Nowadays, shopping and performing all kinds of financial transactions is significantly easier than it was a few decades ago, mostly thanks to the marvels of the Internet. A lot of people have even turned to online shopping when handling their groceries, and as services such as Amazon are continuing to include more and more free shipping programs, this is slowly becoming the default way in which people purchase. Additionally, now there are fantastic apps for handling our bank accounts from our smartphones (via the Internet, of course), so waiting in a long line at the bank just to make a small transfer is pretty much a thing of the past.
However, as useful as this might be, you need to be aware of the dangers of handling your finances in this way. As you probably already know, it’s very easy to obtain information over the Internet, and while this is a good thing most of the time, it also means that if you’re not careful, cyber criminals can get their hands on your financial credentials. There are several ways in which you can protect yourself from such a scenario, and today I’m going to be talking about some of them.
Careful with Public Networks
I highly recommend against carrying out any kind of financial transaction while you’re connected to a public network. The reason behind this is the fact that public networks are considered to be much less secure than your home network, primarily because there is usually a large number of people connected to the network at the same time. This gives hackers a much shorter route to your device and compromises your overall security, making it easier for them to get their hands on any information you tend to transmit over the Internet. So, whether it’s online shopping or checking your bank account, refrain from doing so over a public network for your own good.
Strengthen Your Passwords
Sadly, most people nowadays choose convenience over security when it comes to passwords. This means that they choose a single password that’s easy to remember and then they use it on virtually every online account they possess. Neither of these is a good idea, as once again it makes the hacker’s job much easier in every respect, and once they figure out your single, insecure password, they potentially have access to all of your accounts.
An ideal password is not your home address, your phone number or your wife’s birthday, but rather a completely random set of numbers, letters and symbols that hackers won’t be able to guess. It’s also very important to have a unique password for every account, so that even in the event that your password is cracked, it doesn’t mean that you lose access to every account you have.
You might think that prepaid, debit cards are outdated technology, but the truth is that they are the best way to protect yourself from the nasty consequences that an online leak of your financial credentials can cause you. The basic idea I’m proposing here is to never actually use your regular credit card when shopping for stuff online.
Instead, grab an anonymous, prepaid credit card and simply transfer a small amount of money to it, and then use that card for all your online shopping needs. That way, even if something does happen, your credit card credentials get leaked and you lose all the money on the card, you’ll only lose what you transferred – you won’t give the criminal access to your primary fund, and that’s your safety net.
Enhance Security with a VPN
Your bank account is only as safe as the connection you’re using to access it, which is why running a VPN on your device is one of the best ways to ensure some additional encryption and significantly reduce the chances of someone stealing your financial information. Once you’re connected to a VPN, all of your traffic is split into packets and encrypted, which makes it much harder for a third party to monitor your Internet activity.
Michael Conley is a digital security specialist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he has been writing for 9to5alternatives.com since 2013. Besides computer programming, his passions in life are winemaking, old movies and playing the saxophone.