The internet has made so many things easier. You can check your bank accounts without driving to the bank or get real-time portfolio updates. You can also buy products or services without having to leave your home or even get on the phone.
Despite the benefits of the internet, there is also a significant downside. Hackers can steal your financial data and use it for their own benefit. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to protect your financial data and keep it safe online.
Create Strong Passwords
Stolen credentials are one of the most common causes of data breaches and compromised financial data. Far too many people rely on simple passwords. While they’re easier to remember, they’re also much more predictable. Names, birthdates, and other simple to remember passwords are easily stolen. Even moderately-secure passwords can be cracked with computer programs.
You need to use strong passwords. You also shouldn’t use the same passwords for every account. Many sites now have requirements, such as the need for capital letters, numbers, and special characters. If you have trouble remembering all of your complex passwords, don’t write them down. Instead, use a password manager to keep track of them. Doing so prevents your passwords from getting stolen by someone you know.
Vary Your Username
Along with varying your passwords, you should also use different usernames between accounts. Doing so can help to protect your other accounts if one does get hacked. When possible, avoid using your email as a username, too.
Set Up Multifactor Authentication
Login credentials only provide a single layer of protection. If this information gets stolen, hackers have instant access to all kinds of sensitive information. Give yourself more protection by enabling multifactor authentication.
Multifactor authentication, typically in the form of two-factor authentication, requires additional steps to verify your information, even after inputting correct login credentials. You may have a temporary code texted to your phone or delivered via phone call. Some require biometric data, such as facial or fingerprint recognition. If your information does get stolen, hackers likely won’t have access to the secondary requirements, keeping your financial data out of their hands.
Use Secure Websites
You may have noticed that some websites begin with HTTP, while others begin with HTTPS. The “S” lets you know that the website is protected by SSL. Are you wondering, “what is SSL, and what does it mean?” It’s an indication that the website is secure. Any information sent over the site connection is encrypted. If it does get intercepted by hackers it will appear jumbled and is therefore useless.
If you have to share any financial (or sensitive) information over the internet, always check the web address. If it starts with HTTPS, you know it’s secure, and your information is better protected.
Avoid Public Networks
Many coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and other businesses offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. While free access is convenient (it keeps you from using valuable data on your mobile devices), connecting to it increases your risk of getting hacked.
Rather than using free public Wi-Fi, invest in a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure connection between your devices and the internet. If someone has hacked the network, it’s harder for them to access your information, since your connection is encrypted.
Check with your financial institutions to see if you can set up special alerts that could indicate fraud. Getting alerts gives you the opportunity to act quickly and put a stop to any unauthorized transactions. If you’re the one who made the transaction, though, you can let your bank or credit card company know.
While there’s no such thing as being 100% safe online, you can still make an effort to minimize your risk. These tips can help you to keep your financial information safe online, keeping it out of the hands of would-be thieves and avoiding a serious headache.