How to Best Protect Your Personal Financial/Banking Data Online 

Online banking has greatly simplified our lives, allowing us to pay for bills, deposit checks, and transfer funds with only a few clicks.  

With 78% of Americans preferring digital banking today, cybercriminals are trying to get an eye on your online activity. No one wants their personal banking information to be easily accessed by a hacker.  

Does online banking put you at risk? 

Here are our top five tips for keeping your personal financial information safe online: 

Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi 

Though public Wi-Fi is often readily available and convenient, it’s often not secure. According to Norton, a highly reputable company specializing in digital security, identity protection, and online privacy, these are the most common risks associated with public Wi-Fi use: 

  • Malicious hotspots 
  • Malware and spyware 
  • Man in the middle attacks (electronic eavesdropping) 
  • Data leaks via unencrypted networks 

To keep your personal financial information, best practices support avoiding doing any online banking via a public Wi-Fi connection. If you encounter a situation where using public Wi-Fi for digital banking is your only option, here are several things you can do to provide an extra layer of protection: 

  • Install and use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) 

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are a subscription service that can be added to your device. They work by providing you with a different IP address that masks your own, allowing you to use the internet via a private network. Your VPN is available only for your use; others cannot access it.  

  • Disable public file sharing 

Each device’s operating system handles the disabling of public file sharing differently. You can easily find this information by doing a simple Google search. 

  • Use only sites that are secure 

Many devices will automatically filter out any sites that look suspicious or unsafe. However, to be certain, check for the “https” in the URL. This will cause the lock icon to appear in your browser if a site triggers alarm bells for you.  

Be Conscious of Phishing Schemes 

Cybercriminals love to use phishing schemes to access your personal financial information. Phishing most often involves a clever ploy to get you to voluntarily provide access to your sensitive banking data.  

Though phishing attempts come in various forms, the most seen schemes come via email or text.  

Hackers may send you a message that appears to be from your bank, informing you that your security has been compromised and you must immediately log in and verify or change your information or risk losing access to your account.  

When you click on the provided link, you are taken to a site that is a mock-up of the real version.  

Other popular phishing scams include clicking on links that look legitimate but that download malware to your device or computer. This type of malware allows cybercriminals to keep track of your keystrokes, a technique that over time provides the hacker with the passwords to the banking institutions with whom you associate.  

To help keep you from falling prey to these popular phishing schemes, we recommend: 

  • Checking the authenticity of the sender’s email address 

You can do this by calling your bank directly and inquiring if they sent an email to you. If they are unsure or claim that yes, they did, ask them to verify the address they used for the message.  

  • Hover over any provided links 

By hovering over a given link, you will often be given a preview of what you will see if you click on it.  

  • Never provide personal information via email 

If you receive an email requesting that you update or share any personal information online, call your bank. Any information your bank requires is safest transmitted via phone. Never share any personal or financial information via the internet.  

Enable Banking Alerts 

Though frequent banking notifications can be annoying, signing up for bank alerts can be an important frontline defense for you. By enabling banking alerts, you will receive almost instantaneous notifications of anything that happens with your accounts. You can customize your banking alerts to notify you by text or email of any of the following actions: 

  • New transactions 
  • New accounts connected to yours 
  • Failed login attempts 
  • Password changes 
  • Low or high account balances 
  • Personal information changes 

If you receive an alert and your radar tells you something is not right, immediately contact your bank then change your passwords.  

Select Strong Passwords 

The password you choose can either stop a hacker at the gate or create a friendly portal from which to enter. That’s why you need to choose passwords that are unique and built to be strong.  

Among the most common errors you might be unknowingly making with your passwords are: 

  • Including some of your own personal information like part of your name, address, or birthdate.  
  • Making your password too short 
  • Using commonly utilized works or number configurations 
  • Using the same passwords for many different website logins 
  • Not updating your passwords on a consistent basis 

Here are some of our best suggestions for creating passwords that are strong and unique: 

  • Select longer passwords  
  • Include a combination of upper and lowercase letters 
  • Use numbers and special characters 
  • Stay away from common number patterns 
  • Don’t use personal information 
  • Don’t allow your apps to “remember” your log in credentials or passwords 
  • Update your passwords on a regular basis 

Set Up Two-Factor Authentication 

Two-factor authentication is an excellent tool to help keep your personal financial information well-protected. When enabled, there are two gateways you must pass to access your financial data on a mobile app or website.   

First, you must enter your log-in credentials via the app. Once you have correctly followed this step, you will then be sent a passcode via text or email to a second device or email address. When you receive this passcode, you must then input it into the online portal to finally be allowed entrance to your banking details.  

Your bank can help you set up two-factor authentication on any of your devices or computer.  

Is It Safe to Do My Banking Online? 

There are risks associated with any type of online activity. However yes, it is safe to do your banking online if proper security measures are followed, and you remain aware of any possible security risks.  

Banks also make use of security protocols to ensure your financial information is well protected. Among the most common security measures used by banks today are: 

  • Two-factor authentication 
  • Encrypted email messaging 
  • Electronic signature verification 
  • Continuous account monitoring 
  • Automatic logout functionality for online and mobile banking 
  • 128-bit or 256-bit data encryption 

Concerned about keeping your financial information properly protected? Cooperative Systems can help. Contact us now at 860-523-1000 or [email protected] to learn more about proactive security strategies for online banking.