If you have a bank account, savings account, multiple investments or loans, chances are very high you use the Internet for online banking. The Internet, which has rapidly evolved since its creation, is relied upon for everyday use. For instance, online banking used to be an added feature, whereas today, every new account holder can view their banking information online. It is pretty common for banks and other financial institutions to offer online services, which arguably make banking effortless on the consumer side.
Whether you want to transfer money between accounts or pay bills, the first step is always going online. You may not immediately think about security, but the moment you connect to the Internet your financial information is at risk. Unfortunately, there are countless Internet-based threats floating around. There are a few ways you can protect your banking and personal data from potential theft.
First Security Steps
Before logging on to your bank account, take a good look at the password used in conjunction with the username. See if it resembles any of the worst passwords on this list provided by SplashData. This company specializes in password management, and has released an annual list of the worst passwords. Some of the worst, commonly used passwords are:
It's important to make sure your password is not easy to guess. If hackers can breach Target and Home Depot's defenses, the password "password" doesn't stand a chance. To create a strong combination, avoid using your birthday, any names or common phrases.
The best method is to utilize a program to manage your logins. Some, like 1Password, create randomized combinations containing upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation marks. The program then stores them in a secure vault only you can access when need be. If you find yourself always on the go, this program and similar services offer desktop and mobile versions that always sync together, so you'll never find yourself without your information.
Utilize a VPN
The next step to protect yourself while banking online is to use a virtual private network. Essentially, every time you go online, your device transmits an Internet Protocol address. This number acts as an identifier for the device and tells websites and Internet service providers where you're located. As a result, this information can be easily found and manipulated by hackers. A virtual private network adds a strong layer of security to deter hackers from targeting your computer and home network because IP addresses are often not encrypted.
A VPN is beneficial because it encrypts your online information, including the IP address, according to PCWorld. Connecting to a virtual network essentially re-routes your Internet traffic to random locations across the globe, which means your location is harder for potential attackers to determine.
You can have the strongest passwords and firewalls, but all that may be worthless if you have poor browsing habits. It's best to use your best judgment whenever connected to the Internet. For instance, set up an ad blocker to block advertisements, some of which may lead to dangerous websites. If the browser you use warns you the website you want to visit has been compromised, don't visit the webpage. Anti-virus software should also be installed to detect potential malware, spyware and keyboard loggers that have made their way onto your computer. Likewise, always update your computer when prompted, as these changes often include security enhancements.
The same applies for emails: If you receive a message from an unknown sender and if it looks suspicious, it most likely is. Above all, don't click within the message. Always consult with your financial institution if you receive an email and are unsure how to proceed.
It's important to take online security seriously, especially as you utilize online banking. Strong security includes strong passwords, a VPN and the necessary anti-virus software.