If you’re like most people today, you do all your banking online. According to a Forbes Advisor report, a whopping 78% of US adults prefer to bank over a mobile app or website rather than in person.
Let’s face it—you live in a world where online banking is the norm. Even if you want to bank inperson, the teller often advises you to go home and try their app next time you want to open a line of credit, pay bills, or manage your investments.
While online banking has become normalized, cybersecurity is starting to slip—especially if you were born after 1997. According to a Vox report, Zoomers are three times as likely to be scammed online than boomers.
So, how can you avoid scams and bank online with confidence? It all starts with good, old-fashioned digital hygiene. Follow the simple strategies discussed below for safeguarding your online banking information.
6 Tips for Securing Your Online Banking Information
1. Choose Your Financial Institution Wisely
Legitimate financial institutions don’t want to be involved in a data breach any more than you do. If their weak security protocols cause vulnerabilities, they’ll have to pay enormous fines. They’ll also lose market confidence as investors pull support from a company embroiled in a class-action lawsuit.
By choosing established, licensed, and well-reviewed companies, you can feel confident that they’re doing what it takes to protect their servers and customers from hackers.
So, why bother with cybersecurity if you bank with trustworthy financial institutions? It’s true that legitimate online loan companies, banks, credit unions, and other financial platforms protect consumers with robust cybersecurity protocols.
However, these processes are only one-half of the cybersecurity equation—one that protects you against company-wide data breaches. The other half includes everyday decisions made by you.
2. Use Strong Passwords
A strong password acts as a robust barrier, effectively deterring hackers from employing brute-force methods to infiltrate your accounts and commit financial theft.
Characteristics of a Strong Password:
- Length and Complexity: The most effective passwords are typically at least 15 characters long and include a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. This combination creates a high level of complexity that is challenging for cybercriminals to decipher.
- Avoid Predictable Patterns: Steer clear of obvious sequences or repeated characters. Predictable patterns are easier for hacking algorithms to crack.
- No Personal Information: Avoid using easily accessible information like birthdates, names of family members, or pet names. Such information can often be found on social media and used to guess your password.
- Regular Updates: Regularly updating your passwords adds an additional layer of security. Change your banking passwords every few months, and especially after any reports of security breaches.
- Password Managers: Consider using a reputable password manager. These tools can generate and store strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts, reducing the risk of using the same password across multiple sites and improving overall security.
3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
Most banks and online direct lenders already use multi-factor authentication online. But if you opted out of it for the sake of convenience, now’s the time to enable it again.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) reduces the chances of getting hacked because it requires more than just a password. In many cases, MFA requires a one-time-use PIN sent to your phone as a text or email. Without access to these accounts, a fraudster can’t enter the PIN in time, so they would be locked out of your bank account.
4. Always Lock Your Devices
Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or computer, ensuring these devices are locked and inaccessible to unauthorized users is crucial, especially in situations where you might lose them.
Implementing Device Security:
- Strong Passwords or Passcodes: Use complex passwords or passcodes for your devices. A combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, or a six-digit passcode, is more secure than a simple four-digit one. Avoid easily guessable passwords like “1234” or “0000.”
- Biometric Security: Utilize biometric features like fingerprint scanning or facial recognition if your device supports them. Biometrics offer a high level of security as they are unique to each individual.
- Automatic Lock Feature: Activate the automatic lock feature on your devices. Set your devices to lock themselves after a short period of inactivity. This way, if your device is left unattended, it won’t stay unlocked for long.
- Remote Wipe Capabilities: Consider setting up remote wipe capabilities, which allow you to erase data on your device if it’s lost or stolen, protecting your sensitive information.
- Secure WiFi Connections: Be cautious about using public WiFi networks for online banking. If necessary, use a secure VPN to encrypt your data transmission.
Locking your devices prevents unauthorized users from accessing your personal information, including online banking details, if your device is lost or stolen. Besides banking details, our devices often contain a wealth of personal data. Ensuring they are locked safeguards all this information from potential misuse.
5. Stay on Top of Software Updates
Regularly updating your banking apps and operating systems is a critical step in safeguarding your online banking information. Updates often include patches for vulnerabilities that have been identified since the last version. By not updating, you leave your system exposed to known security risks that hackers can exploit.
Staying current with these updates is key to closing potential backdoors that hackers could exploit. Besides security, updates can also improve the functionality and performance of your apps and devices, leading to a smoother banking experience.
6. Install an Anti-Virus Program
Anti-virus software serves as a vigilant guardian, operating quietly in the background of your device while you navigate the internet. It continuously monitors and scans websites, downloads, and email attachments for any signs of malware, providing an essential layer of protection.
Besides protecting your financial data, anti-virus programs also secure other personal information on your device that could be exploited by cybercriminals.
Best Practices for Anti-Virus Protection:
- Choose a Reputable Anti-Virus: Select a well-known and trusted anti-virus program. Look for features like real-time protection, automatic updates, and comprehensive threat detection.
- Keep Your Anti-Virus Updated: Regularly update your anti-virus software to ensure it is equipped to defend against the latest cyber threats.
- Regular Scans: Schedule regular full-system scans to check for any hidden malware that might have slipped past real-time protections.
Lastly, beware of free anti-virus tools; while they can provide basic protection, they might not offer the comprehensive security features required for robust online banking protection.
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