Is online banking safe?

May 4th, 2012 Allen Schneider

With the continued growth of the Internet, an increasing number of banks and credit unions are offering online services to customers.

While online banking offers the potential for safe, convenient ways to manage your money, it’s important you also understand the risks. Safe online banking involves making good choices – decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.

Here are some tips to help you remain safe when you’re banking online:

Make sure your computer has a firewall.

A firewall prevents, permits or denies network transmissions based on a set of rules and is used to protect networks from unauthorized access while permitting legitimate communications to pass.

Most operating systems have a built-in firewall feature, but you still need to verify that a firewall is indeed present and that it is turned on. Firewall programs are also readily available from security software providers and are often included when a security suite is purchased.

Install malware protection and anti-virus software.

In addition to a firewall, your computer should also have anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. These programs detect and respond to threats that may reach your computer through an e-mail attachment or website. Malicious software, such a computer viruses or spyware, can be used to collect confidential information or even to take control of your machine. Consider purchasing a security suite from a security software developer.

Don’t forget to update.

Make it a habit to regularly update your security programs; otherwise, they will be ineffective against the latest threats. You should also regularly update other software you use, especially the operating system and internet browser, as new vulnerabilities are discovered and repaired constantly. Verifying that all of your software is up-to-date will help ensure your computer’s protection.

Keep login information safe.

Do not share your login information with anyone. Most banks, including MidWestOne, will never contact you unsolicited and request your login information for online banking. Use a strong and unique password for your online banking account. If you must write down your information, be sure that it is stored in a safe place.

Keep your eyes open for pop-ups.

Malware on your computer can generate pop-up windows designed to trick users into entering confidential information. These malicious programs can even present pop-ups while you are visiting legitimate websites. Fraudulent pop-ups often include offers for credit score monitoring or computer virus removal. Install a pop-up blocker to avoid these unwelcomed messages.

Be wary of unsolicited e-mail messages and suspicious websites.

Do not open unsolicited e-mails sent to you from people you do not recognize. These messages may contain malicious software designed to capture sensitive information. We recommend you delete these messages immediately.

Anti-virus software may not catch every threat, so it is important to use discretion with suspicious messages. The same goes for suspicious websites and links on social networking pages. Try to only visit sites that you know are trustworthy.

Also, never use a link from an email to log into your online banking account or other sensitive accounts. These links can sometimes be used to direct you to a malicious site made to look like the real one. Criminals can use phony sites like this to collect user names and passwords.

Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Use public Wi-Fi connections, for example at a coffee shop or library, with caution. Public networks are often unsecure and information passed through them is not encrypted. This means a fraudster on the same network can capture confidential information or gain access to your computer. If you have a wireless network set up at home, make sure that it is encrypted and password protected.

Allen Schneider

About the author

Allen Schneider is Vice President, IT Managing Officer at MidWestOne Bank. He works with the rest of the MidWestOne IT team to maintain the technology infrastructure and safeguard customer information.

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