Online banking, a.k.a. internet banking, e-banking, and virtual banking, is an electronic banking system that allows bank clients and depositors to manage transactions conveniently such as electronic funds transfer (EFT), bills payments, and investment portfolios over the web.
With the advent of internet and information technology, almost everything has gone online. We connect and communicate with the world via social media. We avail government services such as loans and scholarships through online applications. We book a private car or a ride with another passenger going in the same direction using a smartphone app. Yet one of the biggest boosts to a hassle-free life especially for financially literate digital natives has been the introduction of online banking.
Notwithstanding the sophisticated technology utilized by local banks in the Philippines for online banking facility, still many depositors remain doubtful about the security and reliability that it offers. For instance, the local banking industry was recently shaken by a technical glitch in one of the biggest banks that resulted in questionable debit transactions from accounts, and it took couple of days before online banking operations normalized.
In response to the growing incidents and sophistication of cyberattacks and scams, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) has issued a circular to all its supervised financial institutions, especially the banks, prompting the adoption of stricter authentication and security measures for a safe and secure online banking.
Given that online banking security is a public concern, I have listed below 12 ways on how to keep our online banking safe and secure.
 Strategize Your Login Credentials (Username and Password). Upon enrolling for an online banking account, create a strong password – a long and unique combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and even special characters. Avoid passwords such as your actual name and birthdate as you might have shared these publicly on your social media accounts. It is also advised that you change your password regularly.
 Secure Your Account Details and Login Credentials. You may keep a record of login credentials to your online banking account, but practice extra caution to prevent anybody from knowing these details. Whenever you sense that your online banking account has been compromised, change your password right away. It’s not also good that you maintain the same login credentials for all your online accounts.
 Access Account Through Your Personal Computer. As much as possible, avoid accessing your online banking account through public computers such as in cyber cafes or local libraries. If you don’t have any choice, then make sure that the browser does not remember your login credentials. You may also clear the browsing cache and history and delete all downloaded or temporary files after use.
Equally important, set a guest account in your personal computer whenever you cannot prevent others from using it. In doing so, you are preventing others from making an access to your saved passwords, email messages, and other personal files related to online banking account.
 Verify Website Encrypted Connections and Certificates. When making an access to your online banking account, check the address bar for security and other special encryption features. Generally, a small green padlock icon is displayed before the site URL indicating that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted via hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) or secure sockets layer (SSL). It is also safer to type the bank URL in the address bar of the browser than clicking on hyperlinks given in an email or on search engines.
 Scan Website for Suspicious Features and Modifications. When you’re accessing your online banking account through an email or a search engine link, there’s a danger that you are directed to a counterfeit website. To prevent this, scan the website first for suspicious features and unusual changes since your last visit before you feed your login credentials.
 Monitor Your Online Banking Transactions Regularly. Whether it’s an automated debit for subscriptions or a fund transfer, take time reviewing all online banking transactions on a regular basis. As a sound practice, you can have the chance to track your cash flow and contact the bank immediately should there be unauthorized and anomalous transactions.
 Make Logging Out a Habit. Make it a habit to log out of your online banking session as soon as you have finished a transaction or simply checked your account balance. Logging out is as important as logging in. It lessens the risk of session hijacking and cross-site scripting exploits.
 Avoid Clicking Through Spam and Phishing Emails. Protect your online banking account against phishing attacks. Cybercriminals employ sophisticated social engineering techniques – disguise as legit entities and exploit web vulnerability – to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details usually through email hyperlinks.
 Authenticate Email Messages Asking for Pertinent Details. If an email asking for sensitive information, particularly about your online banking login credentials, is received, it is always safe that you verify this with the bank or any other sending institutions. Usually, phishing emails use suspicious source addresses such as random schemes of letters and numbers. If it’s found a spam or a phishing email, delete it right away and secure your email account by blocking the source address.
 Protect Your Personal Computer from Viruses and Hacking Attacks. Keep your personal computer up-to-date. Upgrading your computer software can give you the benefits of the latest defensive solutions against malware and hackers. If making an investment in security software is less a priority, then at least activate the built-in firewall and a free antivirus software.
 Report Suspicious Account Transactions Immediately. If in doubt of recent online banking transactions, verify the details with the bank immediately. Online banking provides you with the most convenient way of reviewing transactions; hence reporting suspicious activities can be done in an instant through website communication features, email, or a phone call. You can also mitigate the possible worse impact of the scam or attack.
 Keep Yourself Informed About the Latest Online Banking Security Features and Scams. Cyberattacks and scams target people of all backgrounds and may catch you off guard especially when you’re not armed with knowledge and experience. Not only the naïve and gullible, but even security experts and professionals fall as victims.
Keep yourself informed about latest security threats – ransomware, mobile malware, stranded traveler, super cheap apartments, phishing and pharming, manual sharing scams, online data fraud, lottery scams, and many more – and learn the imperative measures to undertake.
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