The Best Ways to Protect Your Financial Apps from Hackers

The frequent  hacking of corporate websites has resulted in additional measures by majorcorporations to protect personal customer data. In 2015, a total of 781 companies experienced data breaches from professional hackers stealing information about millions of consumers. While only a small percentage of financial companies experienced hacks, the total number doubled between 2014 and 2015, indicating a rising problem for the industry.

Major companies have large budgets and can afford to pump millions of dollars to prevent the theft of data. For example, in 2016, Bank of America spent around 400-million-dollars to keep account information secure. JP Morgan Chase increased their budget from 250 to 500 million after hackers stole personal data from 83 million accounts.Smaller startups are not as fortunate, which can leave your data vulnerable from the corporate side:Blippy, a financial app allowing users to share personal information, accidentally leaked user information to Google in 2010, forcing it to shut down a year later. When customer’s experience a corporate data breach they are twice as likely to experience account fraud, then those with accounts not involved with a breach.

It is more common for hackers to trick consumers into disclosing personal data, than major data breaches, which make the nightly news. Consumers inadvertently divulging personal information to a thief, who then uses the stolen data to take money from the consumer or open fraudulent accounts.

Here’s 10smart ways to protect your financial accounts and reduce the chances of losing money to internet thieves.

  • Choose your resources wisely. It costs money to develop and maintain web applications. Free apps may not have the security measures required to keep your information safe. Critically evaluate an app before downloading to ensure they take appropriate measures to keep your information secure. Identify companies backing or connected with the free app to ensure they have the resources for frequent updates and proper security.
  • Don’t skip the fine print. No one wants to read the miniature print detailing the app processes. However, in the fine print are the details regarding security measures taken to protect yourinformation.
  • Evaluate the apps, security certificates. Security certificates displayed on the website indicate that the app passes minimum standards of the certificate company. The SSL and PCI signs apply to a websites payment processes. Certifications such as FFIEC and TRUSTe are privacy seal programs, which examine the steps a company takes to protect personal data.
  • 3rd party validation matters. It is one thing for a company to say they take certain security measures to create a secure site and another to have processes in place to ensure those processes occur consistently. Third party verification provides a second layer of checks and balances to ensure the company does what it commits to doing when it comes to website and app security.
  • Longer log-ins are your friend. Encrypting data from your computer, tablet,or smartphone to a corporate server takes time. It requires complicated coding to ensure hackers cannot intercept data in the transfer process. The more encryption a company uses, the longer the log-in process. For example, it takes longer to login to a banking app than a social media app, because of the increased encryption process.
  • Insist on 2-factor authenticationsand be patient with verifications. Secure websites and apps use multiple forms of authentication to protect accounts from hackers. The process commonly includes requiring two pieces of personal information in the form of a username and password, before allowing you to gain account access. Frequently,the verification process extends to other practices many consumers find annoying, but lead to higher levels of protection. Practices often include requiring additional security questions when logging in from an unrecognized device to send a verification code to a trusted email or phone numberand add to your security by stopping fraudulent transactions. Notifications for questionable spending can create false alarms, but are effective at reducing account fraud. Installing tracking appswhich notify you of any account activity, can help you recognize unauthorized transactions in real time.
  • Keep your guard up for phishing. The practice of thieves sending notifications informing you of data breaches, locked accounts, and other events needing immediate attention are a common way to trick consumers. You click on the link and give the thief access to your information. The link will typically either download malware allowing the thief to track your online activity or send you to a website appears to be the company you do business with and gather log-in information when you sign-in. Go directly to the website, if you need to verify your account standing, rather than clicking on the link.
  • Use different passwords. Financial companies and online shopping websites typically spend more on security than other non-financial apps and websites. However, consumers tend to use the same usernames and passwords for all accounts. Using the same password across accounts allows hackers to gain access to your financial accounts by hacking non-financial websites, which they then use the user ID and password to gain access to financial information. It is a good practice to use two different sets of passwords for financial and non-financial accounts along with frequent password changes.
  • Avoidaccess to financial apps or websites on public networks. Public Wi-Fi is not a secure place to access financial accounts. Even taking a minute to check a balance before making a purchase using the store's free Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to hackers because the data sent from your phone to the website is not encrypted. Anyone with rudimentary hacking skills can see and steal your information along with user ID and passwords.
  • Keep systems updated. Hackers are constantly changing methods, requiring companies to issue security patches to current systems. Keeping browsers and apps current will reduce the vulnerability to the account.

Large financial companies spend millions of dollars each year to reduce data breaches. However, you must also take steps to protect your data from cyber thieves, which could lead to financial losses.

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