We continue to hear about major retailers and governments having large data breaches. Security threats are growing as we continue to spend more of our lives online. According to a Duo Security report published this year, 62% more security breaches occurred in 2013 than in 2012, with an astonishing 594% increase in stolen identities. What can be done to improve your financial safety online?
Implementing the following best practices will help to keep your finances safe online:
Use strong unique passwords and change them frequently.
More sites now require you to use a password that contains both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. (The downside is they have no way to know if you are using the same password for every login you have.) A good password manager can be used on all of your devices and will check for any duplicate passwords. Most password managers will generate a complex unique password for you when you set up a new account. The most popular password managers include: Lastpass, 1Password, Roboform, and Dashlane.
Use two-factor authentication.
This method uses both a password and some other piece of information, maybe a code from a text message or from an app that randomly generates a code. More financial websites have started allowing two-factor authentication, a good practice on other sites as well. Your password manager should also have an option for two-factor authentication.
See www.twofactorauth.org to learn more.
Keep your antivirus and regular software up to date.
Keep the software and applications you use current by installing their most recent versions. Programs are constantly improving security and adding fixes for known threats. Set your applications to update automatically.
Monitor your accounts and credit card statements for unusual activity.
While credit card companies have advanced systems for detecting fraudulent activity, they are not able to flag every suspicious transaction. Review all of your transactions on a monthly basis to identify any purchases for which you are not responsible.
Use bank and credit card notifications.
Many financial institutions, including some third party websites like www.mint.com, allow you to set up alerts if a large transaction or any unusual activity has taken place in one of your accounts. By setting up these alerts, you can be aware of any usual activity on your account.
Find the website yourself or use a bookmark.
Everyone receives a large amount of emails daily, and it can be difficult to distinguish between legitimate and phony communication. If you receive an email from one of your financial institutions asking you to review or confirm some information, it is a good idea to not click any links in that email. Instead, visit that institution’s website.
Make sure your web browsing is secure.
When you are accessing your financial information or making a purchase on the web, be sure to look for https in the web address bar. The “s” means that the link between the browser you are using and the server is secure and encrypted. Many common sites, such as Google and Facebook, use https as the default; any time you are entering or browsing your personal information, check that you are on an https site. Web browsers, such as Firefox and Google Chrome, have free add-ons that will force all website to use https.
See https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere for the add-on information.
Use the financial company’s mobile app when possible.
Most of us use mobile devices to access financial data when away from home. If you need to look at your finances on one of these devices, be sure to use an app from your financial institution, which has more security than the mobile web browser. Mobile apps are also implementing high-level security features, such as biometric authentication, where you have you use your face or voice to access your account information.
Use common sense.
This is the most important tip. Be cautious while providing personal or financial data online. You can use every security program and tool and still be vulnerable. Simple things like always logging out of websites when you are done or not using the same password for every website can go a long way to making your online usage a safe and enjoyable experience.