Is Online Banking Really As Safe As They Say?


By Craig Chamberlin “The Tech Teacher”


The internet is here to stay. With that assumption, many businesses are now assuming their clients are all using and willing to use tools the internet provides to conduct their day to day business. Banks are a huge proponent of us using technology for online banking. But should we? Just because the majority of people are using the internet for online banking, it doesn't mean everyone should. Banking online can be a daunting prospect to people, and it's not for everyone. You'll find that with the right antivirus, security software, tools and knowledge, online banking can be a safe process.

The Business Side Of Banking Online:

A relationship with a bank is a mutual one. Banks lose millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fraud. So it's safe to say that they've literally got an interest in preventing possible fraud to their clients. In response to this, most banks offer integrated fraud protection into their online banking platform. Each bank has a different approach to this, so it is essential to find out exactly how your bank reacts to possible fraudulent transactions. In most cases, this can be found by calling the customer service number right on the back of your bank-issued debit or credit card.

Important questions to ask your bank when figuring out whether or not you want to use online banking include: How long does it take to get a credit for fraudulent transactions? Who do I contact if I see a transaction I don't recognize? Does the bank recommend specific antivirus or security software for online banking?

You'll find your bank will be more than happy to assist you in this matter. Very few customers contact the bank to protect themselves from possible fraudulent activity and they know it is in their best interest to make sure their customers are equipped with the knowledge necessary to handle fraudulent transactions with their online banking transactions.

Online Banking Uses Encryption:

Encryption is a word that is thrown around in the business and IT world. Essentially encryption is the process of taking secure information, such as your bank account numbers, transactions, passwords and personal information, and using a randomly generated mathematical key to convert it into something that no one can understand. The only way to unlock that information is with the original key. When you're banking online, you may notice a picture of a little lock in your navigation bar - this is letting you know that the website is encrypted with an SSL key. This means when you submit information to the site or view different pages, only you and the site possess the unique key necessary to convert that information into real information.

SSL technology has been nearly perfected and there are few security holes left in it to have concerns. Cyber criminals rarely intercept data at the point of communication with an online bank, they have to go directly to the database stored at the bank or rely on other methods of obtaining that information from your personal computer, such as phishing scams, viruses or malware. So in a nutshell, SSL all but ensures that no personal information can be interpreted if it is 'intercepted' between you and the site you are communicating with, such as online banking. Having an antivirus software while you are using online banking will render this “interception” nearly impossible.

Antivirus Software for Online Banking Safety

Online Banking Vulnerabilities:

When a person is banking online, usually their personal data becomes vulnerable in only a couple of ways. The first way is from a local virus or malware stored on their machine. This is where it becomes important to have a good antivirus and security software package. Malware on your machine can be as little as something that shows pop-up advertisements in your browser. Malware can also be as severe as something that logs every keystroke you make and sends it to a remote location (these are called keyloggers). Malware can even grab data from your computer, such as stored usernames and passwords and send them to a remote location. The biggest vulnerability you'll have with online banking is the local computer or device you will be doing it from. This is why it is usually best practice not to use public computers for online banking.

Make sure you take the time to research and invest in the appropriate security software and antivirus for your computer. Having those two things will reduce the overall likelihood of getting an infection that can lead to possible online banking risks.

The second, and even more common, vulnerability for online banking is called a phishing scam. Phishing is when a cyber criminal sends out a fake login request or password reset e-mail to users trying to obtain their information through a fake login. They call it phishing because they send these emails to thousands of people a day in the hopes that one will 'bite'. If someone takes the bait and enters the login information to the fraudulent website, that information is sent directly to them so they can use it as they please.

As a general rule of thumb, your bank will never ask you to login or change your password via e-mail - the bank will request that information only after you login to their online banking website directly or if you initiated a request to change your password directly with them. If you receive one of these e-mails and want to verify the information for yourself, just visit the banking website directly instead of clicking on the links included in the e-mail. Quite often the links in the e-mail direct you to a third party website that looks and feels like the original but it is not.

So Is Online Banking Really Secure?

In a nutshell, yes and no. Banks invest millions of dollars to ensure they are protecting things on their end. Most banks are exceptional at protecting their clients because it is in their best interest to do so. However, there are facets of online banking that banks have no control over, and those are the security software and antivirus packages installed on their client’s machines as well as the element of human error.

Is Online Banking Right For You?

That's a question you'll need to ask yourself. If you follow some basic principles and use a little common sense most users will find that with the right antivirus, security software, tools and knowledge, online banking can be a safe and convenient process.

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