How to bank safely online

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As Africa evolves from the margins to the mainstream of the global economy, technology is playing an increasingly significant role. Strengthening trends in business, security and transformation in the expansion of an IT ecosystem.
We live in an era where most banks encourage online banking for economic and security reasons. With today’s advanced technology, one can do various banking activities on a PC that once needed one to go to the bank and wait on long queues. Online banking is a convenient way to manage your money. From paying your bills, transferring funds between accounts to balancing your payment book, online banking can help you do all that.

Being a Pen Tester also known as “white-hat-hacker”. And gaining exposure to the cyber security space has taught me the importance of being conscious about the dangers in cyberspace. Black-hat hackers (crooks) are able to use the internet for their own agendas and many of them are very smart and knowledgeable at what they do.

It is possible to protect yourself from their hacks, attacks and scams by taking few simple safety measures. Here are some guidelines:

1. Have an encrypted connection
Look for “https://” in the address bar (NOT http://) most browsers include a lock icon also, the icon means the connection is encrypted but the site can still be malicious and unsafe to use. I was actually having a conversation with a colleague of mine about this point. There are now malicious websites that have the green bar on them because SSL certificates are becoming free, so it doesn’t mean safety. It just means encrypted. It’s important to make sure you’re on the right banking website Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

2. Up-to-date Software
Keep your operating system and anti-virus software up to date. Updates keep you safe from known security holes. This is especially important when there is a new release available for software you use because most change logs and update notes reveal previously-known exploits that have already been patched. Public knowledge of these exploits leaves your application easy prey for malicious users who are out to exploit these now known issues.

3. Do not use public networks or public computers
I once read an article on www.stuff.co.nz about a journalist warning of the dangers of inflight Wi-Fi after a passenger hacked his email and read every message he sent and received during the flight. Apparently, the hacker passenger knew he was a journalist and that there was sensitive information on his email. It is advisable not to do online banking on a public network and a public computer. Crooks can use public networks and computers to steal your sensitive information.

4. Be aware of automated phishing mailer
Phishing is a form of social engineering in which an attacker, also known as a phisher, attempts to fraudulently retrieve legitimate users’ confidential or sensitive credentials by mimicking electronic communications from a trustworthy or public organization in an automated fashion. A South African bank called FNB recently issued a warning to clients about a new email-based scam that tricks people into giving their banking information. Bank and credit card companies will never ask you to give them your credentials or password information to reactivate your account. Never click on links in emails, as a matter of fact I am currently involved in developing Anti-phishing software which emphasises the issue in cyber space security.

5. Check your accounts often
This probably won’t be a surprise to you, but a new survey shows that people between the ages of 18 to 34 check their social media accounts three times as often as their bank accounts. Looking at Facebook and Twitter: fun! Checking your bank account: responsible, but not as fun!
Check your accounts at least twice a month. If any transaction looks suspicious call your bank immediately.

Palesa Antony