Secure online banking

There’s no doubt that online banking is a convenient method of managing your finances and although banks are making the services more secure every year there are still some precautions you need to take to keep your accounts secure.  

Unfortunately, hackers are still targeting banks as a way of accessing people’s identities – not just their cash. Staying secure is simple enough though if you use your common sense.

Passwords and sealed lips

It seems obvious, of course, but never writing down your passwords or revealing them to others is the first step in making online banking more secure. The structure of the password is also important. Including lower case and upper case letters and one or two numbers will make it more difficult for hackers to decode your password. The longer your password is the more secure it is as well, so use more than the minimum number of characters required.

Regularly changing passwords can be inconvenient, but it also makes it more difficult for anyone to steal them and access your identity. Identity theft is no joke. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, identity theft in Australia costs consumers more than $1billion annually.

One of the most obvious traps to watch for is bogus emails – these are emails asking for confirmation of your bank account details. It’s common for older people to be caught out in this way – the 50 plus age group are victims of this type of theft more often than any other. 

Online banking: there are spies and thieves among us

Although many banks do provide very secure online environments, consumers also have to take precautionary action in order to protect their identities. Bharosa, a global provider of fraud detection and multifactor online authentication solutions, works with many banks around the world. Bharosa use a tracker behind the scenes to verify not only that passwords and user names are correct, but also that the user’s computer, location and online behaviour match up. According to the company, trackers offer strong asset and transaction authentication.

The biggest threat to would-be online banking consumers are phishing and trojans. Phishing is the art of tricking someone into providing their personal information – a bogus email may be enough to do it. Trojans are software programs designed by professional hackers that detect online activity on a PC, allowing the hacker to assume the user’s identity.

Steps to protect your online identity

Installing up-to-date anti-virus software is essential, as well as ensuring that updates are downloaded regularly. Virus programs are constantly being re-written, so anti-virus software also needs to be constantly re-written and updated.

Spyware, such as Lavasoft’s AdWare (http://www.lavasoftusa.com/), is easy to install on any computer. It will regularly scan the computer for trojans and other programs which can potentially steal information, including your online banking passwords. In addition, some programs track key strokes – using a browser such as Firefox or API such as Robo Form that remember your passwords can help you to minimise your key strokes.

Also ensure that your wireless Internet connection is password protected. Your Internet service provider (ISP) can help. It pays to never assume a bank is doing all the work. By regularly changing passwords, keeping your anti-virus and spyware up-to-date, minimising keystrokes and reporting dubious emails (don’t click on the links!) more people will be able to safely enjoy the convenience of online banking.

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