Personal Finance 

Secure Online Banking Security Tips

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SafeI love online banking. It’s so convenient. From bill pay to transfers, it’s easy to take care of just about any banking need online. An increasing number of banks are even beginning to allow you to snap photos of checks with your smart phone and deposit money that way.

While all of this technology is convenient, and it can certainly be fast, you need to be aware that having so much information out there can also make you vulnerable in some ways. When banking online, it is important to protect yourself. Here are some things you can do to reduce the chances that someone will clean you out while you bank online:

Only Use Your Own Computer

Never log onto anything important from a public computer. This includes hotel lobby computers, local library computers, or even computers at your friends’ houses. You can never be sure how secure those machines our and it’s trivial to connect or install a keylogger somewhere. There’s also little reason to log onto anything important while you’re not at home because it can always wait until then.

Make Sure You Are On a Secure Site

The first thing you need to do is make sure that everything is secure on the financial web site. Be sure that you are visiting the official web site. This means that you can’t always trust emails that come claiming to be from your bank. The last thing you want to do is enter your account access information on a site sent to you via a phishing scam. Instead, enter the official address of your bank into the browser directly and log into banking from there.

Also, look for the “lock” icon by your address bar to determine if the connection is secure. You can also look for “https” instead of “http” to determine whether or not a connection is secure. Before you enter your login information, make sure everything is secure. When you are done, log out of the account, empty the cache and then close the browser window.

Create a Good Password

Another important security measure to take is the creation of a secure password. A secure password is one that is difficult for someone else to guess — and one that may not be directly connected with your life. Your kids’ names, birthdays and other information that hackers can find by doing a sweep of your social media presence, are not good choices. Here are some guidelines to creating a good password:

  • Make it at least 8 characters
  • Use upper and lower case letters
  • Add in some numbers
  • Consider using special characters when allowed (@, ^, $, etc.)

You should also change your online banking passwords often. Switch it up a few times a year so that hackers have less of a chance of stumbling upon it. Additionally, avoid using the same password for all of your bank accounts. If a hacker gets into one, he or she can get into all of your accounts if you use the same password.

Install Computer Security

You might also want to install computer security. There are a number of software programs designed to protect your computer. These include programs that create a firewall for your computer, as well as protect from spyware, adware, viruses and other malware that can infect your computer. Be sure that you update your security software regularly as new threats are identified daily.

Monitor Your Accounts

And, of course, there is little substitute for vigilance. Monitor your bank accounts, checking for suspicious activity. Reconcile your accounts each month, and make sure that everything is in proper order. Regularly monitoring your accounts can help you ensure that you catch problems early on.

Do you have additional ideas to share about banking online securely?

(Photo: redteam)

{ 27 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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27 Responses to “Secure Online Banking Security Tips”

  1. Frugal says:

    Very Timely article. As always, straight to the point.

  2. skylog says:

    i do all of these things, and more, i suppose. i also try not to do anything overly important on my cell phone.

    • echidnina says:

      I agree, it seems like every bank has an ‘app’ nowadays, but I do worry about the security – either of the app design itself, or whatever network you might be using it on. To be honest, there are very few things so urgent that I can’t wait to do them at home. Do I really NEED to be checking my bank account on the bus? 🙂

      • cubiclegeoff says:

        The apps are really convenient though, especially if you can deposit checks through them. I do it and don’t really worry.

      • tbork84 says:

        It’s a great example of even though you could, is it really something that you should be doing?

  3. Steve Bielagus says:

    – setup a separate hard drive from which you boot to perform *only* banking. Suggest not using a dual boot machine since the pre-boot record can be corrupted.
    – install add-on to browser (e.g., prolatte on firefox) to permit access only to white-listed sites (your banks)
    – do not permit email from this drive, as you could download something you don’t want on the drive

  4. Jon says:

    I do all these things for optimal security. Identity theft is no laughing matter. When it happens to someone close to you, you WILL take the steps mentioned in this article. Great refresher, thanks!

  5. Glenn Lasher says:

    I have a suggestion that I have made to a few of my friends. I don’t do this myself, because I am an IT guy and an expert in my operating system of choice (Linux), and I monitor the health of my computers to where I trust them greatly, however, there is a very simple technique that can be used to guarantee the condition of your machine at any given time.

    What you can do is download a bootable Linux* CD or thumb drive image (I personally recommend Ubuntu) and put it on the appropriate media. When you want to use your computer to do your online banking *or* to do questionable surfing, you boot it from this external medium and do whatever you have to do.

    For online banking, this will ensure you are working with a 100% clean start, because it will be as your computer was** “out of the box”, and therefore clean. Any passwords or browser history that might give away your banking info disappear when you shut down the machine, and any malware that was on the machine in the first place never gets allowed into play because the hard drive is never accessed.

    For questionable surfing, nothing you do will be persistent, so any malware that you might catch*** will not remain on the machine when you shut down.

    (* Sorry, Windows does not support this functionality at this time.)

