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November 22, 2016

5 Steps to Maximize Your Online Financial Data Protection

Online banking has made falling in line to pay bills and deposit money a thing of the past. However, putting your personal information out on the internet can put your identity and money at risk. Some cyber criminals do random people search while looking for their next prey—and without you knowing it, that next victim could be you. Don’t worry; there are ways to protect your financial data from situations like this.

But first, let us find out who might be searching for you:

Types of Cyber Criminals
     Identity thieves use other people’s credit card, banking, or personal details for their own gain or for the organization that hired them.
     Social engineers come up with schemes to retrieve personal information from you. This may be in the form of fake websites or links that download malware onto your device.
     Hacker organizations manipulate codes to gain unauthorized access to a computer. They may be hired by companies to hack into other systems for their own gain or even just to test their own security systems.
     Email phishers send unsolicited emails asking for a donation or offering you a bargain in exchange for your personal information and bank account or credit card details.
     Insiders are people within the organization who are hired to give out classified information about the company’s system.
     Carders sell and disseminate stolen credit and debit card information.
     Fraud system providers give cyber criminals server support.
Now that you know who your enemies are, here are two major online financial data crimes you should watch out for:

Banking Credentials Theft

Using online banking sites and apps makes you susceptible to this kind of crime. Scammers usually come up with a website that is almost identical to your online banking page to get you to enter your banking details.
They may also use malware that crawls through your online banking app to get all your private information without your knowledge and consent. 
Ransom-ware Attacks

There are many types of ransomware, but their targets are the sameusually files with .tax2013 and .tax2014 extensions used by tax management programs. Ransomware is usually circulated as a suspicious-looking Word document that is passed on through email. Once this document is opened, the virus automatically encrypts your tax data and demands for payment as a sort of ransom to unlock them.
5 Steps to Protect Your Financial Data Online
1. Mind the details of the site you are transacting on.

To avoid becoming a victim of phishing and bank credentials theft, double-check the URL of the login page you are on, especially if you accessed this by clicking on a link sent to you through email by someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card company. Better yet, verify the identity of the sender first by using a people search site like MyLife. Aside from checking the URL, watch out also for discrepancies within the site’s layout. There are details that these fake websites will fail on replicating like banner design, color, and the like.
2. Show hidden file extensions.

One way to check if a file poses risks to your computer is by looking at its file extension. Windows hide file extensions and reveals only the filename by default. Keep yourself on guard for possible threats to your financial data, and enable seeing the extensions of your files.

     .VB, .VBS
     .WS, .WSF
     .INF –
And unless it’s from a trusted source, be extra careful with files of the following extensions:
3. Make sure your Remote Desktop Protocol is disabled.

Ransomware can access your computer when the Remote Desktop Protocol is turned on. If you keep important financial records in your system, it is best to just turn off this feature altogether and use another file sharing system.
4. Block emails with double file extension.

If your mail server gives you the option to filter files by extension, consider blocking emails that have two file extensions with .EXE as the last one or any mail with .EXE in it. Malware usually comes in this form, so if you have sensitive financial information in your computer, it is better to just deny mails containing files with this extension altogether.

But if you really have to send and receive executable files, just do it through ZIP or through secured cloud services instead. It is safer that way.

5. Disable macros in Microsoft Office files.

Scripts are used to automate action in an executable file. When you disable macros in Microsoft Office files, you also prevent the use of this scripting language so that the operation of the malware and virus will not be completed. This means less chances of malware from infecting your valuable files.

These tips may appear too cumbersome, as it requires certain changes in the way you share and store financial data on your computer, but the peace of mind knowing that all your sensitive and valuable information are safe and secure from hackers more than makes up for the trouble. 
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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