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Five Tips For Protecting Your Online Bank Accounts
Asher Hawkins, Forbes Magazine

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Banking online can make your life a lot easier, but it can also give hackers a gateway to your savings. This is especially true for small-business owners. Federal regulations require banks to protect individuals, but not commercial clients, against losses from an online savings account hack. With more and more entrepreneurs treating their personal and business online accounts as one and the same, small-business owners are starting to incur some heavy losses. (For more about the problem, check out "Is Your Online Bank Account Safe?")

At the same time, hackers who target online accounts--security experts believe the vast majority of them are located in Russian-speaking countries--have been seriously elevating their game. Their latest innovation is to hide viruses on high-traffic Web sites. These viruses latch on to unsuspecting users, and allow their nefarious creators to see everything victims are doing online. Here's a list of tips for protecting your online accounts.

The Banking-Only Laptop
Either buy a new laptop for cheap or take one of your old ones to your local computer repair store and have its contents erased. This will be your transaction terminal. Don't use it for e-mailing, instant messaging, or whatever Internet browsing you typically do. The only thing you'll use it for will be checking your online bank account or making credit card purchases on secure sites. This will greatly reduce the chance you'll pick up a virus that will infect your online financial activities.

Mind Those Askew Logos
Keep an eye out for new features in your bank's online system. Does the logo seem out of place? Is the system asking you for seemingly irrelevant information, like your driver's license number? Signs like these could indicate a hacker is manipulating your browser and you're not actually interacting with your bank.

Be Wary of E-mailed Links
Don't click on an e-mailed link unless you've confirmed it's safe. Hackers have evolved from the days of placing viruses in spam for erectile dysfunction pills and get-rich-quick schemes. Recently, a virulent e-mail has been floating around that appears to come from the Internal Revenue Service.

Hold on to that Mac
Hackers generally design viruses that infect systems running on Windows; it's not because they hate PCs, it's because there are more PC users. Security experts say avoiding PCs won't actively shield you from picking up a virus, but--at least for the time being--Apple users seem to be less at risk of becoming victims.

Have Your Bank Personalize Your Security Controls
Some banks, including Citibank, let customers limit their online capabilities so that actions like international wire transfer orders can only be done in person. Disabling the online banking features you don't really need gives hackers fewer ways to loot your account.

( Courtesy: Forbes Magazine )



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