Is banking on your computer safe? For all its convenience, there are some risks.
Online banking using a laptop or computer remains the favorite banking method for customers as shown in a w.aba.com/Press/Pages/082014ConsumerSurveyMobileBanking.aspx">2014 American Bankers Association survey. Almost one-third of those polled said they preferred online banking over other ways to conduct their financial business. But the rise of banking via mobile devices cut that down from 39 percent in 2013.
Fortunately, secure technology, smart security measures and responsible use have increased the safety of online banking in recent years. There are still ways that users have to be responsible in managing their money via computer devices or mobile phones. Below is a checklist of ways to protect yourself.
1. Make sure you’re connected via HTTPS protocol.
Unless you see the letter ‘s’ on the https:// prefix in the web address in your browser, you’re not securely connected to the site. The HTTPS connection automatically encrypts your data, both coming and going. At this point, if your financial institution does not have this in place, switch banks – they are way behind the times.
2. Look for a green address bar and a lock icon.
You’ll also assure yourself of a secure connection when you see a green web address bar and/or a lock icon at the beginning of the URL. These indicators let you know you’re connected with the genuine, authenticated version of your bank’s website rather than a spoofed version set up to lure you into entering your personal data.
3. Find out if your bank supports 128-bit encryption.
Once you’ve downloaded the latest browser software, it will support 128-bit encryption – but does your bank or credit union? It might be easiest just to ask them. Though some bank websites will have related information under a Privacy & Security link at the bottom of the website, this still may not answer your question.
There are higher encryption states, but 128-bit encryption has become the standard. It is enough for secure banking transactions. A level of encryption refers to the number of different combinations it would take to break the key. Techopedia, a site devoted to security and computers, says 128-bit encryption is “out of reach for even the most powerful computers.”
You could probably get away with using a browser with lower encryption, but don’t gamble with your financial data. Ask if your bank or credit union supports 128-bit encryption.
4. Log out completely after every session.
Closing your browser window without logging out of online banking could leave your personal data vulnerable. Log out of online banking every time using the secure log-out button, usually found at the top of your bank’s web page.
5. Password-protect your laptop.
If you use your laptop for online banking, and especially if you’ve saved your user ID and/or password, losing it or having it stolen opens you up for disaster. Put a password on your laptop to keep strangers from being able to get past the log-in screen. And, for something like your bank, don’t save your website log-in password and username, it’s just asking for trouble.
6. Don’t bank over public Wi-Fi.
While it’s a great place to sit back and relax, Starbucks (or other Wi-Fi connected locations) is not a smart, secure place to conduct online banking. Locations like coffee shops or even libraries are frequent targets for data thieves who “eavesdrop” to pluck your personal data from public connections. Instead, wait until you can get home and use a secure connection.
If you follow this advice, you will know that you’re not to blame if something goes wrong. And if you follow this advice, it’s much less likely that something will go wrong. If you suspect your bank accounts or personal banking information have been compromised, contact your bank immediately to prevent thieves from cleaning out your accounts.
If you believe you’ve picked up a computer virus or keylogger, call in the experts at Geeks on Site for in-person or online support for both Windows and Mac computers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.