    (** or would be, if this is your primary operating system)

    (*** there isn’t much that infects Linux, however, this should be still kept in mind in case MS ever makes Windows capable of functioning like this or in case the landscape changes for Linux)

    • c.cobb says:

      +1 for Ubuntu! And, if you’re a computer hobbyist, creating a customized distribution is a great way to go. For login my bank uses a Java applet, so had to add Java. Then added Password Safe, TrueCrypt, and the ssh/scp/sftp utilities, none of which come with a standard Ubuntu install. (KeePass is another good password manager that works with this, but I prefer Password Safe.)

      Then, package it all up in a ZIP file, instead of the usual ISO format. That way you can easily install it directly onto a Live USB memory stick without having to create a CD version first. (Or boot directly from the ISO file instead, if you are used to doing that.)

      I feel confident that this is safe enough to use on any computer for online banking: in an Internet CafĂ©, hotel lobby, or wherever. I only type one password (the “master password” for my Password Safe), and then everything else is cut-and-paste for web site addresses, user names, and passwords.

      Software “keyboard sniffers” and “clipboard monitors” are not a problem, because it’s my own clean OS that’s running. Even with a hardware “key logging” device attached to the computer, thieves will never get the details they need to access my accounts.

      A tiny Live USB stick takes almost no room on the ring with my car keys, and also has plenty of room for a TrueCrypt volume that holds sensitive financial docs (tax returns, etc).

      I also added some extra pieces so the same USB stick will boot Ubuntu on a PC or a Mac. Too good to be true? Nope, just staying one step ahead of the bad guys.

  6. echidnina says:

    I love online banking. It’s so incredibly convenient, so I can keep right on top of my account and avoid overdrafts and problems. I wouldn’t check my balance even a quarter of as often, if I had to go to the bank or an ATM to do it. And waiting a whole month for statements? That’s a long time for a potential fraudster to use your account info…

    I like how ING has an extra-long PIN instead of a password, which you tap in via your mouse – can’t keylog something if it’s not done with your keyboard! The disadvantage of this is that you can only use numbers, not letters or symbols, but on the other hand they have quite long character requirements, so there’s about 99999999 possible password combinations I think.

    • Strebkr says:

      PayPal has an enhanced security mode. For a one time charge of $5, they send you a token that changes passwords every 60 sec. You then need this plus your normal password to access your account. I bet some other banks do this.

  7. This is pretty true. The easier our lives get (because of technology), the easier it is for hackers and theives to take our hard-earned money. Thanks for the great tips.

    • Shirley says:

      And the easier our lives get, the more lax we become about monitoring our tasks and making sure they are secure.

  8. cubiclegeoff says:

    I think changing your password often actually isn’t really necessary. If you password is 8-10 characters long with lower and upper case and numbers, it would take a lot of time to crack and just isn’t worth anyone’s time (unless you’re a multimillionaire). What’s more important is to make the answers to the questions they ask you when you try to reset your password (or the extra security) as being hard to figure out, by making them a bit complicated, not just a simple answer. That way if someone gets your email login, they can’t get anything else.

    We also need to remember, that if we like it or not, our banking information is on networks already that have access to the internet. So avoiding them altogether doesn’t really lower your risk that much I would think.

    • billsnider says:

      I travel a bit and check email while doing so. I have the habit of changing my password for my pc and email when i get home. It is no big deal and gives me a little sense of security.

      Bill snider

  9. John says:

    I can’t understand how a photo from your smartphone of a check is OK to make a deposit. Ten years ago if I walked into a bank with a photograph of a check and asked the teller to deposit it they wouldn’t do it. I can’t believe these things are allowed.

  10. NoNonsenseNick says:

    Monitoring you accounts it key! If its caught soon most banks are very helpful these days (even the dreaded BoA).

    Also, it much easier to track someone down via internet theft then a mugger in an alley.

  11. Strebkr says:

    I thought of another method – The fed uses it for buying savings bonds online. When I signed up they mailed me a card. It was basically a bingo card. They would ask for your password PLUS they would ask for 3 characters from your card. For example they would ask what is in cell A3 you go to A3 and it was a 9. You would then enter that in. It was multi level security. It was fun to try once, but its a huge hassle so that was the last time I logged in. Since then I just don’t buy bonds using the site. That is a case where they made security too overbearing over convenience and it cost them my business.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      This login method is a huge hassle, especially when you need to know a random account number as well. I gave up on this and don’t bother thinking about bonds anymore.

    • skylog says:

      i hear you. i mean, i like they are using “extra” security, but boy do i hate that card!

  12. Glaisne says:

    Another thing. Use a separate email account just for your banking sites than the one you use to post comments, sign into message boards or news sites. If that email account is comprised it is not the one that you use on your financial sites.

    • Glaisne says:

      make that compromised 🙂

      • Strebkr says:

        People tend to use common passwords. If they can get ahold of a password they might try it in conjunction with your email on various sites hopeing one works. I know the suggestion is different passwords for different sites, but at the bare minimum don’t mix passwords for important sites with other sites. Your banking password shouldn’t be the same as your facebook password.

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