The introduction of online banking has no doubt brought about the ease of financial transactions, transfers and balance checks to customers over the years. Instead of physically queueing long lines in banks, customers are increasingly choosing the convenience of online banking.
With online banking becoming more popular, one question that tends to pop up (especially amongst the older generation who still opt for traditional banking) is that “Is online banking safe?”.
In general, security experts agree that online banking can be safe given the right precautions. However, because many areas of online security lies outside of the customers’ hands and in the power of financial firms or banks, things like data breaches can be unavoidable when they become a target for hackers and thieves.
While transparency of how banks are handling our data may not be within reach of casual account holders as they do not wish to tip off criminals on their security techniques, it is difficult to control what they are doing with our data behind closed doors.
Most financial institutions do make security efforts in regards to fraud detection, account passwords authentication, mobile PINs and basic encryption.
But still; banks get hacked, information gets stolen. And there might be a good reason why Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge and leading expert on cyber security, refuses to bank online.
As Anderson points out, one of the banks’ most extraordinary feats of recent years has been their ability to shift liability away from themselves and on to the customer. Ultimately, customers are forced to bear the risks of fraud while banks are getting away from fraud scams.
As a user, there is always more that you could be doing for additional layers of security. It is a combination of being more proactive in taking advantage of security services, and also having financial institutions educate users of these measures.
1) TYPE IN YOUR BANK’S OFFICIAL ADDRESS
Phishing is a scam method when attackers pretend to be your bank’s official website to trick users into clicking a scam link or thinking that they are logging into their accounts. Hackers do this by creating impostor websites which can look exactly like a bank’s legitimate website, or sending fraudulent emails.
When performing online banking, be careful when downloading your bank’s app (make sure it is the official app!), and visit your bank’s website by typing in the correct URL address. Attackers will use common misspellings to disguise themselves as your bank’s official site. Once you are on the right website, you can bookmark the page.
2) CHECK YOUR ACCOUNT REGULARLY
If you are using online banking for the ease of making regular transactions, it is also a good habit to use its convenience of being able to frequently monitor your savings account.
Discrepancies in balance amounts or charges being made can be the first signs of online theft. Alternatively, your bank should typically offer you alert services (by text or email) to inform you when important transactions such as large withdrawals or password changes are made with your account.
3) NEVER SEND YOUR INFO VIA EMAIL
Scam emails will sometimes pretend to be your bank and request for your personal information or log into your bank account to verify details.
Banks will not ever ask you to send private details via email, as emails are unencrypted, which presents itself to be a big danger if anyone intercepted your emails to access all those information.
You should never hand out your username, password, PIN or any account information over email. If you are not sure, it is always safer to firstly contact your bank before replying to the email.
4) FIGHT BACK QUICKLY
If your account has already been hit, acting fast is key here. The first step should be for you to call your bank. Most banks have security departments dedicated to fraud prevention and monitoring. What they will be able to do is to help you stop the fraud from getting worse by shutting down and replacing any accounts if necessary.
5) NO PUBLIC WIFI OR COMPUTERS
Yes, online banking is great because you can do it from anywhere. But that does not mean that you should. Especially not on public computers or free Wifi hotspots.
You never know when a hacker could be intercepting your Internet line and sniffing out every bit of your information.
It is best to do your online banking from a trusted network or your own cellphone data. If you absolutely must perform your online banking outside, consider getting a Virtual Private Network like BolehVPN so that at least your Internet traffic is encrypted from prying eyes.