November 22, 2017
Many of your financial transactions, from debit to credit, are done electronically in one form or another. Even if you don’t purchase things online, simply looking up your bank account can potentially expose you to being hacked or having your identity stolen. While this can sound alarming, it is unfortunately true. Cybersecurity and data protection are major issues for banks and credit unions and criminals aren’t above targeting the average person through vulnerabilities or outright fraud. This risk grows in tandem with the popularity of tablets, smartphones, and other personal conveniences.
LUSO Federal Credit Union, as part of our expertise in helping banks track, catch, and report fraud and protect clients, offers the following cybersecurity tips for anyone concerned about the safety of their electronic data or their financial vulnerability.
Protect Your Computer and Network
Wi-Fi networks can be potentially accessed by anyone in the general vicinity. This allows a malicious passerby to break into your computer remotely or simply conduct illicit activities that would get traced back to your network. Firewalls, malware protection, and wireless encryption are key tools in defending your home computers and networks. When you choose a password, make sure it is secure and hard to guess with a mixture of numbers, letters, and ideally other symbols as well. For instance:
- You can try using an obscure or intentionally misspelled word that has some personal meaning, or an acronym for something in your life.
- When using numbers and symbols, try not to do something like “123password” since that kind of usage is more easily guessed.
- Phrases are harder to hack than single words.
- Don’t make your password “password.” It’s one of the most commonly used and, subsequently, the most commonly hacked.
Also, don’t access banking or credit card sites or anything that requires personal information when using a public computer or public Wi-Fi network.
Secure Your Phone
Being able to bank on your phone is a huge convenience, but it also opens you up to another avenue of risk. Making sure your mobile device locks automatically and has a password is highly advisable in case of theft. It is also possible to install software that can be remotely activated to track down your phone should it get stolen, allowing you to more easily recover your device.
Understand Internet Safety
Browsing the Internet can open you up to potential security issues if you regularly visit sites that fail to protect user data properly. Whenever you are asked to enter information on a web site, check the URL. The start of the page address should begin with “https://,” a code indicating that encryption is being used (the “s” stands for “secure”). Your browser should also display a security symbol (a padlock) somewhere on the address bar to indicate a safe site. Also, do not click on any links in an unsolicited e-mail even if it appears to be from a legitimate institution. Watch this video which contains a sample phishing e-mail from someone posing as Bank of America and can be used to learn the warning signs to look out for.
Be Extra Cautious When Logging in to Your Bank
You may have a few standard password/username combinations for your Internet activities. Your banking password and login, however, should be unique so that someone who manages to get your information from another site can’t use it to potentially access your bank info. Avoid anything that could potentially be guessed easily such as name, address, birthday, or profession. High-security sites tend to flag activity whenever a computer logs in from an unfamiliar location, so you can try only accessing your financial services from a single terminal as a way to provide extra security. This is especially advisable for any businesses as a way to better control information and employees’ security.
Check Your Accounts and Transaction History Regularly
Not only can regularly checking your bank accounts and reviewing your transaction history help you spot anomalous use or charges you didn’t make, it can also sometimes head off someone gearing up to commit major fraud. Sometimes, upon gaining access to another person’s credit card or bank account, a criminal will perform a small transaction or transfer to see if it gets noticed. Steady monitoring will help catch these testing moments and keep your losses to a minimum.
Mind What You Put on Social Media
Social media sites like Facebook are sometimes trawled by cyber criminals looking for personal information. Birth dates, birth places, pets, relatives, maiden names, and other info might be available, which they can then use to better figure out passwords. Keep in mind what you post online and don’t use any passwords, especially passwords for sensitive information that could be guessed from your postings.
Be Aware of Card Skimmers
A card skimmer is a device that scans and stores credit card information for later retrieval. They are sometimes placed in public locations like on an ATM or gas pump in the hopes of getting the information of anyone who mistakes them for a real reader. This can happen more easily than you might think, so it’s important to be aware of what to look out for. An ATM or gas pump should only have a single reader and nothing that resembles a camera or seems to be positioned where it has “line of sight” to where your card might pass. If you are suspicious of something on a machine, give it a tug. Card skimmers are not built into the machinery and are usually held in place simply by adhesive.