Today’s controversy over whether banks should compensate fraud victims who have failed to protect themselves properly online raises some interesting issues. (read more here) Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Met Police, has said that the public are ‘being rewarded’ for bad behaviour with regards to online security, and need incentives to update anti-virus software and create stronger passwords. He suggested that lax online security is akin to leaving your front door open and then bleating when your house gets burgled.
In answer to his comments, various interest groups have responded by saying it should be up to the banks and the police to protect people from online fraud. The consumer group Which? has said the banks have been slow to step up security measures, whilst Saga suggested that keeping up with banking scams can be a full time job for individuals and so reducing them should be a priority for the banks.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments, you should always keep your online banking as secure as possible. There are two key ways to do this:
- use a strong password, including upper and lower case letters, numbers and other characters (e.g. * or !), and change it regularly – once or twice a year if you can. Don’t use the same password for all your online accounts and if you must keep a record of passwords, write them in a notebook and tuck it away somewhere – no-one can hack into your desk drawer.
- make sure your anti-virus software is up to date – this could be already built in to your computer or it could be a third party software such as Avast or McAfee. Find more about this subject here
If you use a banking app on your phone this will have at least two layers of security to prevent hacking; we had some input from Nick, one of our Tipsters, about his online banking; he has two accounts, one personal with Nationwide and a business one with Barclays:
“I registered for online banking with both banks. The process takes a while and is different with both banks, but it’s not difficult. I also downloaded apps from both banks and registered them on my iPhone. Both banks give you a card reader which means to set up new arrangements, payments for example, you need to use a debit card with your computer. Both banks need two levels of security – a passcode and a unique user number supplied by the bank.
“But I have to say I am very happy with the service. In fact, it’s revolutionised banking for me. Apart from paying in cheques, I now never have to go to the bank or phone them or even bother storing paper bank statements. I very rarely use my computer for banking now. It’s all done on my phone. I can check balances easily – Nationwide will allow you a quick balance check without even logging into the app which is really useful. And of course, like most people my iPhone is locked behind a passcode. Although even if it wasn’t, the only thing anyone could access would be my balance. To open the full app on your phone, Barclays needs a five number code and Nationwide asks for three random numbers from a six number code.
“With both apps you can make payments to people or companies you have already registered and you can view your regular outgoing payments – standing orders and direct debits – and adjust or cancel them. I’ve found it hugely useful and time saving. It allows me to be in touch with my finances whenever I want.
“And with contactless payments I find I’m rarely even using cash! So no more standing at cashpoints either.”
The banks want us to use online banking because it’s cheaper and more profitable for them, so it’s in their interest to make it safe and secure for us.
On balance I tend to agree with Which? and Saga, but the chief constable does have a point, and why take the risk? If you need a few more pointers about staying safe online, you could always ask a Tipster to help you out.