Over 51 percent of adults were banking online in 2013 – and the number continues to rise. The days of filling out deposit slips and waiting in long lines are quickly fading away. Checking statements, depositing paychecks and transferring money can all be done with a few swipes on a smartphone. With this amazing convenience comes a very real danger. With each passing year, the risk of being breached by hackers and fraudsters increases exponentially.
Cyber criminals pose a threat to more than a financial institution’s bottom line, they can also erode at consumer confidence and invite legal action. It is of vital importance for those in the financial services industry to protect themselves and their customers from this imminent threat, and to promote cyber security. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent being compromised. Here are the five steps to promote safer online banking.
1. Identify internal risks to prevent breaches
In order to be safe, you’ll need to be organized. Your data should be carefully listed, labeled and re-evaluated. Effectively managing your data means you’ll be able to identify vulnerabilities and propose solutions to secure data.
For example, if a certain piece of data is very sensitive, you may consider encryption, limiting employee accesses or even purging it. Whatever the solution may be, risks must be assessed and addressed efficiently and effectively.
2. Employ two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security for users. To access an account without it, all you need is a username and a password. With two-factor authentication, a login also requires the user to input a temporary code, which is sent to a verified device, such as a smartphone.
Offering two-factor authentication greatly reduces the risk of identity theft. Many banks offer this feature for this very reason.
3. Educate employees about security
Cybersecurity is no longer merely an IT issue. Every branch should make safe online banking a priority. Employees should be properly educated about risks, preventive measures and strategies to deal with breaches. While you should still limit accesses to sensitive data, it is important they understand how to transfer data internally, how to avoid phishing emails and what to do if a breach occurs.
4. Use up-to-date security software and tools
Updating systems may be costly in the short-term, but it is something that absolutely cannot be skimped on. Unfortunately, many financial institutions are not using technologies that are up-to-date. Using out-of-date software invites danger as it makes you needlessly vulnerable to hacking attempts. Using virtual private network (VPN) is another way to safeguard your network from potential security threats. It’s wise to avoid free vpns, as they may log your data.
5. Continue to grow your cybersecurity team
There are many tools available to protect against malware and viruses. Nothing, however, will be able to replace competent cybersecurity experts. Large financial institutions have already recognized the significance of this. Bank of America, for example, pledged to spend $400 million in 2015 alone, and continues to grow their cybersecurity team.
In fact, they’re investing in more than the traditional juggernaut programming languages like C++ and Java. Banks like JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch invest in a swath of technologies, including the increasingly popular (and highly flexible) Python programming language. Python was previously underutilized, but is now seeing a boom in banking because of its incredible agility and ease of integration with existing codebases.
6. Encourage consumers to become proactive about their security
Developing awareness about cyber security issues is integral to creating a safer online banking experience. Not only should your employees be educated about the possible dangers of cyber breaches, identity theft and fraud, your customers should be, too.
Even if a cyber breach is not your institution’s fault, you may be held liable. Therefore, it is in your best interest to educate your consumers. Enforcing strong passwords and offering two-factor authentication are just a few ways to protect them.
Educating users about the importance of using secure WiFi connections and effectively using banking alerts can help make your customers feel more in control, while also giving them steps to protect against hacking attempts.
Safer online banking isn’t nearly as hard as it seems. You only need to take the necessary measures to assess and manage risk. Continue educating yourself, follow these six tips for safer online banking, and continuously monitor developments in cybersecurity. There is no guarantee that you will not fall victim to a cyber criminal’s attack, but it is always best to be as prepared as possible.