Safe web browsing 101

Many banks and financial institutions are now encouraging their customers to self-serve themselves online. This means that you have likely had to log on to the web or use your phone at some point to manage your finances.

When you log on to your bank’s website with your username and password, your computer is packaging that information neatly into what we call data packets. Think of a data packet like a football. Your computer is the quarterback and the football containing your data gets thrown to the receiver. The problem with the internet is that there are lots of people who would love to steal your data. They can use your username and password to log into your account and take your money or steal your identity. Let’s look at how that’s done.

Using our football analogy, imagine that the field represents the internet and the other team represents hackers. As you throw the football they are constantly trying to intercept it and read what’s contained inside. Once they read your data they then pass the football to the receiver who doesn’t realize the data has been compromised. This is what is sometimes referred to as a “man in the middle” attack. So let’s look at how our web browsers combat that and what you can do to make sure your browser is up to date.

There are actually quite a few technologies that provide security while sending information along the web. One of the most common is called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Without getting too technical, encryption using these tools allow for you to put a padlock on the packet (our football) containing your data. Now when someone tries to open the packet to read your information, they won’t be able to understand it because it has been encrypted. This means that your computer and the bank’s computer have decided on how the data will be arranged and only the bank’s computer will be able to understand your information.

There are four things you can do to make sure that your computer is ready to go for secure internet browsing and banking.

1.) Make sure your operating system (Windows, Linux or Mac OS) has all the updates and security patches that are available.

2.) Have a great anti-virus suite and keep it updated.

3.) Make sure your web browser is up to date, including any plug-ins you may have installed.

4.) When browsing to financial websites, look to make sure you see “Https://” in the navigation bar. This will ensure that you are on a secure connection. Some browsers and sites will even have a lock symbol next to the web address to let you know you are on a secure connection.

Of course hackers will always be resilient and creative. While there isn’t a foolproof method for keeping them out of your data and wallet, taking these steps will help to ensure that you are protected.