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IT (ie email and ATM) security in China

IT (ie email and ATM) security in China

Old Dec 25, 18, 8:20 am
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IT (ie email and ATM) security in China

Are we safe to use email/ATM/credit cards in China?
One of our group works in an IT company.
She was told by the IT security group in that company that there are issues with security emails, cell phones, computers, ATMs, credit cards when travelling to China.

Can we safely use our emails - we have yahoo email accounts (we know google is banned in China)? - without worry that our email account will be hacked. Can we bring our cell phones or tablets or PCs to China? Would our apps be safe in China if we bring in our cell phones?

If I want to access my yahoo account from a hotel PC business centre in China (we will be staying at the Fairmont in both Beijing and in Shanghai), will it be safe to do so?


Are our ATM/debit cards safe to use in accessing money from ATMs? Is it safe to use credit cards in China?

Last edited by FlyerGoldII; Dec 25, 18 at 11:46 am
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Old Dec 25, 18, 9:57 am
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Please follow this thread to the Travel Technology forum where IT security is generally discussed.

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Old Dec 25, 18, 2:08 pm
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I would be very leery of using my password on a business center computer anywhere, let alone China.
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Old Dec 25, 18, 2:24 pm
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I made trips to Shanghai and Beijing back to back 2 years ago. I made sure I had a VPN that was not blocked at that time in the PRC (a couple actually in case one got blocked). I also had more than one ATM card, and used only one as the sacrificial debit card. I also had 3 credit cards but only used one, again as the sacrificial credit card. Neither of my sacrifices got hacked, nor did my laptop. That I know of. Did the same thing in Eastern Europe last month and so far no ill effects noticed. Also St. Petersburg last year. If you do get yuan, be sure to exchange it before you get back, but that may not be much of a problem in Canada. Apple phones might be slightly safer in terms of hacking, but the latest Androids with Oreo or even P are probably just as safe. Worst problem we ever had was in FCO, so go figure.

Last edited by boerne; Dec 25, 18 at 4:06 pm
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Old Dec 25, 18, 5:03 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyerGoldII View Post
Can we safely use our emails - we have yahoo email accounts (we know google is banned in China)? - without worry that our email account will be hacked.
If you use a webmail account on a device you own, it is unlikely to be hacked while in China.

Originally Posted by FlyerGoldII View Post
Can we bring our cell phones or tablets or PCs to China? Would our apps be safe in China if we bring in our cell phones?
It is unlikely your phone or apps will be hacked while in China.

Originally Posted by FlyerGoldII View Post
If I want to access my yahoo account from a hotel PC business centre in China (we will be staying at the Fairmont in both Beijing and in Shanghai), will it be safe to do so?
Using shared hotel computers for sensitive data is a bad idea anywhere in the world.

Originally Posted by FlyerGoldII View Post
Are our ATM/debit cards safe to use in accessing money from ATMs? Is it safe to use credit cards in China?
As long as you stick to reputable businesses, there is little risk of ATM/debit card fraud.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 9:08 am
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I travel regularly to China.

The VPN that you need is called Astrill. There are various but they don't all work and this is tried and tested by me on many trips, as well as other expats who stay in China.

As for cards, I personally dont use my bank cards anywhere, rather I have got prepaid debit cards (the ones that link with your smartphone - Revolut (google it).

Hope this helps.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 9:53 am
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Another option for data is to use your Canada-based cellular SIM in roaming mode. Check with your carrier to see what int'l data packages they might have. If you get one reasonably priced and that allows tethering, then that's a good solution for both your cellular and laptop data. In addition to not having to procure a local SIM, such a setup will bypass the Great Firewall and everything will just work, even without a VPN.
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Old Dec 28, 18, 5:56 pm
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Originally Posted by S c 0 TT y View Post
I travel regularly to China.

The VPN that you need is called Astrill. There are various but they don't all work and this is tried and tested by me on many trips, as well as other expats who stay in China.

As for cards, I personally dont use my bank cards anywhere, rather I have got prepaid debit cards (the ones that link with your smartphone - Revolut (google it).

