Online banking is amazing, isn’t it? Just 15 years ago, we had to physically enter a bank to do any sorts of transactions. Now we carry around a digital teller in our pocket, able to make deposits, transfers, and even external ACH transactions with the click of a button.
But with great power comes great responsibility, right? Yes, it’s easier than ever for us to access our banking information, but it’s also easier than ever for hackers to gain access to that information.
In 2015, this was reported about UK bank NatWest:
UK high street bank NatWest has admitted that a serious flaw in its online banking system is enabling criminals to hack into accounts and drain them through two different ways – either by accessing the accounts using stolen smartphones, or by impersonating victims to get their phone calls and SMS text messages forwarded to another SIM card.
Thankfully, there are some very specific actions you can take to ensure that you aren’t the next victim of hackers. In this post, we’re going to lay out 10 ways you can keep your online banking info safe in 2017.
Security Measure #1: Never Click On Suspicious Links
Have you ever received an email with a link that didn’t look right? Or a weird looking text message? When you looked at it you thought, something doesn’t feel right here.
When that happens, trust your instincts.
If you ever receive a text message or email containing a link you don’t recognize, DO NOT click on it. Why? Because it may be a link to a malicious website trying to impersonate your bank. If you enter your banking info into that site, you’ve just given it to cyber criminals who could log into your online banking.
For example, you might receive an email saying your banking password needs to be reset with a link for you to click. If you click that link and enter your password, you’ve just given it to thieves.
Only enter your online banking information into your bank’s official website or app. This will keep you from leaking security information to the wrong people.
If you ever receive a request via email or text to send your password information, you can be sure it is a scam. Don’t do it.
Additionally, as a best practice, you shouldn’t send online banking information over email or text for security purposes.
Security Measure #2: Only Bank On Secure WiFi Networks
Generally speaking, public WiFi networks like the ones you’ll find at your local coffee shop or library aren’t very secure. After all, they have to accommodate as many people as possible.
The low level of security makes them prime targets for hackers who can quickly break down their defenses.
Whenever possible, don’t do your online banking over a public WiFi network. Rather, only do transactions over a secure network like the password protected one at home. If you absolutely need to access your bank while you’re out and about, turn off the WiFi and bank over your cellular network.
Security Measure #3: Only Use Official Banking Apps
You should only use your bank or credit union’s official smartphone app for online banking. These online apps are rigorously tested to ensure all your data is secure and encrypted. These apps also tend to be much more secure than text messaging, making them the absolute safest way to bank online.
Never use a financial application created by someone other than where you bank. The developers could very well be stealing your private information for devious purposes. If you have any doubts about the originations of the app, don’t use it.
When in doubt call your bank or credit union to verify that an app is legitimate.
Thieves are smart and will do whatever they can to steal your info, including creating a fake app that looks eerily close to the authentic one.
Security Measure #4: Never Lose Your Mobile Device
This may be easier said than done, but it’s absolutely essential that you don’t lose your mobile device. The easiest way for someone to steal online banking information is if they can get their hands on your smartphone or tablet.
If you use an iPhone, set up the “Find My Phone” app, which allows you to quickly locate a lost mobile device and lock it or even erase the contents on it. If you use an Android device, you take the same actions with the Android Device Manager.
Additionally, don’t store your password information on your phone. Don’t write it in the notes or make a voice recording of it. This is the equivalent of writing your computer password on a Post-It note and then sticking it on your computer monitor.
Security Measure #5: Create An Uncrackable Password
Unfortunately, many people select simple passwords that are easy to remember but also easy for cyber criminals to crack. They choose something like their birthday, phone number, Social Security number, dog, child, favorite sports team, or favorite season. While these types of passwords certainly make things easier to remember, they’re actually dangerous. A hacker can use a variety of software programs to guess at your password until it gets it right, opening the digital vault.
Your password should contain a variety of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. If you’re worried about forgetting your password, you can use a secure password saving device such as LastPass or 1Password. These require a master password and securely encrypt all your information.
Security Measure #6: Keep Your Software Up To Date
Many people find it annoying when they discover an update is available for their phone software. They have to download the new software, install it, and restart their phone, all of which seems annoying.
However, it’s essential to keep your phone software up-to-date for security reasons. Every time a new version of your phone’s operating system releases, security holes are patched. If you choose not to update your phone, a hacker could steal your information through one of those security holes.
Think of it kind of like your front door. If you realized that your front door had a hole in it, making it easy for criminals to unlock your door, you would fix that hole. Every time you download the latest version of an operating system, you are fixing a hole.
Security Measure #7: Log Out When Your Session Is Finished
Whenever you’re done with your online banking session, immediately logout. This minimizes the chances of someone stealing your information. It’s extremely important to logout if you are banking in a public space where you could accidentally leave your phone or tablet. Having someone snatch your phone from a coffee table while a banking session is still active could be disastrous.
Thankfully, most online banking applications automatically log you out after a set time. However, it’s still best practice to log out immediately after finishing your session.
Security Measure #8: Create Banking Notifications
Many banks and credit unions allow customers to get text and email alerts about certain transactions in their accounts. For example, you can receive text messages whenever a transaction over a certain dollar amount occurs or when your balance dips below a certain amount.
Getting these notifications allows you to be alerted the moment something suspicious begins happening in your bank account. If you see a transaction you didn’t initiate, immediately call your bank and have them put a stop on it.
Security Measure #9: Don’t Overshare Online
When a hacker is trying to steal your information, one of the first places they’ll look is your social media profiles. Why? They know that most people use common information such as the names of their children as passwords and they know they can find that online. They’ll gather as much information about you as they can on these social media sites and then begin trying to use it as your password.
Thus, when sharing information on social media you should be very careful about your privacy settings as well as the amount of information you share.
Security Measure #10: Lock Down Your Smartphone and Tablet
You should always secure your smartphone and tablet as thoroughly as possible. This usually means incorporating a six-digit passcode to unlock your phone as well as your fingerprint if possible.
If you lose your phone these security measures can at least slow down anyone who tries to steal your information.
Unfortunately, the online world is a sketchy place. There are many people who want to take what is yours and steal what you’ve worked so hard to save. They will stop at nothing to do it and will resort to all sorts of devious and dastardly solutions.
But don’t fall for their traps. Fight back and protect what is rightfully yours. By implementing these ten security measures, you will do a great job of frustrating and most likely thwarting hackers.