Online banking is convenient, efficient and simplifies your finance management immensely. No more statements and papers — everything is on your computer or mobile device, right at your fingertips.
However, that comes with a major caveat, especially when it comes to using online banking for small businesses.
“Small mom-and-pop shops do not understand that banking online comes with serious risks,” says Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger. Small business accounts are not always protected against cyber hacking. In fact, even large corporations, like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels, have all been the subject of hacking.
The good news is that you can protect yourself, and your assets. To reduce your odds of being hacked, follow these steps:
Create complex passwords
There’s a reason most websites call for case-sensitive passwords or ones with numbers or symbols. Making a strong password decreases the chance that a hacker can easily figure it out and log into your account. The problem is, most people are still using easy-to-guess passwords. In an analysis done of 32 million passwords by Imperva, an Internet and data security company, it was found that the top 10 passwords are as follows: 123456, 12345, 123456789, Password, iloveyou, princess, rockyou, 1234567, 12345678 and abc123. These make it easy for hackers to get into your account, so it’s important to avoid using these or any similar variations.
Use unique, long passwords for every account — and change them often
Steer clear of making the same password for numerous online accounts.
“Hackers are hoping that people use the same password across multiple sites,” says Roy Nutter, computer science and electrical engineering professor at West Virginia University. “Don’t make it easy for them.” And when making your different passwords, keep in mind the length of them, too. “The longer the password, the better,” Nutter advises. “I recommend at least a 12-character password — more than the 8-character general rule — because it is less vulnerable.” In addition, it’s important to change passwords frequently, which will increase security.
Log out of accounts, especially in public
How many times have you shut your laptop without closing out of the tabs you have open? This is especially concerning when using public Wi-Fi, say at a hotel or coffee shop.
“People generally don't bother to check out the security characteristics of public networks before logging on, plus wireless transmissions can be intercepted by nearby Bluetooth-type devices,” says Richard Barrington, a spokesman for MoneyRates.com. That includes public libraries, too. "The PCs [at libraries] are subject to viruses and spyware that you have no control over,” explains Robert Sicillano, a consultant for McAfee and expert on identity theft. Be sure to log out of all accounts thoroughly after using public (or regular) Wi-Fi.
Don’t get personal with social media
In other words, avoid over sharing on accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others.
“The way social media accounts are accessed also leaves users vulnerable,” explains Larry Bridwell, global security strategist at Sticky Password. “When updating your status or posting a picture to Instagram, users may have to access an open Wi-Fi network. However, they may find themselves falling prey to hackers who utilize open Wi-Fi networks to gain access and information into accounts.”
So what kinds of things shouldn’t you post?
"Be careful sharing your pet's name, your children's names or the name of the high school you attended, especially if you use this information as account passwords or answers to security questions," says Lisa Robinson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group. “Never share your mother's maiden name, your Social Security number, your bank account numbers, or your user names or passwords for any account.”
Utilize anti-virus and anti-spyware protection
This kind of software helps detect and protect you from malicious software (malware) and computer viruses.
"[Common viruses like] trojans and worms can infect your computer and use keystrokes and other tactics to get your bank credentials," says Sol Nasisi, chief economist at BestCashCow.com. In turn, this software discourages hackers and helps your accounts stay safe. One tip: Set up your protection software so that it automatically updates daily. That way, you don’t forget to do it when needed.
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