using a secured Wi-Fi connection. Banking with unverified or untrusted apps or over unsecured Wi-Fi connections could leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Which browser is safest for online banking? ›

Brave is arguably one of the best web browsers for all-around security. The open source browser includes a built-in ad blocker, a script blocker, automatically upgrades to HTTPS, blocks all third-party storage and protects against browser fingerprinting.

Can my bank account be hacked through VPN? ›

A VPN is safe for online banking, but you shouldn't forget to take other precautionary measures too. If you don't have an up-to-date antivirus, your operating system is old, or you ignore antivirus alerts, then you will still be at risk of being hacked.

What is the downside of VPN? ›

Slower Internet Speeds

One of the main downsides of using a VPN is that it can slow your connection speed, sometimes significantly enough for it to be noticeable. To understand why this happens, it's important to know how a VPN works.

When shouldn't you use a VPN? ›

VPN service might use your data and monitor your activity

There have been many cases where VPN companies were caught monitoring user data for their benefits and personal motives. These VPN services may help protect your identity and hide your IP address, but they might actually do the tracking instead.

Who has the best online banking platform? ›

Ally Bank wins the overall category for best online banks because of its generous rates, low fees, and user-friendly budgeting features. This bank also offers a wide array of products, from checking and savings to investing and loans.

What are two dangers of online banking? ›

Risks of Online Banking
  • Scary customer service. ...
  • Online banks can go offline. ...
  • Hackers. ...
  • Identity Theft. ...
  • Choose an online bank with top-of-the-line security. ...
  • Don't do your banking on public Wi-Fi. ...
  • Be careful with your debit card. ...
  • Change passwords regularly.
Dec 9, 2022

Which password is the safest to use for online banking? ›

Here are some tips for creating the strongest possible online banking password to keep your account safe.
  • Make a Password Longer Than Six Characters. ...
  • Use Uppercase and Lowercase Letters, Numbers and Symbols. ...
  • Don't Use Children's Names or Common Words. ...
  • Use Separate Passwords for Each Account.
Aug 20, 2021

Is online banking safer with an app or browser? ›

However, mobile banking is a little safer when it comes to security, mainly because this type of banking does not store any data.

How do I know if online banking is safe? ›

Are online banks safe to use? Yes, online banks are safe. As long as an online bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., it will offer the same coverage as the FDIC-insured bank down the street. FDIC covers up to $250,000 per account for each individual customer.

Is online banking safe on Wi-Fi? ›

The fact that Wi-Fi broadcasts data to anybody in range means that your information could be at risk. 1 That's especially risky if you use Wi-Fi for online banking. Avoiding Wi-Fi altogether is not realistic. It's probably not even practical to save banking sessions for when you're at home or on a wired connection.

Is it safe to use Wi-Fi for online banking? ›

Public wifi makes it easy for someone to see your online activity. This can include capturing your PIN, passwords and viewing sensitive email or financial transactions.

Which VPN is best for mobile banking? ›

Best VPNs for Online Banking — Full Analysis (Updated in 2023)
  1. ExpressVPN — Advanced Encryption to Keep Your Banking Data Safe on Any Network. ...
  2. CyberGhost — Smart Rules to Auto-Start the VPN So You Can Bank Safely on the Go. ...
  3. Private Internet Access — Vast Server Coverage for Safe Banking Access Anywhere.

How does online banking get hacked? ›

There are several ways that scammers can gain access to your online bank account. They could use phishing attacks, malware or other cyberattacks, or buy your credentials online after a data breach. For example, the Michigan-headquartered Flagstar Bank was the recent victim of a data breach.

Can VPN steal passwords? ›

No, they cannot. The traffic you route to them appears just like regular traffic as it traverses their VPN server, all encryption that the VPN provides is stripped away. That means that everything that you send to an SSL protected (HTTPS) site is still protected by the SSL encryption that the actual site provides.

Should you leave VPN on all the time? ›

Since your VPN is your best form of protection against hackers and helps keep your information private, it's best to leave your VPN on whenever you're on the internet.

