By now, it’s pretty much the norm that we're all conducting a majority (if not all) of our personal banking, investment, and financial transactions online. The global business to business (B2B) online E-commerce market is expected to reach revenues of $20.9 trillion — double the estimated size of the business-to-consumer (B2C) online market — by 2027.
Because of this, we’re also more and more vulnerable to the increased number and severity of cyber related risks — things like ransomware, identity theft, phishing scams, keystroke loggers, CEO fraud, tracking, and hacking— as well as a number of other potential online threats.
Where do you draw the line regarding the risks involved? Is online banking safe? Do you use an encrypted password management system? Do you utilize dual-factor authentication? How do you know whether your other online financial activities are safe?
While nothing can guarantee 100% complete safety and cyber protection while online, much can be done to understand and minimize your exposure to these risks. We’ve put together a list of some of the basic steps to help maintain your privacy and secure your information when engaging in any online transactions.
1: Understand Privacy Policies
2: Avoid Using Easily-Decipherable PINs and Passwords
Avoid using personally-identifying information when choosing a PIN, password, or other login information. Common mistakes include using information like:
- Your mother’s maiden name
- Your birth date
- The last four digits of your Social Security number
- Your kids’ names
- Your phone number
Avoid other obvious choices, like a series of consecutive numbers or your hometown. Also, avoid using the same PINs and passwords on multiple websites. If your PIN or password is discovered on one site, then the other sites’ security information will remain secure if they’re different.
3: Use Secure Web Pages
Use only secure browsers when shopping online to safeguard the security of your transactions and information during transmission. There are two general indicators of a secure website:
- Check that the website URL begins with “https.” Most URLs begin with “http,” the “s” at the end indicates that the site is secure. This means that passwords and other sensitive information will be encrypted before sending back and forth to the server.
- Look for a “lock” icon in the window of the browser. You can double-click on this icon for details about the site’s security. Be cautious about providing your financial information to websites that are not well known.
Larger companies and well-known websites have developed policies to protect customers’ rights, as well as their personal and financial information, when conducting any form of online transaction.
4: Utilize Dual-Factor Authentication
Whenever possible, leverage Dual-Factor Authentication (DFA or 2FA) for your online financial activities. All financial websites have this feature built in - you just need to turn it on. If you're working with any sort of online banking or financial site and they don't offer 2FA, we'd highly recommend staying away from them. If you haven't set this up, go back and set this up for all of your banking and financial accounts.
5: Keep Your Operating System Up to Date
High-priority updates are critical to the security and reliability of your computer and overall network. They also offer the latest cyber protection against malicious online activities, so be sure to conduct an update as soon as possible when prompted. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team website can serve as a great resource for some of the most recent patches and updates that are released by technology companies.
6: Always Keep Your Firewall On
While this should go without saying, it bears repeating: A firewall helps to protect your computer from hackers who may try to delete information, crash or control your computer, or steal your passwords or credit card numbers. Make sure your firewall is always turned on and all updates are up to date.
7: Do Your Homework
To learn more about securing your computer and increasing the cyber protection of your personal information, check out Get Net Wise, OnGuardOnline, and Wired Safety. These sites provide valuable information to help you protect your information when conducting financial transactions online. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace.
While maintaining anonymity on the web can be challenging, it’s important to protect your personal and financial information, as well as that of your family members. In time, more protective measures will be implemented so that you can feel assured that your financial information will be protected from unknown third parties.
In the meantime, it’s up to you to safeguard your financial information through vigilant online practices like these.
Do you have any tips or recommendations you want to share to increase online safety? Let us know your thoughts or experiences in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.