Internet banking has evolved to become both more functional, and more portable, than ever before. More types of transactions and services are now available online, and financial institutions large and small offer mobile apps that allow customers to do their banking from the palm of their hand anywhere they’re online.
Of course, as internet banking becomes more popular and ubiquitous, so too has the threat of fraud and hacking become more prevalent. As such, maintaining the highest standards of safety and security when completing financial transactions in an online environment is now more important than ever.
If you’re concerned about keeping your information private when banking and transacting online, here are a few important tips that should help keep you safe from harm.
Set a hacker-proof password, and change it regularly
Most of us have a whole lot of passwords to remember these days, and the temptation to use the same one for multiple sites can be tough to resist. When dealing with high-security matters such as banking and finance, however, it’s essential to go above and beyond to protect your information with a password that can’t be guessed easily, and isn’t repeated in multiple places.
Steer clear of passwords that incorporate dates such as birthdays, addresses, names of pets and family members, or anything else that might be easily guessed from someone who can look up basic information about you. Instead, use a long (10 characters or more) password made up of a random mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Instead of allowing autofill to store your login details on your computer or banking app, use a secure password manager for enhanced protection.
Whatever password you choose, remember to keep it fresh. Every three months or so, reset your password to something completely new, making it harder for hackers to keep up with you.
Finally, remember that your password is private, and shouldn’t be shared with anyone. This even goes for people who claim to work at your financial institution – legitimate banks will never ask you to give your password over the phone, for instance.
Set up two-factor authentication
Many financial institutions and other secure websites are turning to two-factor authentication to help increase the security of their systems and networks. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a major benefit for those who use it to access online bank accounts. Basically, it’s a backup to your password, a way to prove you really are the person signing on to an account or system. Some 2FA systems send a unique code to your phone via text message, while others call you to confirm activity. Either way, 2FA is an extra layer of security that makes it harder for hackers to operate.
Sign off when you’re done and close your app or browser tab
Most financial apps and websites will sign out automatically after a fixed period of inactivity, rather than leaving your session open forever. Still, if you can remember, it’s always wise to sign out properly and close your app or browser window once you’ve finished with your online banking needs. Closing the session reduces the risk of hackers gaining access to your accounts while you’re signed in but not paying attention.
While it’s often inadvisable to use public computers to do your banking, there may be situations where it is impossible to avoid. If you do use a shared computer to access your financial institution, remember to clear the browser’s cache once you’re finished, and close the browser before leaving the computer.
Be careful where (and how) you browse
Many of us use publicly available WiFi networks throughout our daily lives, whether it’s on transit, at a restaurant, in the office, or at a library, stadium, or public building. Some hackers operate in these environments, scanning for people entering their login details on financial websites, and stealing the information. While it’s not always possible, try to avoid using unsecured public WiFi networks to access banking and other financial apps and websites. Instead, use a secure network at your home or workplace.
No matter where you’re browsing, whether it’s at home or in public, always make sure the website you access for financial services is secure by checking for ‘https’ in the web address. This level of online security should activate a lock icon in your browser’s address bar, signifying that the site is secure. Check URLs for spelling errors or inaccuracies, as some hackers try to trick users by setting up sites that look legitimate, but are clever fakes designed to steal passwords.
Sign up for alerts, and stay on top of your accounts
Many banks and financial institutions send alerts to users when there is suspicious activity on an account, such as failed login attempts, or password changes. Alerts act like a helpful watchdog that works to keep you safe, so there’s no reason not to activate them.
Additionally, don’t forget to keep tabs on your accounts from time to time, making sure that transaction amounts and balances are accurate. If you see something suspicious or inaccurate, report it to your financial institution immediately.