Basics of Personal Information Protection for Online Banking - dummies

Basics of Personal Information Protection for Online Banking

By Ryan C. Williams

Online banking may still have a few issues here and there, but for the most part, you can interact with your financial institutions online with no problem. These institutions have taken great pains to ensure the safety of your (and their) money, but think of it as, well, a physical bank.

The bank is as safe as the company can make it, but you still have to take the proper precautions (security guards, proper procedures, and the like). The good news is that you can do lots of things today to make sure that your online banking transactions are as safe as possible:

  • Tales from the (en)Crypt: Make sure that both your browser and your bank’s website use 128-bit encryption, which, by some estimates, is so safe that it would take more than a trillion years for a hacker to crack using current technologies.

    How will you know if your browser offers 128-bit encryption? Most browsers tell you. For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer has an About Internet Explorer option on the Help menu. Choose that option to see what version of the browser you’re using, and in most cases it includes Cipher strength, indicating the number of bits used for encryption.

  • Look for a secure server: This advice goes hand in hand with ensuring 128-bit encryption, but the secure server gives you a visual clue that it’s working. Look for the locked padlock icon on your browser and the addition of the letter s to the http — as in https — at the beginning of your bank’s URL.

  • Get some insurance: Is this bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)? To be sure, check out the FDIC website.

  • Get it in writing, Part I: Check your bank’s website for a written guarantee that protects you from losses from fraud that may result from online banking.

  • Get it in writing, Part II: Hey, you never know when trouble may occur. You’ll get into much less trouble, though, if you have printed copies of all your online transactions to prove that what you say is true.