How to protect your online financial data

How to protect your online financial data

Performing banking and financial transactions using mobile apps and laptops has increasingly become common for most of us. The flip side to this digital explosion is that the risks of compromising your data and hard-earned money is greater than ever before. While banks and financial institutions constantly try to bolster their defenses against such malicious attackers, it continues to be a race without a finish-line for them.

Having said that, being aware of risks and adopting some simple practices could substantially reduce the risk of compromise when transacting online.

The first simple rule is to ensure that you use strong passwords, wherever needed. Unfortunately, complex passwords are difficult to recall. A simple effective tactic to increase complexity is the use of longer sentences which are easier to recall as your passwords. For instance, the sentence “Try Breaking 1n 1f You Can!” is easier to recall even with the use of capitalized first letters and numeric digits replacing the letter ‘I’ with ‘1’ for words starting with ‘I’. Further, most of us write down our passwords and store them on our devices.But a better way of storing passwords is using ‘password locker’ apps. while there are numerous commercial and free password locker or manager apps, it is best to go with apps reviewed. Similarly, as opposed to opting for OTPs, the use of authenticator apps, which generate your second factor code, may be a more secure option wherever supported. Use of authenticator apps such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator is increasingly being supported by various online services, and wherever this option is available it is a good practice make use of the option.

The second major area to focus on is the software on your mobile devices. It is essential to keep your device updated with both the latest software—the base software of the device (Android or iOS), as well as, the latest versions of the individual apps installed on the device. Apps are constantly improved to strengthen security as well as to fix issues and vulnerabilities. You can also set up an auto-update schedule on your device, which ensures that apps are automatically updated.

Another aspect is to ensure that your devices are cleared of viruses, malware or ransomware. These are malicious bits of the software that can get into your device’s software from the internet or when you connect external storage devices such as USB flash drives to your device. Installing good anti-virus software protection on your device significantly reduces this risk and it is important to ensure that this software is auto-updated. The use of non-personal or public computers is a strict ‘No’ for performing financial transactions, as you have little control over what could be on that device. For instance, keyloggers on such devices can capture what you type, including your passwords! The same applies for the use of public Wi-fi connections, which must be avoided.

The next area is to avoid being duped by fraudsters on the internet. This could come in multiple forms.Make sure that any links that you type into a browser address bar are correct. A small typo in what you type may redirect you to a malicious site. Such sites can easily capture sensitive information such as passwords by seeming to be genuine and letting you proceed with trying to log in with your credentials. In case you suspect that you have done this inadvertently, do change your passwords immediately. Another simple check is to see that the page is a secure HTTPS website. In most of the cases, you can spot this as a lock symbol that appears next to the address/URL. This indicates that the site is recognized by a trusted third party, and all traffic to this site is encrypted.

Harish Prasad is head of banking, FIS.

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