I get asked a lot if online banking is safe. “Well,” I say, “that depends on what else you do with your computer.” Usually, after that, I get a blank stare.
It's very true, though. When you go to an ATM, do you hide your PIN number from the person behind you? Do you hide how much money you've withdrawn? Do you glance around to make sure no one is watching you at the machine? These are all valid questions, if you're out and about and stop at a public ATM. They are also valid questions if you're banking online.
Is your antivirus up to date? If it isn't you may have someone watching you. Are you on a public WiFi network? Same thing goes. Even worse, are you on a computer other than your own? Bad, bad, bad.
The odd thing is, most people who ask me if online banking is safe are more worried about the encryption levels of the banks than of their own machines. Most banks won't let you log on to their online banking sites unless you have 128 bit encryption. That's a lot of numbers to crack if you're a typical user who's trying to gain access to your account information. A standard home computer woud take over 3 trillion years to crack that code. Considering the universe is only 15 or 20 billion years old, you can consider yourself safe from all but the most determined groups.
But, a machine that has been compromised by a key logging program is very vulnerable. Systems on public networks are susceptible to what's called packet sniffers. The dangers associated with online banking will come from your own machine before the banks' servers.
Be careful with your online business. Make sure your antivirus is up to date and stay away from public networks or computers when banking and all will be fine – just like when you use an ATM.
Thanks for reading!
Until next week, I'm Computer Dave
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