3 questions you should ask about online banking security


Internet banking use has nearly doubled, from 30% of adults in 2007 to 56% in 2015. But is this really the best way to keep our money safe? There’s no doubt that the internet makes saving money easier. But new research has shown that for some nations, including the UK, online banking login pages are vulnerable to low-skilled attacks.  

If you ever experience any unusual or suspicious online banking behaviour you should contact your bank immediately. In the meantime, here are some valuable questions to help you to assess your bank’s security and select an account with a bank you can trust.

1. Are the devices you use to access your bank protected?

Online banking is only as secure as the device you’re accessing it with. If your computer, phone or tablet doesn’t have virus protection and phishing filters, there is a chance your information could be stolen and online accounts hacked. It’s worth reading reviews to ensure you have the best, most up-to-date anti-virus software.

Checking whether your wireless internet network is secure is also essential. You should always use a unique, complex password to protect your home network and your firewall should always be enabled. If you’re using a hotspot or are connected to a public wifi network, make sure the site is fully encrypted. Banking sites also use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. But they don’t guarantee your security online. So be careful when and where you enter login information, and make sure you log out immediately after your session.

Internet browsers have their own security indicators. A locked padlock or unbroken key symbol should appear in your browser window when a page is secure.The ‘http’ at the  beginning of the website address should also change to ‘https’. This should always be the case when you access an online bank’s website.

2. Have you checked the bank’s credentials?

This may seem obvious, but it’s actually quite easy to assume any enterprise claiming to be a bank must be legitimate. In some cases your money is stored in a system like Paypal which is a good example of a bank-like website that isn’t actually a bank. There isn’t actually a definition for what constitutes a ‘bank’. However, the Bank of England provide a full list of approved banks and building societies, which is well worth consulting.

So how do you select a bank? The safest option is to always choose a bank you’ve heard of. Preferably one with a good reputation and good interest rates. But more importantly one that is authorised by the FCA. According to the Financial Services & Markets Act (2000) a bank has to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), formerly the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

An example of this can be found on Regent FE’s website. As a lesser-known company that manage business accounts it is important that their credentials are easily accessible. So, the site has a footer stating that the company is authorised by the UK FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) under the Payment Services Regulations 2009. It then provides reference numbers and information about licensing and data protection. These are the sorts of authenticity indicators to look for when considering a smaller online bank or building society.

Remember, a bank will never approach you by phone or send you an email out of the blue. You should always be the one to approach a bank, not the other way around. If anyone claiming to be a bank or building society contacts you, do not give them any personal information.

3. How difficult is it to access?

One of the best ways to assess the security of an online account is by checking how difficult it is to access the account and use its functionality. For example, if someone obtained your login information, what would stop them accessing your account and transferring funds?

Most online banks use two-factor authentication, and reassuringly official figures show that the introduction of this system saw fraud fall significantly. Two-factor authentication is the reason why users have to enter extra security codes, answer a question or provide memorable information when they login. Such features indicate that your bank is secure, because it puts an extra safeguard between an online fraudster and your savings.

Passwords should be different for each of your online accounts. For maximum security they should be a combination of letters and numbers. And you should never write a password (for something as important as a bank account) down or store it somewhere on your computer.

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