By Sharry Ditzler, Chief Information Officer
With the increasing prevalence of online crime, it’s not a matter of if, but when you will be targeted by a cyberattack. Hackers have already exposed the personal information of more than 110 million Americans – nearly half of the nation’s adults – in the last 12 months. That’s why taking a stake in safeguarding your personal information is more important than ever.
Below we’ve compiled a few simple methods that will help our customers protect their personal information. Most people know the basics, (review your account statements regularly to monitor for suspicious activity, avoid using simple passwords, etc.), but the following tips will keep your hard-earned dollars out of the hands of hackers.
Securing Your Smartphone
Traditionally digital criminals have ignored smartphones, but that is changing as more and more banking gets done on-the-go. Threats to mobile software are growing dramatically, but many people don’t view their mobile device as a potential security vulnerability. The same people who are diligent at protecting their PCs ignore the attention their mobile devices are getting from hackers.
At a minimum, each smartphone should have a screen lock and a power-on password. Don’t store bank account information on your mobile device, and be mindful of conducting any banking transactions over unsecured wireless networks. It would also be wise to protect yourself further by keeping current on your smartphones operating system.
Keep Security Software Up-To-Date
There are many different types of malicious software, known as ‘malware’, that can potentially affect consumers, but the two types that are on the rise are ransomware and spyware. Ransomware allows a hacker to hold the data on a personal computer hostage until you pay hackers for access. Spyware is more subtle. It allows outsiders to capture information on your computer as you navigate the internet, including online banking passwords and account information.
Thankfully consumers don’t have to worry about protecting themselves from each individual type of attack. Antivirus software will protect against all of these types of threats, but only if it is activated, up to date and set to scan automatically at regular intervals. With the rate of change and new threats surfacing daily, it’s crucial to update your antivirus software with the latest security patches. This empowers your security software to not only block malicious attacks, but to flag suspicious emails, attachments and website links.
It used to be that spam and phishing scams were easily spotted due to their atrocious grammar and ridiculous promises (Nigerian princes, anyone?). If you’ve ever thought that there’s no way you’d fall for something similar, be especially cautious. These types of scams are getting far more sophisticated. Many hackers are relying on a technique called ‘social engineering’ where they learn about you from your social media accounts. This results in tailored messages to you that look like they are from friends and family, and abuse that trust to gain access to your systems. It’s believed that one out of every 233 emails you receive carries some kind of malicious code, it takes a great deal of diligence to protect yourself.
Most know to never open email attachments if you don’t know the sender, but it’s also necessary to be careful with forwarded messages from friends or coworkers. They might be unwittingly sharing malware. There isn’t a perfect solution, but trusting your instincts, being protective of your personal information, and relying on antivirus software will go a long way to protecting yourself from would-be fraudsters.
These are just a handful of tips to help protect you from malicious digital activity. The most important thing to know is that Washington Trust is doing everything possible to protect your information. Know that if you ever receive a suspicious call or email regarding your account, or if you notice unusual activity on your account, please contact us immediately. We’re here to help.
Sharry Ditzler serves as the Chief Information Officer for Washington Trust Bank and has guided the bank’s technology policies since 2012.
Washington Trust Bank