Online banking, paying bills remotely, and mobile wallet apps have made it easier for businesses and consumers to interact with their financial services providers. But online banking has also brought consumers’ financial data into the digital space, leading to cybersecurity issues.
Saved passcodes, automatic transactions, and devices without passwords can leave your financial data vulnerable to hackers. Financial companies are constantly at work trying to prevent consumer data from being compromised or lost. But ultimately, a consumer’s data is only as secure as the precautions they take.
This article will discuss the steps you should take to protect your online financial data for both yourself and your business.
1 – Protect your financial data with a new mindset
It may seem obvious, but the most important thing to do when it comes to protecting your financial data is to start with a new mindset. This first tip is all about rethinking data security.
Many people believe that they will never be impacted by data breaches. Or, that a data breach will have a minimal impact on their finances. However, this is not the case. Data breaches are on the rise and more and more people are falling victim to these types of attacks.
By accepting that you are equally as vulnerable as anyone else, you can take the first step in protecting your financial data.
2 – Automatic payments can stack up bills and give away your info
Saving money and financial security go hand-in-hand. One way to save money and protect your data is to eliminate your payment information from third-party websites. Have you ever purchased something online? Many online shops store your financial and personal information to make checkout easier the next time you want to buy something.
But if one of these websites is hacked, the hackers can have access to your name, address, and credit card number. With all of this info, they can easily wreak havoc on your bank account.
Prevent these issues by deleting your payment information from websites. Alternatively, you can use a secure payment processor, like PayPal, to protect yourself. This way, only your necessary information is shared with the vendor.
3 – Be on the lookout for social engineering and scams
The last thing to do is to be aware of social engineering and scams. Social engineering is a term describing when individuals target you to try and convince you to give up sensitive information that will allow them to break into your account.
For example, one common tactic is to convince people to divulge information related to their security questions. Phishing, a closely related tactic, involves convincing people to click links or send sensitive information to the wrong people.
You can prevent identity theft and accidentally divulging sensitive data by verifying that you are communicating with a reputable person before sending data. Many banks will never call you to initiate contact, so check with your bank to see what their contact policies are. Avoid engaging in contact with people and sources that seem illegitimate.
4 – Secure your devices
It may be tempting to check your 401(k) from your work computer, but device security is an often overlooked area of data security. Any device you use to access your financial data can potentially become another place where hackers and bad actors can gain access to your data.
Although it may seem unlikely that your work computer could become a point-of-entry, by reducing the number of devices you use to log in for online banking, you reduce the risk of your sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
5 – Bank from home
In addition to device security, you should also think about where you access your data from. Everyone is looking for ways to save more money, and online banking can help you with that. But to keep your data safe, it’s best to only access your financial information from home.
When you utilize public Wi-Fi, you run the risk of your information being intercepted by bad actors. Remember, accessing your information from home does not guarantee you won’t be hacked, but it minimizes the risk.
6 – Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) when available
Once you’ve eliminated areas where your data may possibly become exposed, you can also enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) when it’s available. MFA involves using a telephone number, authentication app, or phone calls to verify your identity before allowing you to log in to your account.
7 – Reinvestigate your password security
One of the simplest ways you can protect yourself is by reevaluating your passwords. A recent study demonstrated that even an 8-character password could be cracked in under an hour. These next few tips will take a look at password security specifically, and what you can do to make sure your passwords are up to snuff.
8 – Eliminate saved passwords
Earlier I mentioned avoiding using multiple devices for accessing your bank information. If you’re forced to use multiple devices or find that it’s necessary, make sure you delete your saved passwords. You should eliminate saved passwords on your primary devices too. If your laptop is unsecured, stolen, or misplaced, it’s better that any wrongdoer will not have access to your bank information.
9 – Choose a strong password
The next step in reexamining your password security is to build a stronger password. The longer your passcode, the safer it is. Remember to use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Many security experts recommend using a security passphrase of random words. For example, the passphrase, “#Eating-Rubber-Ceilings” is far more secure than “$mydog8” because it is longer and contains a mix of special characters and capitalization. On the plus side, passphrases can also be easier to remember.
10 – Change your passwords often
Even if you have the perfect password, remember to change it regularly. Password data breaches can happen. If that’s the case, hackers may gain access to your password even after you’ve spent the time to carefully pick a strong one. Experts recommend changing your password every few months.
11 – Use a password manager
Today, many people have heard of password managers, yet they still don’t use them. A password manager can generate secure passwords, store them for you, and keep them all organized. While people often use the same password across different services, a password manager can help prevent this problem.
Password managers aren’t infallible though and they can also be insecure. Over 29,000 enterprises were impacted when a backdoored password manager had its data stolen.
Online banking and mobile wallet apps make financial transactions convenient, but that convenience doesn’t come without a price. It’s important that you take steps to ensure your personal and business financial information is protected. At the very minimum, use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication where possible, avoid auto-saving your banking data on third-party sites, and make sure to log in to your bank only from trusted networks.