No
one can deny the rise in popularity, nor the convenience, of online banking. In
2018, banking apps had become the third most
popular mobile app category
according to a Citi survey, trailing behind staples like social media
and weather apps.

What
customers receive in the bargain is time. Digital banking makes it a cinch to
save money, send cash to friends, check our balances and even apply for loans
and other financial products in less time.

But
what we give up is the certainty — if such a thing ever existed — that our
private financial data is being kept safe from prying eyes. In the era of
digital banking, creating trust and achieving high-security online environments
is a huge priority for banks and customers alike. Here’s a look at how both
parties are keeping themselves safe.

What are the biggest cybersecurity threats today?

The
biggest cybersecurity threats in banking today include familiar terms we
broadly group under the umbrella of “cybercrime.” Other cybersecurity threats,
however, are more of our own making. Here’s an abbreviated rundown:

  • Unencrypted data: Leaving our data
    unencrypted is a great way to let potential criminals into our digital banking
    profiles. While “bank-level encryption” is mostly a marketing term, it’s
    still a signal that your institution takes this part of security seriously.
  • Identity theft: Identity theft is as big a
    threat today as when Lifelock’s CEO had his identity stolen a
    dozen times
    after putting his Social Security number on the side of a company van. Around 16.7 million Americans had their identities compromised in 2017, according to
    Javelin Research.
  • Fraud: Sometimes, a criminal’s
    goal isn’t full-blown identity theft but instead some type of fraud. Medical
    records are so valuable on the black market because criminals can use them to
    order medications or file insurance claims under somebody else’s name.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware can be
    incredibly scary. This term refers to an outside party achieving access to and
    control over your computer and its files and then attempting to extort money
    from you in exchange for restored access. After the victim pays up, there’s no
    guarantee the thief will follow through.
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Financial
institutions can easily leave cybersecurity blind spots open for would-be
criminals. Thankfully, many reputable organizations now know the stakes and how
to prevent problems when they can — and respond swiftly in a crisis when they
cannot.

How do banks leave cybersecurity blind spots?

Regrettably,
as we’ve seen, even some of our “too big to fail” financial institutions drop
the ball sometimes when it comes to cybersecurity. These blind spots occur by:

  • Not making
    prevention a priority
    : Security can’t be an IT afterthought. Companies need to staff up in
    this area deliberately to meet emerging regulatory and consumer expectations.
  • Not vetting third
    parties
    :
    The era of digital banking is complex and sometimes requires cooperation
    between multiple parties, technologies and software. Companies of all types
    need to make sure their partners, such as app developers, know how to keep company APIs
    safe
    .
    Technicians must even build physical branches’ HVAC systems with cybersecurity
    in mind if banks want to close any back doors in their connected IoT
    infrastructure.
  • Not building a
    security-aware culture
    : Most businesses rely on the internet to deliver services and
    products. From banks to medical practitioners and manufacturers, keeping client
    and customer data safe means building a culture that respects security at every
    level. Achieving this security involves regular training, random spot checks
    and hiring for soft skills — such as conscientiousness and attention to detail
    — as well as hard skills.

Of
course, banks can do all of this and still fail to connect with their customers
or communicate meaningfully about the steps they’re taking. That’s why the
stars of the show in the digital era are transparency and integrity. Banks can
gain a competitive advantage by operating openly and by taking the right
precautions before regulatory groups force their hands.

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What can bank customers do for themselves?

The
good news is, you’re not powerless in the face of this relentless foe. What can
online bank users do to keep themselves safer? Here’s a rundown of some things
you can start doing differently, today, to keep your digital-financial life safe:

  • Know the signs of
    phishing attempts
    : Legitimate banks and other organizations won’t ask you for your
    password over the phone or in an email exchange. If you receive a message along
    these lines, provide no information. Instead, hang up and call the bank they
    claim to represent using a number you can vouch for.
  • Watch for skimming
    devices
    :
    Believe it or not, we all still have to look out for skimming devices attached to ATMs
    and checkout stations
    . They can be difficult to spot, and not every location is as carefully
    or regularly inspected as others. Try to use a first-party ATM when you need to
    make a withdrawal, and use contactless payments via a smartphone or smartwatch
    wherever they’re offered.
  • Go the extra mile
    for security’s sake
    : We understand as well as anybody that keeping up with our password
    “hygiene” is a bit tedious. As a result, many folks won’t like hearing that
    strong passwords are the bare minimum these days. After you go through your
    accounts and choose strong passwords or PINs, activate two-factor
    authentication for every website or app that offers it.

Two-factor
authentication closes the loop on the digital security axiom, “Something you
know, something you have and something you are.” If you take the above
suggestions and use your on-device security features, strong passwords become
the thing you “know,” your fingerprint becomes something you “are” and the
two-factor authentication mechanism using your secondary device becomes
something you “have.”

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The
rest relies on your sound judgment. Digital banking is a huge step forward for
customers as well as the financial institutions serving them. As we’ve seen,
banks are working hard to hire the right staff and use advanced technologies to
keep us safe. However, we need to hold up our end of the bargain too and take
the small steps available to us to ensure our most valuable information stays
safe and secure.



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