We live in a world where an increasing amount of our life has moved to the virtual sphere. In a relatively short amount of time, we’ve gone from taking fifteen minutes to dial into the internet to having instant access in the palm of our hands. From communication to entertainment and shopping, even paying bills – everything is happening online. The cyber-world has made life so much more convenient and staying in touch so much easier. It’s opened geographies and opportunities unimaginable up to now and boosted the spread of information and culture.
However, with the good comes the bad. With more online avenues comes more incidents of crime. Cybercrime is especially insidious because it can target anyone from the common man to celebrities and even entire governments. What’s more, cybercriminals keep getting better, smarter, and more creative.
Still, there are many ways to safeguard yourself from cyberattacks. By being vigilant and taking a few proactive steps, you can ensure your money and other data remain protected. Let’s explore some things you can do to protect yourself from cyberattacks:
How to protect yourself from cyberattacks while online banking
Online banking has made banking extremely convenient. However, online banking carries with it some risks. One of the most common types of cyber scams when it comes to online banking is the theft of your login credentials. This could be done by tricking you into sharing your online banking login and password. The cybercriminal sends you a fake email that looks like it’s from your bank or credit union. You click on the link in the email and are brought to their site where you enter your information.
Another way criminals can access your credentials is through malware. Malware is software that gets installed on your computer without your knowledge that steals important information and data. In the case of online banking, the information would be your username and password. Once the cybercriminals have these details, they can log into your account, transfer funds, and wipe your account clean, effectively robbing you of all your hard-earned savings. To protect yourself from online banking scams and malware here are some tips you should follow:
- Always review and evaluate your bank or credit union’s online policies. Know the type of information your bank or credit union would normally ask you and the channels they’d reach out to you on. For example, a bank employee will never ask you for your password or any kind of OTP information.
- Periodically change your login credentials such as your username and password. Also remember that you should make your password difficult to guess. Include special characters, lower and upper case letters, and numbers when possible. Make sure the numbers you use are random rather than something like your house number or birth year.
- Make sure that your computer is secured. You should set a password for your laptop or desktop computer so that only authorised users can access your data. With new advances in technology, you can even set your face or your fingerprint as your password. This allows you to secure your computer one step further.
- Choose Two-Factor Authentication or 2FA: With two-factor authentication, you will enter your password as usual while making a transaction but will also have to authenticate the transaction using a secondary method. For example, if you decide to pay via online banking when shopping online, you will be redirected to online banking. You’ll receive an OTP (or one-time password) by email or phone (or both). Only after you enter the correct OTP in a limited time will the transaction be successful.
Two-factor authentication is a great way to prevent cybercriminals from making transactions because there is a low chance they will also have access to your email and mobile phone to input the OTP and get doubly authenticated.
- Don’t log into online banking while using public networks. Free Wi-Fi is great when you want to watch videos of cats or conduct research on the worst films of the decade, but not a good idea when you want to conduct any financial business. Public networks such as those available in cafes, tend to be very easy to hack into and are usually unsecured. The chances that everything you do on a public network is being monitored are very high. When it comes to online banking that would mean that hackers could easily copy your sensitive information and use it for their benefit by transferring funds and robbing you of all your money. So, log into online banking only on a secured network. If necessary, use your mobile data, but never conduct online transactions where you need to input your login credentials, account number, or credit and debit card details.
- Check your account balance often. Many times, theft isn’t caught before it’s too late, making it difficult to take action against it. If you aren’t checking your account balance, you may not realize that there were some unusual transactions that took place or that your account is missing money that you did not spend. To prevent this scenario, make sure you’re checking your account balance regularly.
- Always check statements and emails from your bank or credit union. Staying on top of account statements and correspondence from your credit union will help you to quickly spot any discrepancies and to alert the right authorities. You will also be able to keep an eye on any new policies that your bank shares information about or anything else they need you to know without delay. Seeing what your credit union’s emails typically look like also enables you to spot fake phishing emails sent by malicious third parties pretending to be your bank.
