We all conduct financial business on our phones, laptops and tablets. At some point, you’ll probably need to conduct financial business on Wi-Fi, whether it’s checking your balance before a major purchase or depositing a check. So what can you do to keep your information safe?
Stay up-to-date: Enable automatic updates. Keep your operating system updated, whether you use a mobile device, laptop, or desktop. Using outdated software is like leaving your door unlocked—hackers know how to get in, and it’s easy to fix most vulnerabilities with an update.
Use cellular networks: If you have a data plan, use your mobile network instead of Wi-Fi for banking. It’s still possible for thieves to get into those networks, but it’s not nearly as easy as hacking Wi-Fi. If you can tether other devices or set up a mobile hotspot, do that—at least while you conduct banking business.
Control your devices: Don’t set your laptop or mobile device to “connect automatically” when it finds available networks. Thieves can set up a fake Wi-Fi network very easily, and they often give those networks commonly used names (like Free Wi-Fi, Airport Wi-Fi, or Hotel Wi-Fi). Always ask which network to connect to.
Use security software: Security software goes a long way toward keeping you out of trouble. Keep antivirus and firewall programs up to date, and use a virtual private network (VPN) to access sensitive information over public Wi-Fi. Avoid jailbreaking or rooting your mobile device, as doing so can make secure devices and apps much less secure.
Trust your browser: Your web browser wants to help you stay safe. When visiting secure sites, make sure that “https:” appears in the address bar and look for the padlock icon. If you get any warnings (such as untrusted certificates or similar)—especially unexpected warnings while using Wi-Fi away from home—wait until you’re on a secure network to access bank accounts.
Monitor your account: Whether or not your bank on public Wi-Fi, it’s critical to review your accounts regularly. Doing so helps you spot errors and signs of fraud. A quick scan through transactions is a good start, but you should also balance your account monthly for a more thorough review.