Electronic Banking: Do You Do It Safely?

Security Chain Lock KeyboardIf you don’t transact business with your bank online—and never plan to…don’t waste your time reading this article. However, if you check your savings or checking account balance, pay bills, or apply for a loan online…keep reading.

Warning! Safe online banking may cost you some money. And you will probably need to change some ways you use computers in your home. If you’re still with me…keep reading.

  • You must use a dedicated computer for your online banking. One that’s not used for anything else. Especially surfing the Internet. You see, the best and most probable way to become infected with a banking-related malware such as ZeuS, is to visit a site that will inject itself onto your computer with the sole goal in life of draining your savings, checking, and credit card accounts. Once on your computer, ZeuS and other malware have the ability to transfer funds from your accounts instantly and without your knowledge. This dedicated computer could be an old one that’s sitting in the closet, or it could be your current desktop, sitting in the spare bedroom, that you don’t use very much now that you have your wireless laptop to use in the den. Or…worst case is that you buy a new computer to use to surf the net—you’ve probably had your eye on a new one anyway. Spending money on a new computer in order to have one dedicated electronic banking is like taking out an insurance policy. The amount to purchase the new machine is going to be a small price to pay compared to losing all your available funds in your bank accounts…you get the picture.
  • Dedicated means dedicated!! Don’t let your spouse or your children use it to surf the net; or for anything else, for that matter. It should be used only for online banking—period.

Here are some additional tips from SANS.org that should also help keep your online banking safer.

Safe eBanking Tips

  • Keep your dedicated computer out of reach, or even better, under lock and key
  • Set a strong password for the Administrator account
  • Create a second account that has limited privileges and always use this account for your online banking
  • Contact your computer support provider for information about how to add, remove and change user accounts
  • Turn your dedicated computer off when not in use to help prevent network-based intrusions
  • Keep the operating system secure by applying patches and updates promptly
  • Don’t scrimp on security software; install a good-quality security suite and keep it updated
  • Never use a wireless connection for online banking
  • Use a strong password for your online banking account, and do not use that password anywhere else (Strong password tips: http://www.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issue/201002.pdf)

By the way, if you suspect your bank account has been compromised or spot any activity you have not authorized, follow these guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission:
– Notify your bank and credit card companies immediately
– Close all affected accounts
– Notify the major credit reporting agencies
– File a report with the Federal Trade Commission
– File a report with the police

The existence of malware like ZeuS that will relieve you of your hard-earned money is real. In fact, organized cybercrime groups have begun selling this type of malware to any crook with a few hundred dollars. That means there will be more instances of ZeuS on the Internet…and greater possibility of infection. Do whatever is necessary to protect yourself, including coming up with a dedicated online banking computer…it’s worth it.

Be very careful…it’s dangerous out there.

Please comment on this subject; we all learn from each other when our views and opinions are shared.

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Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it safe, productive and enjoyable.

Best regards,





Filed under home computing, How-To Corner, Internet, security

5 responses to “Electronic Banking: Do You Do It Safely?

  1. Pingback: Zeus Trojan…With A Twist | Paul's Internet Security Blog

  2. Mal

    Hi Paul,
    I disagree with you on some points. I think your advice is perfect for less tech savvy people. In my case, I’ve been using online banking for about ten years and have never had a problem. In recent times, to beef up my security, I always surf the web in virtualization mode, using Wondershare Time Freeze. The only time the computer is connected to the net without WTF on is to update security apps, and to do online banking. I have not even had a whiff of infection since starting this practice. And I ALWAYS have security protection on, even in virtualization mode.
    Not everyone has the money to have two computers. But, like I said, your advice is spot on for less experienced users.

    • Mal,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I understand and also surf with virtualization. Many, not all, of my readers are “less tech savvy” and I tend to write in a way that can be understood by the least tech savvy. I also tend to write about the solutions with the least technical barriers to those folks. In other words, many of them would not use a virtualized environment. Hmmm, I think I feel an article on virtualization coming soon. Thanks for your insight…and for stopping by.

  3. Regarding a strong password… I use http://www.passwordcake.com. It’s a web app that gives me a strong password that is also easy to remember — absolutely love it.

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