Safety Tips for Net-Banking

Malaika Naidu

From immediate money transfers to quick online payments, there are many perks to online banking. It comes as no surprise that India, and the world, is becoming increasingly comfortable with online banking. However, with so many people going online to manage their money, threats have arisen at an even faster rate. Hackers and cybercriminals are better equipped to commit financial fraud with these increased vulnerabilities. So, you need to be better protected and prepared for the consequences.

Don’t resign yourself to a world of unsafe banking. And obviously, you can’t move away from it because honestly, it’s convenient and super-efficient. Also, it reduces our carbon footprint by removing all the paper that would otherwise be required in traditional transactions. Now, let’s learn how you can protect your money.
Here are some simple online-banking security tips you can practice to increase your data protection and money security.

1) Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi networks or shared networks have reduced security and are not remotely as encrypted as your home networks or mobile data. Hackers and cyber criminals work at exploiting exactly these network vulnerabilities. And once they gain access, your data is as good as gone.

2) Verify the URL for “https”

This should become a practice in general when browsing online. Always, always, ALWAYS look for ‘https’ when doing online money transactions, along with the little lock icon in the beginning of the URL bar / website address bar. This means the website is encrypted and converts data into undecipherable content before sharing over the internet. So, if a hacker/cyber-criminal intercepts the data, they won’t be able to make sense of it.

3) Automatic Login is Like Begging to be Hacked!

Automatic login, though not recommended, it still okay for your social media accounts, e-commerce accounts like Amazon, streaming platforms like Netflix, but it is a DEFINITE NO for anything to do with finances. For any online transactions, make sure the browser isn’t automatically saving your data, even on your personal devices!

4) Email and Text Scams

Your bank will NEVER call you for any private details like ATM PIN and net banking password. Even to verify your account, your bank will only ask you for details like your phone number and birth date, maybe address at best. Be wary of such phishing attacks. Any notification for a free iPhone or a lottery in exchange for bank details should be deleted and forgotten. And if you do make a mistake, immediately notify your bank!

5) Strong Password. STRONG Password.

At this point, we’re starting to sound like parrots. Or stuck tape recorders. Anything you do online should have a strong password. Anything you do online with money should have a password stronger than Hercules + Zeus + The Avengers + Wonder Woman too!
Remember, a strong password doesn’t have to be complicated. It just needs a little effort. Apart from alpha-numeric with symbols, mix it up with uncommon words or use languages other than English. It’s really time we smarten up.

6) Banking Apps and Websites

Though the market has apps and websites that offer to control all your bank accounts using a single platform, don’t take them up on their offer! Some of these apps may even be verified, but their encryption and safety standards will never compare to the bank’s own app/website. Banking should be done only and solely on the verified application or website of the concerned bank.   

7) Turn off Bluetooth and Hotspot

Using these features reduces your encryption ever so slightly to allow easier connectivity. Though marginally, your phone is more vulnerable than it would otherwise be when these are switched off. Especially if you’re in a café or any place where there are many open channels. You can always turn them back on after you have finished your online banking.

8) Check your Account Statement

Check your account statement as regularly as you check your mail / Facebook / Instagram or whatever else. It takes about 3 minutes to open the banking app and just glance at the last 4-5 transactions. If anything seems odd or suspicious, immediately verify with your bank. It is better to be safe than sorry!

9) Be Vigilant

If you’re using your laptop, never conduct banking transactions with multiple tabs running simultaneously. On your mobile, close all apps before launching your banking app. And this goes without saying but – do NOT leave your laptop or phone unattended with any banking apps / websites open. In fact, if you’re going to walk away from your laptop / mobile, always lock the screen!

In the unfortunate circumstance that you are a victim of any financial fraud despite all the steps discussed above, here’s what you can do.

Reach out to your bank immediately. In the case of online banking, they will immediately lock your account till further notice. If it’s an issue with cards, they will disable the cards immediately. Next, file a complaint (FIR) with the nearest police station. If it’s a cybercrime issue, the police station is obligated to forward your case to the cyber cell. If the police station refuses to take your complaint and pushes you to go to the cyber cell yourself, stand your ground and insist on the FIR. However, if you want, you can file a case with both.

But, don’t depend on these systems to ensure you will get your money back. It is always better to prevent crime altogether. Small precautions can go a long way in protecting your money.
Do you have any cases you would like to share with us?

Aadhar + Social Media > Privacy?

Antony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy were until recently unknown names in the field of law. Then they went to town questioning our very understanding of privacy.

They filed PILs in the Madras High Court asking for authentication of identity on social media. Their reason – to curb cyberbullying and instances of defamatory posts on social media.

Their demand? That Aadhar be linked to people’s social media profiles.

Advocate General K K Venugopal appeared on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government in the Supreme Court and presented this demand as a solution to curbing fake news and defamatory, anti-national and terror-sponsoring articles and porn on social media.

