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How Secure is Email on iPad 3 using WiFi?

Posted on 2012-03-28
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Last Modified: 2012-03-31
Hello,

I am trying to decide between buying an iPad 3 with or without 4G capability.  I would bring this with me when I travel to access email.  I use Google Apps and gmail for my company's email.  It is set up so access is via HTTPS.

If I get the WiFi only version of the iPad, how secure will my email access be at places like StarBucks?  I called the Apple Store and they said places like banks make the connection secure on their end.  Can't someone intercept my login credentials for email or my bank if I am using open Wifi at Starbucks?  Or, is there some way to establish a secure VPN-like tunnel using open Wifi?  Hope this question makes sense - this is not my area of expertise.

Thanks!
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Question by:MrChip2
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by:Jason C. Levine
Jason C. Levine earned 250 total points
ID: 37777927
The connection is as secure as your email provider makes it.  If your email server doesn't force you to use an encrypted connection to login, then your account details are being sent in the clear and can be sniffed.

However, most email servers should be forcing a secure login.  You just need to check on it with the provider or with your server folks.
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by:snailcat
snailcat earned 250 total points
ID: 37777939
Your passwords are at risk on an open WiFi network.

You can use a VPN to encrypt your connection on the iPad

See this link for information

 http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1424
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Author Comment

by:MrChip2
ID: 37777986
Hi Jason,

Here are the settings for my email:

With Gmail my incoming server (POP3) uses port 995 and is set to require an SSL connection.  My outgoing SMTP server uses port 465 and also uses SSL.

Does this mean I am secure both sending and receiving email over an open WiFi?
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by:snailcat
snailcat earned 250 total points
ID: 37778006
Yes your email is secure in sending and receiving but other logins on websites are still open.  Best not to login to your bank account, etc on the open wifi unless you have a vpn
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Author Comment

by:MrChip2
ID: 37778017
Hi snailcat,

Thanks for responding.  I know very little about VPN.  How exactly would this work if I was using the iPad in an open environment - say Starbucks Free WiFi?

Am I establishing a VPN tunnel with their WiFi router or between my iPad and gmail?

I am not at all familiar with the protocols discussed in the article.  How can I check to see if any will work for me?  

The other possibility is that my office using a NetScreen hardware firewall that supports multiple zones and VPN.  Could I establish a VPN tunnel between my iPad on Wifi and the NetScreen and then access the internet using my company's ISP?  I am thinking that I could set up the VPN on the NetScreen to only recognize the MAC address of my iPad.
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Jason C. Levine earned 250 total points
ID: 37778114
Your Gmail is secure.  As snailcat says, you have to be careful when logging into other web sites and make sure the connection is secure there.  All banks force SSL but it would be best to NOT trust other people (including the banks) to always do the right thing.  A VPN is a solution but hard to implement on the iPad.

Instead of getting the 4G iPad 3, get a wifi only and then also get a Verizon 4G MiFi card.  This will provide you with your own Wifi hotspot that can be secured with WPA2 encrpytion and further with 4G.  That's as much security as most people will need while moving around.
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Author Comment

by:MrChip2
ID: 37778138
Hi Jason,

Thanks for confirming snailcat's comments.  I did a quick check into the MiFi.  The devices are cheap ($20), but they require a $50 per month 2 year contract.  This is something that will not be used very often.

Another thought occurred to me.  I have a Droid smartphone with Verizon.  Is there some kind of add-on I could buy that would let me iPad connect  to the internet via my phone?  I am guessing my usage will be very low.
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Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 37778313
" Is there some kind of add-on I could buy that would let me iPad connect  to the internet via my phone?"

Depends on your phone and your provider.  Some phones can act as hotspots, some can't.
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