12 Essential Online-Banking Security Tips
Online banking is nice and convenient. But it does come with certain risks. Just as you hear of people being robbed at ATMs, or having their cards cloned, so online accounts are also a point of vulnerability. From 24/7 access to remote check deposits, there are many perks to online banking. So it’s no surprise that more than 70 percent of American consumers do at least some of their banking online, according to the Federal Reserve.
With so many people going online to manage their money, however, threats have arisen. Hackers, malware and fraudsters abound, ready and eager to steal online-banking passwords and the money they protect. But you don’t have to resign yourself to a world of unsafe banking. Here are 12 online-banking security tips you can practice before signing in to your account. Each will help ensure a safe online-banking experience.
Don’t use a Public Wi-Fi network
Though public Wi-Fi networks are easily accessible, you can’t trust their security. These Wi-Fi networks are often not encrypted, making it easier for hackers to steal information from unsuspecting users.
To mitigate this weakness, never log in to your bank over a public network. Save any financial transactions for browsing at home, when you can use your private network. Or use the cellular-data connection provided by your smartphone or your own mobile hotspot. Alternatively, you can subscribe to a VPN service(virtual private network) that creates a secure tunnel through all Wi-Fi hotspots.
Always Use HTTPS
Encrypted sites, which convert data into unreadable gibberish before sending it, keep your private information safe online. Your bank’s website should already be encrypted, although you can double-check by looking for a padlock symbol in your web address bar and the letters “https” at the beginning of the web address. There are also HTTPS browser extensions you can download that will automatically encrypt your web data if the website offers it.
Create a strong password
If your bank requires a user-generated password in order to access online accounts make sure you choose one that is strong. The best way to achieve this is by making it long and a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.Always avoid using any common words or phrases and never create a password that contain your name, initials, or your date of birth. If your bank allows it, change your password every few months.
When setting up online banking, if your bank asks you to provide answers to some standard security questions remember that the answer you give doesn’t have to be the real one.So you don’t have to answer “Thumper” to the name of your first pet – make it something else, as if it was a password. Use a password manager if you are concerned about how to remember everything!
Enable two-factor authentication
Many major banks offer an extra layer of security known as two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect account holders. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter an extra verification credential before you can access your account. Anytime someone tries to log in to your account, the bank will send you a text or email with a unique code that must be entered into the bank’s website along with your username and password. In most cases, 2FA is a free and easy security measure that helps prevent costly identity theft.
Disable automatic login
Do not allow your web browser to store private username and password information for your online banking websites. Some web browsers automatically store login credentials, so if that’s the case for your browser of choice, disable this feature for your bank’s website
Secure your computer and keep it up-to-date
Security software is essential these days, regardless of what you use your computer for. As a minimum, make sure you have a firewall turned on and are running antivirus software. This will ensure you are protected from Trojans, keyloggers and other forms of malware that could be used to gain access to your financial data. You’ll also want to keep your operating system and other software up-to-date to ensure that there are no security holes present.
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Run antivirus software
Using an anti-malware program may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of computers are currently unprotected. Antivirus software is an excellent safeguard for your computer. A good program will screen your emails, browsers and even pop-up ads to block viruses, malware and drive-by downloads. Don’t forget to keep the software updated to protect against new strains of viruses — or to get antivirus software for your Macs and Android devices, too.
Use the Bank’s Mobile app
Your bank’s encrypted mobile app is probably more secure than the bank’s website, as the app is less susceptible to the dangers that lurk on the web. Just don’t forget to download the app updates that the bank periodically sends, which ensure your app is armed with the latest security credentials. And if you’ve got an Android device, make sure you never download apps from anywhere other than the Google Play Store.
Safeguard your device
Even if you’re diligent about not saving login information, online banking is still tied to physical devices. Your phone or computer could get lost or stolen, leaving your information vulnerable to any individuals who get their hands on it. Protect your device by locking access to it with a PIN, password or fingerprint. The harder it is to break into the machine, the harder it will be for a thief to access your private data.
Monitor your account
Most banks will alert you to potential fraud, but you shouldn’t rely exclusively on those alerts. Practice due diligence and check your statements regularly for any suspicious activity. Contact your bank immediately if you notice any unauthorized charges. As technology grows and develops, so do the threats — but luckily, you don’t have to be a victim. By following the above steps, you can rest easy knowing you’ll have a safe online-banking experience.
Always log out when you are done
It is good practice to always log out of your online banking session when you have finished your business. This will lessen the chances of falling prey to session hijacking and cross-site scripting exploits. You may also want to set up the extra precaution of private browsing on your computer or smart phone, and set your browser to clear its cache at the end of each session.
Set up account notifications (if available)
Some banks offer a facility for customers to set up text or email notifications to alert them to certain activities on their account. For example, if a withdrawal matches or exceeds a specified amount or the account balance dips below a certain point then a message will be sent. Such alerts could give quick notice of suspicious activity on your account.