Rewarding bad banking behaviour

Dilbert_Bank_PhishingToday’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:

Nationwide app“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.

contactless payment“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.

 

Weak wi-fi woes

wifi-home-networkIt can be so disappointing – after a long day, you’re looking forward to catching up with the episode of The Night Manager you missed last week, only to find that you can’t get a wi-fi signal in the room you’ve set up as your TV snug at the top of the house.

We get a lot of requests for help to improve wi-fi signals at home – home networks can get quite congested with kids streaming things on their iPads, gaming and home-working, not to mention the tall houses in London that mean routers can struggle to push signals to the furthest reaches of your home. So, what to do about it? Is it possible to boost a weak wi-fi at home? Of course it is. And as with all things technical, there are many options – some simple, some needing a bit more effort and cash.

Here’s a few things you can try yourself.

Move, it, baby!

router

While routers are hardly eye candy, they shouldn’t be tucked behind cabinets or sofas. For the best wi-fi signal, routers should be placed in open spaces, where there are no obstructions or walls. If the router has antennae they should be positioned vertically. The higher and more central the router is located in the home, the better its coverage will be. And bear in mind wi-fi isn’t keen to compete with other electronic devices – particularly microwaves and cordless phones. And the signal will be weakened by thick walls, steel beams, washing machines and other low-tech realities of life. There are routers that are developing curved wi-fi signals, but let’s not go there yet!

Channel hopping

You may find in compact London that there are dozens of other wi-fi networks crowding your precious signal, so it might be worth changing the channel on your router to find one less crowded. This should give you a better chance to catch up with that episode of The Night Manager whilst the kids are battling online monsters on their iPads.

Power (line) to the people

wireless_home_2010Search Amazon for ‘wi-fi booster’ and you’ll find dozens of items for sale, starting around the £20 mark. And probably the easiest of these gems to use are power line adapters. We particularly like the Devolo wifi range – they’re a bit more expensive but super-easy to set up. These clever little devices use the household wiring of your home to send the broadband signal around the house. Plug one into a socket near your router. Attach said router to the power-line adapter with an ethernet cable. Plug another power-line adaptor into a plug socket in your office eyrie and bob’s your uncle. Almost.

Of course, if you can’t fix woeful wi-fi yourself, just give us a quick call. Umair joined us as a Tipster in January; he’s our network expert, tempting your wi-fi signal to the very furthest corners of your house. He’s getting quite excited about the new curved wi-fi signals too!