Hope this helps.
Astrill is pretty far down my list of VPNs in terms of both reliability and speed.
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Old Dec 29, 18, 5:23 am
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Anyone know if Dashlane's VPN works in China?
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Old Dec 29, 18, 3:31 pm
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You should just assume any shared computer has a keylogger installed. This isn't a China thing, it's just as likely in your hometown as it is in Shanghai.

I would not be afraid of accessing my usual email accounts from my own devices while in traveling. The IT person you talk to has no idea what they're going on about.

Not that there aren't security concerns in some industries when traveling to China—there certainly are. But given that this IT person is telling you debit cards aren't safe in China, I'm going to safely assume this isn't someone who knows what they're talking about.
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Old Dec 30, 18, 7:50 pm
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ExpressVPN is my preferred for China, I've done 15 trip in the past two years, averaging around 13 weeks a year in country. As far as personal cards, I try not to use, but I have colleagues that do and have not had problems. The Capital One Visa is one of the best, since there are variants that do not charge any international fees. As for mobile, you can get sims at the airport, which is ok, but not the best. I've gotten sims at airports, at magazine street vendors and finally have a sim from china unicom that I have kept for over a year. Given my constant travel, I actually have a bank account in China and use WeChat pay for everything, given convenience... I'd avoid shared computers and as long as you are using your own devices, you should be ok. VPN always helpful to get access to blocked sites...
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Old Dec 30, 18, 7:59 pm
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Originally Posted by pwmcmaho View Post
ExpressVPN is my preferred for China, I've done 15 trip in the past two years, averaging around 13 weeks a year in country. As far as personal cards, I try not to use, but I have colleagues that do and have not had problems. The Capital One Visa is one of the best, since there are variants that do not charge any international fees. As for mobile, you can get sims at the airport, which is ok, but not the best. I've gotten sims at airports, at magazine street vendors and finally have a sim from china unicom that I have kept for over a year. Given my constant travel, I actually have a bank account in China and use WeChat pay for everything, given convenience... I'd avoid shared computers and as long as you are using your own devices, you should be ok. VPN always helpful to get access to blocked sites...
The real name registration requirement has taken a lot of wind out of the sails of the news stand channel (i.e. much less prevalent than it used to be). Airport vendors often charge a markup over in town stores, but those that register on the spot might be worth it for the convenience because going to a Unicom/Mobile store can suck up the better part of an hour. I also use Unicom prepaid on set B supplemented by buying extra data via WeChat, and am quite pleased. (I used to have a post paid Mobile SIM, but it was no cheaper than prepaid.)
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Old Dec 30, 18, 8:14 pm
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Don't take electronics you don't need into China. Some employers have a policy of providing laptops with only essential data for such trips, or there may be other security regulations that you need to know in advance of your trip. You might also want to turn off all electronics (and disconnect them from the internet if applicable) when not in use in China.

IME major western chain hotels in big cities do permit access to the usual websites via their internet connections (and business centers) even though it's different at local hotels and for the general population. [BTW, I've also observed western cable news channels being censored in Chinese hotels, even western chain places oriented toward western clientele.]

IME the situation is similar in Russia, so China is not unique this way.
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Old Dec 31, 18, 7:19 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Astrill is pretty far down my list of VPNs in terms of both reliability and speed.
I'd genuinely be interested to hear what you use in China as I have tried several (paid) VPN's and they simply do not work in China - Nord VPN was my latest one but again China is not supported.
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Old Dec 31, 18, 12:35 pm
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Originally Posted by S c 0 TT y View Post
I'd genuinely be interested to hear what you use in China as I have tried several (paid) VPN's and they simply do not work in China - Nord VPN was my latest one but again China is not supported.
I've been using Express for a long time now, and have never had any serious issues. Sure, they are on the expensive side, and friends of mine swear by others or Shadowsocks, but I'm fine with paying a little more for something I can count on. There are a number of China VPN threads on FT. I try to avoid posting too much to them because the VPN providers aren't fond of detailed discussions (e.g. which servers work best for Netflix) in public forums.
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