From checking the balance of an account to making a bank transfer, online banking is something which many people use on a daily basis. However, whether one is banking on the internet or in-branch, keeping well clear of the likelihood of falling victim to a financial scam is no doubt the priority. And, while many people may think they’re taking precautions in order to reduce the risk of compromising the security of their finances, some may be doing that very act – without even knowing it. That’s according to Head of Information Security at Atom bank, Jon Holden, who has shared some words of warning.
While many financial apps may use sophisticated technologies and security processes, which include data encryption and biometrics, that rely on face and voice for identification, that’s not to say that there aren’t other ways which users can improve their security.
And, it seems this could be achieved by implementing just a few simple safeguards.
Stop saving cards to online browsers
While it may be a habit which brings ease to an individual’s online shopping experience, Mr Holden has warned against saving bank account details to an internet browser.
He said: “There are loads of browsers available these days, but some are more secure than others.
“The majority regularly update to ensure they’re not at risk of hacking or malware from fraudsters, but if yours doesn’t update, then it can leave you vulnerable to an attack.
“For this reason I would never advise anyone to save their card details onto their internet browser. Although it may be convenient, it puts you at a significantly higher risk of fraud.
“Although verification is still required to use these details for transactions, if your device is hacked or has a virus then you could end up losing money.”
Stay away from public networks
From transferring funds on the go to checking up on finances while travelling, there’s many reasons why a person may access their finances while in public.
However, for the Information Security expert, this act could potentially be a cause for concern.
“They might be convenient, but accessing your finances on a public WiFi network, such as in a cafe or a hotel, can be very risky,” he said.
“The clue is in the name, they’re public. This means there are no guarantees that your connection is encrypted, putting you at risk.
“Some fraudsters even create their own public networks using the name of well-known shops or banks, giving them access to anything travelling through the network that is unencrypted.”
Sometimes, using an online banking system isn’t entirely avoidable – and there is good news for those in this position, Mr Holden said.
“The majority of online banking sites and apps are heavily encrypted and will automatically log you out after a short while, but I would always advise avoiding public networks where possible.
“Always use a trusted network or your cellular data as these are safer, and always use your mobile app where possible.”
Check your phone’s fingerprint access settings
Mr Holden explained that who has been granted fingerprint access could be something to watch out for.
“Unfortunately, financial fraud can be carried out by someone we know and it’s wide to keep a close guard of who has access to your phone,” he said.
“At Atom, we use sophisticated biometrics that doesn’t rely on the security of your device, instead using your voice, face and eyes to recognise you, making it very unlikely you’ll be compromised.
“However, giving anyone access to your phone or data does put you at a heightened risk of fraud, no matter how good the security.”
Be careful how you communicate
“I always advise customers to think about how they communicate with their financial provider; if anything seems out of the blue or unusual, don’t chance it,” the Security Information expert said.
“The beauty of using your financial app is that all communication should be in-app, and therefore, if you receive anything by the way of phishing emails and SMS messages, it should be an obvious red flag.”
Don’t use common passwords
Cryptic passwords may be more of a challenge to remember, but it seems that it could be worthwhile opting for.
“It might seem obvious, but many people still use simple and straightforward passwords that are easily guessed by fraudsters,” Mr Holden said.
“Hackers usually work through lists of common passwords searching for the right combination, and once they’ve guessed your log-in details for one account, they could use your credentials to access multiple websites.
“If it’s possible, use a banking app that uses biometrics to log in.
“This sophisticated method is the most secure way of accessing your finances, but if you do use passwords, make sure they don’t include names or key dates, like your birthday, as this could put you at risk.
“Make it hard to guess by using upper and lower case letters, special characters and numbers, but not so hard that you won’t remember and have to write it down.”
Stay statement safe
And, while many may be opting for paperless statements, documents received in the post or which have been printed out can still pose a risk.
Mr Holden explained: “Although this sounds like an old fashioned hacking tactic, fraudsters can still use old paper documents and bank statements for impersonation.
“The majority prefer to target businesses as it’s more lucrative, but not destroying your statements is still an unnecessary risk.
“Make sure you dispose of them correctly, ideally in a shredder.
“Failure to do this could result in someone acquiring your sort code and account number which will put you at risk of fraud.
“If you use your app to view your statements, it’s a good idea to keep them saved there and not download them to your device.
“Banking apps are heavily encrypted so it’s a lot safer remaining within an app than on your desktop.”
This article was originally published on August 1, 2019.