The whole world is now participating in online banking, which means we all trust our private financial information and access to all of our financial assets to the banking system’s online security abilities. This can be a frightening prospect when you consider how many huge data breaches have occurred in recent years due to the actions of hackers, whether government sponsored or criminally motivated.
Banks invest millions of dollars every year into constantly adding to, updating, and testing their security systems, because failure to do so could spell disaster for any bank. How many of us would be interested in banking with a company that allowed our data (and therefore our privacy, and possibly our money) to be compromised for any reason?
Since 2010, hackers have stolen over $112 billion, and they are not stopping. This is in spite of the efforts by banks and their security experts to stop the theft of information and money. The criminals accomplish this through fraud, through hacking into supposedly “secure” websites, and through duping gullible people into revealing their private banking information to thieves.
Banks are using more and more sophisticated technology to thwart hackers and keep their customers’ information secure. The usual measures, such as firewalls, anti-virus programs, encryption software systems, and fraud detection systems are becoming more sophisticated as time goes on, but so are the methods that the hackers use to circumvent these protections. In the last few years, banks have resorted to such things as hiring their own “ethical hackers” to probe their security systems to try to find any possible gaps in the system that could allow hackers to get in. The money invested in testing the system can pay off handsomely for a bank that can close those gaps and prevent theft from occurring.
High-security domain names are also being developed, such as .bank addresses. Banks are required to meet certain security criteria before being granted a .bank domain name, thus making the designation more secure still. If the bank then fails to maintain those high security standards, it can lose the domain name and be forced to go back to a simple .com address.
There are ways in which each of us can contribute to the security level of our banking information if we choose to do so. A surprising number of people fail to do these things, though, and then are unpleasantly surprised when their accounts are compromised and they lose money. One of the most important things an online banking customer can do to prevent fraud is to make sure they are not broadcasting their banking information to all and sundry. We should all know better than to give out our banking information over the phone, and we should all be aware that it is even more dangerous to give that information out online to a website that you are not positive is safe.
Passwords are usually the most vulnerable part of your banking information. It is a smart idea to change your password on a regular basis (such as every 3 months) and do not ever use an easy-to-guess password, like “password”. Learn what constitutes a secure password, and always use one that is as secure as you can make it. After you have decided on your password, memorize it and do not write it down anywhere!
Make sure to use anti-virus software on you home computer, and update your system regularly. A good anti-virus program can save you a huge amount of trouble, as can a home wi-fi system that is private (as in, not open to the public) and secure. Always remember that public wi-fi is not necessarily secure, and you may be transmitting your banking information more openly than you are aware of. Another thing to check for when logging in to any page where your private information will be submitted is the website address. Look for the little lock symbol in the address, and check that the beginning of the address says https: (the “s” indicates that the website is secure) rather than just http:.
Take advantage of all the security options offered by your online bank. If they give you the option of adding a layer to your login, do it. Many banks can ask for an additional identification authentication step, such as a fingerprint or a security question that only you would know the answer to. Each additional step that is needed to obtain access to your bank accounts is one more layer of protection for your money. Take advantage of that extra security, and never let the lure of added convenience persuade you to reduce the security measures that you use to protect your bank accounts.
Last, but not least, we all need to be alert to the possibility that we are being scammed when someone is asking for us to verify our login information or answer invasive questions over the phone. No bank will ever call you and demand that you divulge secure information over the phone to someone whose identity you cannot verify, and anyone who is telling you that they are going to send you millions of dollars as soon as you give them your bank account number is lying through their teeth and nobody with an ounce of common sense should fall for such a blatant lie.
In the end, while we can rely on our banks to put in place secure systems to protect our money, a lot of the responsibility of online banking security belongs to the customer. If we are all smart about our security measures, and make the effort to ensure our own security as best we may, then we will accomplish a great deal towards online security.