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Be cybersafe when banking online
Jayshree Mulherkar |
February 16, 2006
Along with the convenience of Internet banking, phone banking and ATMs, come some risks.
Though banks take pains to ensure that online transactions are secure, you need to be responsible and vigilant while using any of these services.
Many frauds occur because of careless users rather than careless banks.
Here are some ways in which you can protect yourself while banking online:
Choose the right place
The best place to check your online accounts is from your personal computer at home.
Avoid accessing your online banking accounts from shared computers, like those in cyber cafés. Also avoid locations that offer online connections through wireless networks (Wi-Fi), where privacy and security are minimal.
If you do have to check from a cyber café or even in your office, follow these precautions.
Once you log on, don't wander off from your desk to have a cup of coffee or attend a meeting.
Never leave your PC unattended after keying in information while transacting on a web site.
Always log out and shut the browser when you leave.
Remember, log out and close the browser to ensure that your secure session is terminated. Never exit simply by closing the browser.
Do not select the option on the browser that stores or retains user name and password.
Get a smart password
A password is the latchkey to your online account, enabling you and only you to carry out transactions.
Don't reveal it to anyone.
Use an alphanumeric password – one that combines numbers, alphabets and other characters -- like !, @, #, $, %, ^, &,* (, ) -- to make it difficult for hackers.
Use passwords that can't be easily guessed -- for example, don't use your date of birth, address, telephone number, spouse or kid's name.
Keep changing passwords at frequent intervals.
Memorise your passwords and don't ever write it down and stuff it in your wallet! If you lose your wallet or it gets stolen, you could be in a soup.
Some banks have separate passwords for viewing your accounts and for carrying out transactions. Keep both of them safe.
Other banks have a feature whereby you need another password for high value deals. So, if the money that you want transferred to another account exceeds a particular sum, you will need to enter a specific password to validate the transaction.
If you have several bank accounts, avoid using the same online banking password for all.
Get onto the right web site
When logging on to your bank's web site, don't use the embedded links in any e-mail to get to any web page. Type the link address (URL) in your web browser.
Never enter your user ID or password or such sensitive information without ascertaining that you are on the right web site.
Many banks have a 'last logged in' panel on their web sites. Always check the panel whenever you log in. If you notice irregularities (like you are logging in after two days, but the panel says you logged in that morning!), report the matter at once to the bank and change your password immediately.
Frequently check the balance in your account so that if you discover a transaction you haven't made, or if you have made a mistake, you can get it rectified immediately.
Notify your bank as soon as you discover something unusual.
Banks also ensure a certain amount of security by putting a daily limit on transactions. For example, ICICI Bank restricts online transactions to Rs 1,00,000 a day. And if transactions involving huge sums are done frequently, you may be asked to visit the bank for signature verification.
Is your computer safe?
Ensure that your web browser supports 128-bit encryption. In fact, most banks won't let you access your online accounts if your browser does not support it.
It's also a good idea to install a firewall on the machine you're using to make online transactions.
There are many free personal firewalls online such as Zone Alarm. A firewall is like an electronic fence around your computer; it prevents crooks from accessing the information you have on it. It also gives you a warning when someone is trying to get into your computer.
Also ensure that the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software is installed on your PC.
Don't open, run, install or use programs or files obtained from a person or organisation you do not know or from someone who is not a reputed vendor.
In case you find all of this too tedious and bothersome, remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.