Social media giant Facebook has taken a stand against the motion. No surprises there. Facebook claims that such linking will violate users’ privacy. It has also said that it will be impossible for it to share Aadhar over Whatsapp as the platform has end-to-end encryption and that even Facebook cannot access it.

So, what happens if the Court grants this petition? It may mean the end of privacy on social media. It may also very well lead the way to a drastic drop in online defamatory posts, rumour mongering, anti-national posts etc. Social media platforms across the board may overnight become powerful tools for surveillance.

Then, there are the approximately 10 crore “niraadhars” of India. Those who have not registered for Aadhar. What happens to them? Do their social media accounts get disabled?

Whatever the decision of the apex court, this petition has certainly raised some important privacy vs. cybercrime considerations.

What would your decision be? We’d love to hear what you have to say about this. Do share your views with us!

Best Practices to Protect your Mobile Phone

Malaika Naidu

We all know that cybercrime is a reality and it only growing with every passing day. With the deep penetration of smartphones into major markets across the world, we’re becoming walking-talking targets with high vulnerabilities. Interestingly, we all buy anti-viruses for our laptops and computers immediately after purchasing the device, yet we go our whole lives without protecting our phones.

That too, in 2019, when most of our online interactions happen through our phones. All the sensitive information on our phones such as images, contacts, banking details, email, etc, are just waiting to be compromised. To top it off, this includes GPS data, phone cameras and mics that can be remotely turned on!
You might think that all that can happen is photo leaks or financial fraud through banking apps. But, it’s no longer that simple. With the development in technology, cyber-criminals have also become more efficient, competent and destructive. Such as using your location for stalking!

Some examples of cybercrimes today are cyber-stalking, data leaks, bullying, identity theft and even revenge porn. On a macroscopic level, terrorist organisations regularly use the darknet to communicate. Over the last few years, we have seen some of the largest terrorist organisations using gaming chat rooms to communicate with each other!

Can you completely prevent cybercrime? Absolutely not.
Can you reduce your vulnerability? Easily! Here are some possible measures:

1. Yes, you need a passcode!

You don’t need to get complicated with the pattern and turn it into a maze, but also avoid pins of repetitive numbers like 1111 or the standard diamond shape 2486. Now, a passcode can be bypassed. However, it takes a little bit of skill and time. You don’t need to make the criminal’s job any easier by not even using a passcode!

2. Credit Card and Phone Bill

Regularly check both. Check right now. And then again three days from today. Since these transaction updates come on SMS, we tend to miss notifications because most of us avoid SMSs and only look at them for OTPs. Now with telecom companies starting online wallets, it’s another added vulnerability. Criminals can charge services to your phone number which will reflect directly in your bill amount.

3. Did you read the reviews before downloading that app?

Yes, we understand you really needed that photo editing app. And that game to kill time in meetings. But did you do your due diligence before downloading the application to your phone? Before installing, scroll down and always check the reviews. Then do a quick Google search to make sure no news hits turn up with negative reviews. Apps from untrusted sources often have malware that gets downloaded along with the app. Such malware can steal information, install viruses or even give mirror access to criminals!

4. Wipe-out Old Phones

Short of dipping an old phone in bleach, you need to clean out every single bit of information before selling, recycling or donating an old phone. Factory reset the phone twice if required and make sure you do not forget the memory card inside the phone. Don’t let anyone convince you that they will do it. When the phone leaves your possession, it should feel like a brand-new phone, the scratches aside of course.

5. Security Apps and Anti-Viruses

Security apps scan every app you download for malware/spyware and protect your internet browsing. Some apps even allow anti-theft systems like erasing data if the phone is notified as stolen. Anti-viruses keep tweaking their algorithms to constantly battle threats. Remember, your job is to make it as tedious and difficult as possible for the cyber-criminal to get into your phone!

6. Always, ALWAYS report a stolen phone

File a FIR with your local police station and inform your network provider immediately. Why the police? If the phone is used in any illegal activities, it will not be traced back to you as you have declared the phone out of your possession. Why the network provider? On your request, they will disable your sim, making it impossible for the thief to use the phone for any communication. (Your security app will help prevent him from making any use of the phone itself!)

7. No Net Banking with Strangers!

Really? This should not have to be said to begin with. But please! Do not do any money transactions with unknown individuals. And now with UPI, cybercriminals need even fewer details to commit financial fraud. Remember, as technology and the internet make our lives easier, they also make a criminal’s life easier!

8. STAY UPDATED!!!

On everything. The latest cybercrime threats. The latest software to prevent hacking and viruses. The latest internet scams. The latest malicious apps. Everything. And if your phone prompts an update for the operating software, do it immediately!

Now, if all this seems like too much effort, you can just stop using a phone! Go back to one of those Nokia moonlight type phones. Impossible, right? Then accept reality and act on these 8 very simple steps. Recognise the threat and prepare yourself as best as you can.

Reduce your vulnerability!