Many of us love online banking. Indeed, the Internet provides us with ways to manage our money conveniently – and find the best rates on a number of deposit products. However, even as technology increases our convenience, it can also make us vulnerable. There is no way to completely protect yourself from every threat out there. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances that your account will be compromised as you engage in online banking:
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you have a good password. Your password is a line of defense against those who would access your accounts. A good password will be hard to guess, so it shouldn’t be directly connected with your life. Using your birthday, or birthdays of those close to you, pets’ names, information related to your children our spouse, and information related to your high school can all be guessed by others. Some tips for creating a good password include:
- Use at least eight characters.
- Include a mix of numbers and letters.
- Mix upper and lower case letters in unusual places.
- If you can use special characters, such as @, _, %, add those in.
Some experts recommend that you change your passwords every six months. It is also a good idea to use a different password for each account. That way, if someone does get access to one of your bank account, he or she can’t access the rest of them.
Use Your Own Devices
Whether you are checking your bank account balance using a smartphone, or whether you are using a desktop, use only your own devices. When you are using a public computer, you should avoid logging in to sites that require you to input sensitive information. Don’t use someone else’s tablet to transfer funds. Your information is more likely to stay safe if you avoid using others’ devices.
Secure Sites and Networks
Even if you are using your own devices you need to be careful. A public network without a high level of encryption can be a security risk, even if you are checking your bank account on your own iPad. Before you engage in sensitive banking activities, make sure that you are on a secure network. If you are unsure, wait until later to accomplish these tasks.
Another concern is the security of the web site you are using. Look next to the address bar on your browser to see if there is a padlock icon. You can also look at the URL. Secure sites start with “https rather than “http. Double check for these indications that the site is secure before you enter your login information.
You should also double check emails that claim to be from your bank. If you click on the link in a phishing scam, you will be sent to an official look web site, but it won’t actually be secure. To be safe, it’s often better just to type the official URL in the address bar yourself, rather than relying on links in emails to take you to the site.
After you finish your secure online banking transaction, log out of your account, clear the cache and exit out of the browser window. This will help you erase your browsing history and provide some protection.
As a Mac user, I have been following the news of the recent rise in malware aimed at Macs. It looks as though I will need to start taking more steps toward better computer security. Computer security can help you block viruses spyware and other malware. Keep this software up to date to deal with evolving threats.
Hard Core Security: Banking from a Different Drive
Another suggestion is to do your banking from a different hard drive. To some degree, this defeats the purpose of super-convenient online banking. However, for someone who is very security minded, it is a good solution. You can set up a hard drive just for banking. You can do a dual boot – and risk a corruption in the pre-boot record – or you can connect a different drive altogether. There are add-ons that can prevent your browser from accessing any sites that aren’t specified. You specify only your banking web sites can be accessed, and you refuse to allow email from that drive. This way, you can protect the drive from being contaminated in a number of ways. If you set it up on a thumb drive, you might be able to take it with you when you travel.
You can also use a Linux OS to help protect you, since there isn’t much malware aimed at Linux. Of course, a few years ago, the same was true of a Mac. But switching to Linux is one option that could help you decrease your vulnerability to malware.
At Home: Protecting Passwords and Shredding Documents
At home, you should keep your passwords in a safe place. I like mine written down, just in case I forget. You can save them in an encrypted document file on your computer, or you can keep a hard copy in a safe place. My small fire safe is within easy reach, and it’s not hard to open it and get when I need. You should also shred documents that contain account numbers before they go to the recycle bin or the trash.
Monitoring Your Bank Accounts
Of course, in the end, your ultimate security is your own vigilance. Even with all the security measures you can take to protect your financial information, it can still be compromised. You should monitor your bank account regularly, looking for evidence of fraudulent charges that could indicate identity theft or compromised financial accounts. Do regular checks of your accounts – even those that you don’t use very much. You should always know what is happening with your accounts. Checking regularly can help you identify possible ID fraud, and work to limit the damage it can cause. The sooner you catch it, the better.
Keeping your financial information safe is vital if you want to protect your money. Take a few steps to increase your security, and your online banking will be less likely to result in financial information breaches.