It seems at least once per month a scandal erupts involving a data breach at a well-known company. As hackers become more aggressive and knowledgeable, having an indecipherable password is just not good enough anymore. These days, you must take additional steps to protect yourself and your assets from thieves. Here are a few things you can do to protect your online bank account and other digital assets from criminals.
Compartmentalize Your Data
Security experts often recommend people do not utilize the same password for multiple websites. To reduce your vulnerability to hackers, you should go a step further and avoid using the same email address to log into your bank account that you use for other sites.
Hackers who break into one website will attempt to use the email addresses culled from that site to log into online banking accounts. Additionally, you’ll likely start receiving phishing emails from scammers looking to get your login credentials. If you use the same email address for everything, then it’s only a matter of time before those same hackers gain access to your checking account.
Sign up for a separate email account with a secure provider, and only use that address for your online bank account. Use a handle that has no connection to your life. For instance, instead of using [email protected], use [email protected] This way, hackers can’t guess what your email address is.
Scramble Your Information
It’s unfortunate but true that hackers can learn a lot about you by viewing your social media accounts, and use that information to steal or gain access to privileged information. It’s also unfortunate that many banks tend to ask for the same type of information to verify your identity such as your mother’s maiden name or your father’s middle name.
When answering these security questions, don’t provide the obvious answers. Give answers that are unrelated to the question. For example, if the question asks for your mother’s maiden name, enter an unrelated word or alphanumeric passcode. The goal here is to avoid putting in anything that can easily be guessed or obtained.
Activate Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security process where you must enter in a random passcode in addition to your username and password to access your account. The passcode is typically sent in one of three ways:
- Text message to your cell phone
- Automated voice call to your landline or mobile phone
- Emailed to the address listed on your account
Even if a hacker were to use your username and password, the person would need to have this random passcode to get into your account. It’s an extra layer of security that protects you in case the unthinkable happens.
Some banks have a modified version of two-factor authentication where you have to set up a pin code that must be entered to access your account or talk to a customer service agent about your account. Be just as savvy about this pin code as you are about your pin numbers and passwords. Do not reuse the same codes that you use for other sites and services. Use a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters if possible, and change the code on a regular basis.
Use Encryption Tools
To guard against man-in-the-middle attacks (a process where a hacker attempts to grab info by monitoring the flow of information from your computer to a website), sign up for a service that adds an extra layer of encryption over any data you send to banking websites.
This software first checks to ensure you’re actually on the bank’s real site and not a spoof. Secondly, it encrypts information you send to your bank (e.g. login credentials) to prevent anyone who may be listening from grabbing your sensitive data. You can often get this type of software from the same companies that make anti-virus programs.
For more information on how to prevent unauthorized access to your online bank account, contact your bank.