Online banking may be the most important thing you do on the internet.
Unfortunately, it’s something that most people don’t think about. You just trust that your bank, your browser, and your computer are all perfectly secure.
Well, here’s the hard truth: your money is important. And if someone manages to get your password, username, or secret question responses, then your entire account could be compromised.
For that reason, you need to be more careful than you currently are with your online banking. Here are 6 easy tips that will help you secure your online banking and make sure you never experience a leak or other security problem:
6) Use two-factor authentication wherever possible
If you’re only going to follow one tip from this article, make it this one.
Today, most banks have jumped on the two-factor authentication bandwagon. That means you can register your phone with your bank and they will text you a unique security code whenever you sign into your account.
Simply enter your username, password, and that unique security code and you’ll gain access to your account. This means a hacker needs your password and your smartphone in order to gain access to your account.
Two-factor authentication doesn’t make it impossible to hack into an account, but it makes things substantially more difficult. Hackers will most likely move to an easier target.
5) Use a password manager to give yourself really long, complicated passwords
The best passwords are impossible to remember. Instead of using Password1234, you should use AJKSD@K%KGMKXLMLM@J$#M. Unfortunately, that password is impossible to remember unless you’re Mike Ross from Suits.
That’s why you should use a password manager. Using one of these managers means you don’t need to remember your password.
There are two main players in the password manager world: LastPass and KeePass. Both have free and paid plans available. You can also access your passwords from multiple devices. Your password information is encrypted.
A lot of people use password managers for their secret questions as well. If someone asks you “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” then you can answer #!$AKSDFJASDFK#AFAKDS to gain access to your account. Nobody will guess that!
4) Use different (strong) passwords for all your accounts
This one is related to Tip 5. Or at least, it gets a lot easier if you use Tip 5. Ideally, every online account you use will have a unique, strong password.
In many hacking breaches, a hacker gains access to an email account and then gains access to every account that is linked to that email. Simply click the “forgot my password” link and a reset confirmation is sent to your inbox.
This tells you two important things: first, it means that your email is one of the most important “links” in your security chain. And it also tells you that you’re most secure when you use different unique passwords for each account.
3) Connect to the internet through a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are one of the most effective ways to securitize your internet connection. Those who are truly paranoid about security will connect through a VPN at all times – even at home.
But most of us should reserve the use of VPNs for public Wi-Fi networks. If you don’t use a VPN on public Wi-Fi, then the data you send to and from the internet may not be encrypted.
VPNs are becoming more publically available than ever before. Hotspot Shield is a popular one. So are CyberGhost and VPNBook – all of those are free.
2) For mobile banking, turn off Wi-Fi
One counter-intuitive way to increase your online banking security is to turn off your Wi-Fi signal before opening your mobile banking app. It’s surprisingly difficult for criminals to spy on 4G LTE signals.
It’s not impossible, but it’s significantly more difficult than spying on Wi-Fi networks. If you don’t mind using a few megabytes of your data plan, tap off that Wi-Fi signal next time you open your bank’s mobile app on your tablet or smartphone.
1) Check your account regularly
Ultimately, your best defense against bank hacking scams is to check your account on a regular basis. You’ll be able to see any negative changes as soon as they occur. You’ll be able to identify exactly when your account was compromised.
Obviously, there’s a limit to this tip: if you’re in a foreign country and can only access the internet on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, then you’re better off not checking your bank account for a few days.