- Act at once and alert authorities. If you detect any suspicious activity, a suspicious email or any kind of transactions not done by you, contact your bank or credit union immediately. They can help you retrieve any money you have lost due to fraudulent activity. They will also be able to take corrective action by blocking your account, helping you reset credentials, and complain to the legal authorities to help them track the cybercriminals. What’s more, alerting your financial institution will also help them to send out a communication to the rest of their customers alerting them of the latest scam or fraud in play to prevent even more victims.
Apart from when you’re engaged in online banking, there are other ways that cybercriminals can attack your system and gain access to your private and confidential data. Let’s look at what these are and how to prevent cyberattacks:
How to protect yourself from cyberattacks via email:
Emails are great tools for communication, except when they communicate threats or tricks to get you to share your sensitive information. Scams or attacks via email are called ‘Phishing’. Usually, phishing emails are sent to any emails criminals can get their hands on, typically a database they have illegally obtained. However, there are also other types of phishing such as spear-phishing which targets certain individuals only or whaling which targets high-profile individuals such as CEOs and celebrities.
A phishing email will often contain some kind of emergency and require you to act urgently by clicking a link or replying with information. For example, they may say that your bank account has been compromised and they urgently require your credentials, password, or some other OTP in order to authenticate the account or prevent harm. Or they may ask you to transfer some amount to a third party as a ‘test’ to ensure your account is working properly. In other cases, they may ask you to click a link that redirects you to a website where you would be asked to enter your sensitive information. Due to the urgency, many people fall prey to phishing attacks. However, there are some ways to prevent yourself from phishing cyberattacks:
- Always check the sender’s email ID. It generally comes from an inauthentic source or has a name similar to your bank, but with a slight change. For example, instead of email@example.com, it might look like firstname.lastname@example.org
- Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Fraudulent emails can have many.
- If any urgent action is requested, contact your bank or credit union first to verify.
- If you’ve been reading your credit union emails, you’ll know the language and template they generally use. You can compare the suspicious email with your regular bank emails to help you recognize if an email is legitimate.
- Alert your credit union about any suspicious emails you receive even if it seems authentic but is asking for sensitive information.
- Do not click any suspicious links.
General tips to protect yourself from cyberattacks:
While online banking and phishing emails are quite specific attacks, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from cyberattacks in general:
- Set strong passwords for all accounts: Whether it’s your phone, email, or online account on any website which houses your sensitive information, always set a strong password that is a combination of numbers, letters and special characters. Also make sure you’re setting different passwords for different sites, and not using the same password across the board. If remembering your passwords is a challenge, you can always use a password manager. Passwords are to help you stay secure, so take as much advantage of them as you can.
- Update your software regularly: Just as cybercriminals are constantly trying to break into systems, software developers are building stronger security measures to stay one step ahead of the latest threats. So, you should update your software regularly to ensure the latest security patches are updated to your system. Otherwise, you’re allowing yourself to stay open to threats.
- Invest in anti-virus and anti-malware software: Viruses and malware can greatly affect your system and steal your data. A simple fix? Get anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your laptop or desktop computer. Make sure your subscription is up to date, so you are protected from newer types of viruses and malware.
If you’re an Innovation member…
If you bank with us, you have access to some easy, self-serve options to further protect yourself:
- Lock’N’Block: you can lock your debit card through online banking to stop any unauthorized transactions. The service is available 24/7 and can be done in seconds.
- Banking Alerts: if your account balance falls below a certain threshold, you can receive a text or email letting you know your account balance is low. This could be an indication of fraudulent activity. There are other alerts as well to indicate log-in attempts, money transfers, added bill payees and more.
So, whether you’re online banking, checking your email or using your phone or computer, you are now equipped to protect yourself from cyberattacks. Stay smart and stay secure!