Do I really need a VPN at home? ›

Not having a VPN connection on your home router lets a hacker see all of the devices connected to your local network and the traffic coming from those devices. Cybercriminals can spy on that traffic, blackmail you, steal your files, and cause much avoidable mayhem.

Should I have a VPN on my phone? ›

VPNs are important because internet connections can be eavesdropped easily by malicious cybercriminals. Whether you are using wireless or wired connections, your data might be visible to others that can access the network.

How much does a VPN cost? ›

On average, VPNs cost around $10 per month. However, they are cheaper if you sign up for a longer term contract; on average, annual contracts cost $8.41 when broken down monthly, while two-year contracts cost $3.40 on average monthly.

What are the most common VPN issues? ›

Common VPN issues include your VPN not connecting, your IP address still being visible despite the VPN saying it's connected, and your VPN continuously disconnecting. It's usually possible to overcome these issues by resetting your internet, restarting your VPN software, or changing your VPN server/protocol.

What is the number 1 online bank? ›

Capital One was named the “Best for Online Banking Experience” in NerdWallet's 2023 Best-Of Awards. Capital One offers a strong 3.40% APY on its savings account and high rates on its certificates of deposit, along with 0.10% APY on all checking balances.

Who has the easiest online banking? ›

Easiest: Revolut

On top of a host of banking features like early direct deposit, free ATM withdrawals or an interest-earning savings account, you can open junior accounts and even trade cryptocurrencies and stocks.

Is it smart to use an online bank? ›

Online banking is safe to use as long as the bank is federally insured. With the right security measures, online banks can offer competitive APYs, allowing you to get the most out of your money without having to put your financial security at risk.

How can I protect myself online without a VPN? ›

Here's a list of ideas that can help you strengthen your privacy walls.
  1. Review and secure your social media accounts. ...
  2. Change your passwords on all other accounts. ...
  3. Use an Encrypted Operating System. ...
  4. Get smart about smart device security. ...
  5. Cut back on data sharing. ...
  6. Don't use public computers. ...
  7. Don't use free Wi-Fi.

How do hackers get into your online banking? ›

Hackers have many ways of tricking you into installing a keylogger, often through an infected email or website. Once a keylogger is on your device, your keyboard is broadcasting directly to the criminals. They just need to wait for you to type your login details, and then they can take over your account.

Why you do not need a VPN? ›

Using a VPN at home is preferable, advised even, but it isn't always essential. The main reason it may not be necessary, is that your internet activity should already be shielded by your password-protected Wi-Fi network. The other concern is connecting to a remote server can slow your connection speed.

Why I don't use a VPN? ›

VPN service might use your data and monitor your activity

There have been many cases where VPN companies were caught monitoring user data for their benefits and personal motives. These VPN services may help protect your identity and hide your IP address, but they might actually do the tracking instead.

What does a VPN not protect you from? ›

A VPN helps you stay invisible and behind the scenes, but it doesn't give you immunity against online risks like malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, or even computer viruses. That's where your antivirus software comes in.

What does a scammer need to get into your bank account? ›

The easiest way to become a victim of a bank scam is to share your banking info — e.g., account numbers, PIN codes, social security number — with someone you don't know well and trust. If someone asks for sensitive banking details, proceed with caution.

What does someone need to steal money from your bank account? ›

What they want are account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to loot your checking account or run up bills on your credit cards. Identity thieves can take out loans or obtain credit cards and even driver's licenses in your name.

Who is responsible if your bank account is hacked? ›

Who's Responsible? Banks are mostly responsible for making consumers whole if money or personal data, such as a Social Security number, is stolen in an account hack. The liability concerns inherent to the CFPB's data protection rule are different.

Which is the safest online banking app? ›

And you can securely log in via your phone by using your fingerprint.
  • Ally Bank: Best Mobile Banking App for Customer Service. ...
  • Bank of America: Best Mobile Banking App for Security. ...
  • Varo: Best Mobile Banking App for Money Management. ...
  • Wells Fargo: Best Mobile Banking App for Monitoring Investments.
May 2, 2022


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