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3 critical steps to secure online banking

People often joke about having “bankers’ hours,” but really, aside from bankers, who works a standard 9-to-5 anymore? With the hours most of us work, it seems we can never make it into a branch in time, or we discover a banking need on a Sunday and are out of luck.

Now, thanks to online banking, we are able to have more flexibility over transactions. Online banking makes viewing your transactions, paying your bills and managing your finances a breeze.

But it’s important not to get too comfortable with how easy it is, to the point that you’re risking your security. There is no security guard standing watch over your online transactions. Online banking could expose you to hackers and malware that are looking for windows of opportunity to seize your sensitive information. So you need to be your own security guard!

Use these three tips to protect your accounts.

1. Use encrypted websites

When you access your online bank account, ensure that the URL begins with “HTTPS.” HTTPS — hypertext transfer protocol secure — is an extension of HTTP, and adds an additional layer of security to websites. This designation means that the site you visit is encrypted, which is an important feature because encrypted sites protect your online data by converting it into a string of unreadable characters. Only the intended recipient of the data has the key to translate it. So, if a hacker tries to steal your data, they will have a harder time because it’s encrypted.

Want to know another sign of a secure website? Look for the padlock symbol at the beginning of the URL in the web address bar.

Also, try to use a more secure web browser when you access your online account. Traditionally, web browsers such as Internet Explorer are a target for malware. This may explain why Google Chrome continues to be a favorite web browser among users. Other options to try are Mozilla Firefox, Vivaldi and Opera, as they have a stronger defense against viruses.

2. Be wary of public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is an unsecured network that leaves your sensitive data vulnerable. Since there is a lack of authentication with most public Wi-Fi networks, a hacker can intercept data that you send out. If you’re in a pinch and have to check your bank account, use your cellphone provider’s network, or a VPN. A VPN, or a virtual private network, is an inexpensive way to conceal personal data such as your location (by masking your IP address) and browsing history. A VPN is a separate network from the public network and it’s highly secure because it encodes your connection to its server.

You’ve probably encountered a VPN client if you’ve ever worked on your laptop at home and needed to access your company’s intranet. Your private home network is a safer choice, too. Just make sure to secure this network as an extra safety measure!

3. Monitor your account

There are many ways to protect your online security. One is to upgrade your antivirus protection regularly. But, perhaps the most sage and easy-to-implement advice is to scan your accounts with your own two eyes. A simple monthly glance at your transactions can ensure there aren’t fraudulent transactions being deducted from your account.

2-factor identification

You can prevent data loss by asking for two-factor authentication, which is also referred to as “multifactor.” Most institutions use two-factor authentication. With TFA, you are required to authenticate your identity with not only your username and password but with another piece of information. Once the first factor is complete you will be asked to verify another piece of data, such as a passcode sent to your phone via a text message or an email.

However, a fingerprint or a question to which only you know the answer (Which of these addresses has a current or former association to you?) can be requested. Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security to your account. Making it a little bit more difficult for hackers to reach your private data.

Sign up for alerts

Also, opt-in to your bank’s text alerts. These alerts are sent any time there is suspicious behavior on an account — such as a large purchase. Even though it may seem like an extra piece of clutter in your inbox, be sure to read them and stay up-to-date with your account.

Online banking can remain a convenient way to manage your accounts, but be sure to take these steps to protect your important information.

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