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The digital age has had a profound impact on the way we handle our finances. Being able to pay for lunch via phone or settle the bills with a few mouse clicks is convenient. However, one also needs to be mindful of the potential dangers.
Use the five tools we outline below to enjoy all the conveniences of modern finance while keeping risks to a minimum.
Protecting your financial accounts with a strong and unique password is essential. A staggering number of people still use easily hacked passwords, often only using variations for all their accounts. Such passwords have no use anywhere, let alone as “security measures” for your banking apps or payment platforms.
Password managers are the safest alternative. They’ll generate long, complex passwords it would take literal eons to crack with brute force. It’s easy to create as many passwords as you need so any account can receive the added protection. Changing them all is straightforward since you get a master password to access the manager’s settings.
Additionally, password managers offer secure information storage. This is useful if you want to record login information or PINs on your devices yet want robust protection for them.
While they make data breaches significantly less likely, password managers are most effective if you deploy additional security layers. After all, you may forget the master password or already have a compromised account.
Two-factor authentication is the next logical measure. It adds a second step after entering your credentials before a login becomes. This is usually an SMS code or push notification for your mobile device. Knowing the password becomes insufficient, so hackers can’t get to your financial data unless they also have physical access to your phone.
It’s also a good idea to enable notifications on failed login attempts. You may not be aware that someone knows your login details, and such a notification can be the perfect wake-up call.
By security software, we mean a comprehensive suite of tools that protect from various threats. Antivirus, antimalware, and firewalls are the most common examples. Don’t forget to install them on your smartphone as well if you use mobile banking apps.
Cybercriminals quickly come up with ways to find and exploit software vulnerabilities. That’s why you should enable automatic updates for your security tools and operating systems. Updates patch any detected faults and may add features that further enhance their protective potential.
Even if you employ all the above tools, connecting to the internet irresponsibly can still result in data theft. You should never access your finances while connected to publicly available Wi-Fi, for example. While it seems convenient, public Wi-Fi offers no monitoring protection. That means a tech-savvy criminal can monitor your online activities, log your login credentials, and gain access to sensitive financial data.
You should always inquire whether a connection is secure before using it for anything other than ordinary browsing. If you need online banking when you aren’t at home, a VPN is the answer, regardless of a connection’s security.
VPNs reroute all your internet traffic through a secure, encrypted connection. Neither would-be hackers nor your ISP can detect where you are connecting from and what business you’re conducting. Using a VPN lets you share sensitive information with trusted sources without fear of it getting stolen.
In the age where digital fraud and ransomware abound, personal responsibility and common sense can be the most effective tool in your data protection arsenal. Never give out any information that could result in the compromise of your financial data. If you’re temporarily unable to use financial services, ensure that the person with power of attorney over them has a separate set of credentials.
Be wary of unexpected emails from your financial institutions. Sometimes cybercriminals will masquerade as your bank to try & trick you into giving up your details. Be especially mistrustful of emails containing attachments or claiming you need to resolve a problem by clicking a link to an external site.
You’re entitled to free credit reports. Asking for them regularly is a good way to monitor account activities you’d have missed otherwise. If you suspect identity theft, have a credit bureau freeze your score. That will prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name.
The push for a cashless & contact-free society has transformed how we treat our finances and associated data. There are risks, but the right attitude and a few painless changes to your behaviour can mitigate most of them.
Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.