By Dave Wall
As with most services today, banking has moved into the digital world. Online banking provides an easy way to manage personal finances quickly and conveniently, without the need to worry about mailing checks to pay bills or going to the bank for simple transactions. But, the rise of digital commerce gave rise to a cyber underworld of hackers that requires caution and diligence with online activities, especially those that include financial transactions. To keep you accounts and personal information safe, there are several best practices to follow when using online banking services.
Always make sure you use strong passwords that are not easily guessable. They should be long and include both upper- and lowercase letter, numbers, and other characters. Using names, birthdates, and other easily guessable personal details is not recommended. Even with the number of high-profile hacks featured by media outlets, some of the top passwords in use include “123456” and “password.” Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. That way, even if one is compromised, your other accounts will be safe. Change you passwords regularly.
Only use secure WiFi networks. Open, unsecure public WiFi networks are an easy target for hackers, who can intercept data transmitted between you and the bank. The safest policy is to limit your banking activity to your secure home network, but if you need to make transactions while away from home, use secure networks, or even use your mobile device’s cellular connection instead of WiFi.
Make sure any website you use for financial transactions is secure by checking the URL. If it begins with “https” the site is secured with an SSL certificate. Chrome browsers are starting to identify non-secure sites with a “Not Secure” label starting this month to help identify them.
If you are using a mobile device for your financial transactions, using the bank’s official mobile app is a good option. It is often even more secure than websites and is much less susceptible to hacking. Make sure you update the app when required, and while most users tend to avoid automatic app updates, setting your banking app to update automatically ensures you’ll be using the current version with the latest security measures. Turn off your Bluetooth connection when using your mobile device. Bluetooth signals can be hijacked, just like open WiFi, allowing hackers to intercept your data. This is a good policy at all times when not using your Bluetooth capability for communication.
Regardless of how you access your accounts, it’s advisable to request text or email alerts whenever transactions are made or if balances drop below a certain threshold. This immediately alerts you if any unauthorized transaction has taken place and allows you to react quickly. If available, you should always enable two-factor authentication on your accounts. That means you will have to use two means of authorizing yourself as the user, but it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access, even if they have gotten your password. One example of two-factor authentication is entering a required passcode to be entered, which is sent to a specified mobile number when a login is attempted. Similarly, disable any automatic logins on your devices. While logging in each time takes additional time, the added security can make sure your accounts aren’t accessible to hackers gaining access to your device.
Separate PC for Banking
If you have access to a separate computer to use only for your banking activity, you can reduce risk of threats from gaming, web browsing, email, social media, and other activities. If you have an old laptop or PC that you’re not using anymore, consider cleaning it up, updating the operating system and browser, and using that as your dedicated banking device. It may not be powerful enough for gaming, streaming videos, and other popular activities, but it can still be very useful for securing your online banking. If you don’t have access to a separate computer, you can still use a dedicated browser – one you don’t use for any other online activities. That will still reduce risk. Regardless of the device, make sure you keep your antivirus, browser, and operating system up-to-date to ensure you have the latest security patches.
Be Aware of Scams
Every day, hackers and scammers send countless fake offers in an effort gain access to devices and personal information. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Delete suspicious emails and texts immediately, and never share account information online. Similarly, we won’t ask you for account details or other personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call. If you aren’t sure if a call is legitimate, hang up and call back.
Check you Accounts Regularly
Even the most diligent customers can have their account information or identities stolen from other sources. It’s a good policy to monitor your accounts and credit report regularly to check for any unauthorized accounts or transactions. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three national credit agencies to provide a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. That will allow you to check your credit report every four months at no cost.
Regardless of what transactions you’re making online, following these guidelines will help protect your assets and credit standing.