Financial Cybersecurity: Protecting Yourself Off and Online

Security - PC Online Chip - Sandy Spring Bank

Every morning my phone alarm wakes me up. I go to the fridge, programmed with the latest weather report, to grab some water. I drive to work mostly effortlessly thanks in large part to the microchips living inside it, and then I spend the day working, feeding information into a computer which is then spread to the world through a series of wires and light. My life just doesn’t include technology, it is defined by it and I’m certainly not the odd man out here.

We all live nearly completely immersed in a web of tech that seems more science fiction than reality at times. And we’ve accepted this because of the amazing things those transistors and microchips can do for us, how they absolutely have made life easier and more enjoyable than at any other time in world history. That being said, there are some drawbacks and a few dangers to this world of tech of which we all need to be mindful, especially when it comes to our money. Today we’re sharing some of those major threats as well as how to enhance your own financial cybersecurity posture.

Protecting yourself online 

Exploring the internet is probably what most of us think of when we consider cybersecurity, and with good reason. Although the benefits to taking part in the online world are many, there are just as many dangers. Here are some easy ways to enhance your security online.

Strong passwords
These are an important part of online security that too many people disregard. Simply said, a strong password should not be able to be guessed. This means no birthdays or pet names, but rather a random assortment of lower and upper case letters, numbers and special characters. There are a number of apps available to not only help you generate strong passwords, but to keep track of them as well.

Trust but verify
No one wants to live in constant fear of something bad happening, but a little bit of caution, especially online, is important. Look out for phishing scams - fraudulent emails designed to trick you into disclosing private information. Never click on a link or open email attachments from unfamiliar accounts unless you can verify that they're legitimate.

Keep everything up to date
Yes, updating those operating systems can be a pain, but they're a critical part of keeping us safe. In addition to those new emoji, updates patch security holes and enhance what is already in place. It's the same with apps, which may be even more important to keep up to date depending on what information you've shared. 

Be smart
This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Just as it's important to be aware of one's surroundings when out and about, the same holds true for the online world. That starts with using a VPN to secure and encrypt your data. When shopping online, only use secure sites (look for https and the tiny lock next to the web address) and resist the temptation to save credit card information on the app itself. Finally, if it doesn't feel right then it probably isn't and you should remove yourself immediately.

Cybersecurity in the physical world

Financial cybersecurity doesn’t end at the keyboard’s edge. It manifests even when we’re out in the real world, which means you need to stay just as vigilant.

Try not to visit ATMs in areas that aren’t well lit at night and if there aren’t other people around. When approaching the ATM look for skimming devices or tacky residue on the machine. Skimmers are how thieves intercept your card data and can be hard to miss at first, so be cautious. Never tell anyone your password, even if your bank calls asking for it. Sandy Spring Bank will never call and ask for your password, so if this happens please alert local authorities, and Sandy Spring Bank immediately. 

Your mobile device (phone)

  • At the very least make sure your phone's passcode lock is switched to on. The use of face ID is even better. Also, change your passcode on a regular basis.
  • This bears repeating, but make sure the operating system and apps are up to date.
  • Make sure you wipe your device completely before selling or donating it.
  • Public WiFi isn't normally secure so make sure not to do anything involving personal information. An easy way around this is to use a VPN app to safeguard your phone-based communications.
  • Be aware of how accessible your screen is to others. If you do have to log into a site or share sensitive information, do so in a spot where no one can look over your shoulders.

While nothing is ever 100%, these are some great first steps in better protecting yourself online, and even offline. We're here to help, so please let us know if you see any unusual activity on your account statements or suspect fraudulent activity.

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This publication does not constitute legal, accounting or other professional advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material.