As theft of financial data becomes more common, securing online accounts and personal information has never been more important.
Hacking and identity theft are growing in scale and sophistication. Research shows that hackers stole more than $2.3 billion from Australian online consumers in 2017, with more than 6 million people falling victim to cybercrimes such as identity theft.¹
Money is a primary motivation of hackers, making financial information a major target of cybercrimes. Financial pretexting – which involves obtaining personal information under false pretence – and phishing accounted for 93 per cent of all the 2017 breaches Verizon investigated.²
So how might you keep phishers and hackers from snooping into and stealing your financial information? Here are five suggestions.
- Use strong passwords
Setting strong and unique passwords for your accounts is your first line of defence. According to Verizon, 81 per cent of hacking incidents in 2017 succeeded due to stolen or weak passwords.³ Use long and complicated passwords to help you secure your accounts. Avoid re-using them for other accounts, no matter how tempting it is to recycle a password. Changing them regularly – once every few months – may also help you increase your account security.
- Set up two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds a layer of security that makes it difficult for hackers to access your online accounts. Many financial institutions require two-step authentication to access applications or portals. If your provider offers this as an option, it’s wise to activate it. Also set up two-factor authentication for any other accounts or portals that contain financial information, including emails and cloud storage.
- Monitor your accounts
Regularly monitoring your financial accounts – at least once a week – may alert you to any suspicious activity and enable you to report it early. Using a private network to access your online accounts is also critical to help ensure your financial information remains secure.
- Deal directly with your provider
If someone claiming to be from your financial institution reaches out to you through email or over the phone asking for your account information to address a ‘problem’, it’s sensible to do a basic check regardless of how legitimate the request may seem. Experts suggest that users contact their provider directly instead of responding to the email or giving information to the caller.
- Use secure portals
If your financial provider has a client portal – or a secure online storage system – for keeping and sharing digital documents, take advantage of it. Using a secure portal provides a level of security that may help protect your identity and personal information. Experts advise against relying on emails to share financial documents because of their vulnerability to attacks.
Cybercrimes will not go away – they will only grow in sophistication. But you may keep hackers and phishers at bay by increasing the security of your personal data, especially your financial information.