Online banking is an extremely convenient way to manage your finances and to make sure that you maximize the returns that you get from your bank accounts. However, it is clearly of great importance that you safeguard your online access so that it is only you who benefits from the convenience of being able to transfer your money via the Internet.
Internet banking first emerged in the 1990s and there have always been concerns expressed, both in the media and by consumers, about the security aspect of the service. Banks use very strong encryption to ensure that criminals can’t just hack their way into the online banking systems. The potential weak link, however, is the threat that fraudsters might compromise a customer’s computer and/or trick them into giving away their secure login credentials. Whilst this may be a scary prospect, the good news is that there are some simple steps that individuals can take to safeguard their online accounts.
Ensure your computer is protected:
One of the threats associated with online fraud is that criminals might infect your computer with all kind of nasties, including viruses and trojans. Some of these malicious programmes will sit unnoticed in the background and will spy on your actions on the computer. For example, they might be able to record the keys that you type when you enter your online banking passwords and passcodes, and then relay this information to fraudsters who may be based halfway around the world.
There are three key things that a computer owner can do to ensure that their computer has adequate protection and these are:
1. Ensure you have up to date anti virus protection. Make sure you have software, such as Norton Antivirus, installed on your computer and that it is the most up to date version of it. Where your computer regularly runs virus checks, this will enable it to identify any threats and remove them safely.
2. Make sure your computer’s firewall is enabled. A firewall is another important component in the armory against criminals, so make sure it’s switched on.
3. Get the most recent updates for your operating system. Your computer will normally advise you periodically that system updates are required. It’s important to accept such updates as they may include patches to fix security loopholes that have been identified in your computer’s operating system.
If in any doubt about what protection you should have on your computer, then don’t be afraid to ask your bank for their advice. Most will include a section on their website detailing the security measures that they recommend to safeguard your online banking experience.
Never reveal your online banking passwords and/or passcodes to anyone else:
Fraudsters often rely on tricking online banking users into giving away their security login credentials. Most of us will, at some point, have received an e-mail purporting to by from a bank and asking us to click through onto a web page that will ask us to enter our online banking credentials. Often the e-mail will come from a bank that we don’t even bank with, or will contain spelling errors or phraseology that will immediately raise alarm bells as to its authenticity.
This approach is referred to as Phishing and is a blatant attempt to trick people into giving away the details that a fraudster would require in order to access the person’s bank accounts. You should never respond to such e-mails. Instead, simply delete the e-mail without clicking on any links.
Similarly, don’t reveal your online banking login details if someone phones you purporting to be from your bank. Your bank will NEVER ask you to enter your online banking details except on their online banking login screens.
Choose passwords and passcodes that can’t easily be guessed:
The idea of a password or passcode is that it should be something that you know but which other people can’t guess. Entering your name or your favorite football team as your password (or creating a password of “password”!) leaves you vulnerable as such passwords may be easy for another person to guess. Similarly, when choosing a passcode don’t use your date of birth or your debit card PIN.
Clearly, there’s a balance to be struck between the strength of the password and being able to remember it but, typically, Internet security experts suggest that you use a password that contains a mix of letters and numbers and that has both upper and lower case letters.
Be wary of accessing online banking when other people are in close proximity:
The growth in usage of laptops means that it’s now a common sight to see commuters on trains browsing the Internet. The danger this presents is that someone might shoulder surf you to see what details you enter to access your accounts. This is similar to the threat that exists when you are using a cash machine and someone is standing too close behind you. Always make sure that you cover up the characters that you enter so that they remain secret.
Be wary when using your mobile phone to access online banking:
People are increasingly using their smartphones to log into online banking, which is great in terms of convenience but also presents its own threats. Make sure that you don’t store your passwords and passcodes on your phone and that you have the required privacy from prying eyes when entering your login details and viewing your bank account details.
Talking about online banking security can be quite scary but the key point to make is that it can be a safe and very convenient experience provided that you adhere to these common sense precautions. For more information on Internet security, check out the “Further Reading” links below.