Six steps to protect your money from cyber thieves

Cyber criminals have been infiltrating bank security systems in the past few years. While you cannot stop cyber attacks on financial institutions, you can protect yourself by following these six steps to keep your financial information safe online.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Employees and interns work at a cyber security company, on January 12, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. While you cannot stop cyber attacks on financial institutions, you can protect yourself by following these six steps to keep your financial information safe online.

Since 2013, cyber criminals have been pulling off what amounts to the largest bank heist in history — hitting at least 100 banks across the globe. During this two-year period, cyber criminals released malicious software targeting bank employees that allowed them to infiltrate bank security systems. The undetected malware resulted in the theft of $1 billion stolen directly from banks.

Cyber attackers like these and others are at large, and while there's nothing you can do to stop attacks on financial institutions, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and ensure the financial data you share over the Internet is kept safe. Don't compromise your financial transactions. Take these steps to keep cyber thieves at bay and keep your money safe.

1. Use a Separate Computer for Financial Transactions

One of the safest measures you can take to protect your finances is to use a designated computer when accessing investment accounts. Cyber criminals steal your information using programs that only you can give them access to — when you click on an infected download, advertisement, e-mail, photo, or attachment.

Use a designated device like the Google Chromebook that only connects to Internet. They're inexpensive — around $200 — and are a good option for managing your finances online.

2. Install Malware Scanners

Install an Internet security program, like Kaspersky Internet Security Safe Money Technology, to clean up your machine and systematically scan and remove potential new threats before they corrupt your system.

3. Use Unique Usernames and Passwords

Create highly unique usernames and passwords, and change them periodically. Choose a password with six or more characters comprised of both upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. And as an added precaution, make a habit of changing your password every 60–90 days.

4. Monitor Transactions

It's a wise decision to sit down every so often and review your financial statements for errors or suspicious activity. Try to do so at least once a month, even if you have not initiated a transaction and don't expect activity on your account.

5. Get Security Alerts

Sign-up for security alerts — receive notifications when there's unusual activity for a wide variety of activities, including wire transfers, new-account setups, foreign transactions, and changes in bill payee information.

6. Use Two-Factor Authentication

In addition to your username and password, some major financial institutions offer two-factor authentication, which prompts you to enter an additional verification code when accessing your accounts. Choose this option whenever it's available.

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