Keep all your check images secure

Keep all your check images secure

Example of signed check front and backElectronic statements are safer than paper statements that must be printed, mailed and stored. But both types of statements may contain check images that include a representation of your signature used to authorize the check. If you store check images or statements on your computer, please make sure you take precautions to protect that sensitive information.

If you still receive paper statements, or have stored old statements, where check signatures may be visible, be sure to keep them in a safe place. Better yet, shred them.

The “Internet of Things” and Your Online Security

Internet of Things
Before you get that neat gadget or appliance that accesses the internet, think about the potential risks and how to mitigate them.

There are some pretty neat things you can do over the internet these days: unlock the door(s) of your home, change your thermostat setting, disarm the burglar alarm when you pull into the garage, automatically post grocery lists directly from your refrigerator, or even watch your pets during the day while you’re at work (not that you would ever actually do that). The bad guys can do some pretty scary things over the internet using those same devices. Here are some tips to reduce your personal risk, and some things to consider.

All these devices connected to the internet (connected devices) making up what is collectively called the “Internet of Things” or IoT. Examples are the remote locks you can install on the doors of your home, the health and fitness devices that you wear or that are part of your exercise equipment that track your stats via website or mobile device, printers that you can access when away from home or work, security systems with remote management accessibility, webcams and so on.

Most of them make life far more convenient, or improve it. Here’s the problem with the Internet of Things: most of the devices are not secure enough. The manufacturer often doesn’t pay close enough attention to the security of their core processors. The firmware or software of the device needs regular updates but their owners are unaware of this, or even how to update it. (Would you know how to update a webcam?) In fact, the threat from webcam breach is a good example. We recommend you read the Peoples Voice alert about Webcam security if you haven’t already done so. There’s a story there that contains practical suggestions for webcam security, including why you should even think about it. It links to a story about a frightening webcam hack.

Here are some basic tips to help protect against the threats:

  1. Weigh the risk against the reward. It’s convenient to be able to remotely unlock your back door for tradesmen who need access while you’re away, but it may not be worth the risk of your system being hacked to allow criminals or enemies access to you home. One security expert, a Garner analyst, assigned “relative risk” to all his connected devices. You might be surprised at his findings. How would you rank your own connected devices at home?
  2. Use different passwords. We can’t overstate the importance of this simple act. Don’t let your connected thermostat have the same access credentials as your internet router, and don’t let anything have the same access credentials as your primary email or online banking account.
  3. Stay informed. Add some technology sites to your daily reading list. Sites such as Wired.com and ArsTechnica.com will very often have stories about security and devices known to be hacked, some of them might be ones you own or plan to purchase. This can help you find a solution or mitigate your own risk.

The most secure thing anyone can do is to become a homesteader in remotest Alaska. Wait. That’s not secure either. So perhaps it would be better to simply exercise caution and remain informed.

Don’t forget to spring forward

It’s that time again—Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 8th at 2:00 am. Don’t forget to set your clocks one hour ahead.

A safety reminder: Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because it provides a convenient reminder.

Personal Payment Technologies: Convenient, but Beware of the Pitfalls

Personal payment technologiesYou may have heard that paying by check or cash is “so 2013”. Computers and smart-phones can now pay and receive payment for all sorts of transactions, and their convenience has made such financial transactions explode in growth. And with this new payment process, new threats have raised their ugly head. Here’s how to defend against some of the pitfalls.

Paying people directly via computer or mobile device is very convenient. It saves time. Saving time is a good thing. The potential risks to this convenience are privacy, excessive fees and funds availability. Some of these new “P2P” or person-to-person payment systems can quickly reduce any convenience advantages.

The FDIC has posted guidance for consumers who use or plan to use P2P payment technologies. One of the things they suggest is talking to your bank to see what product or service is available to you. Your FDIC-insured bank has regulations to ensure consumer protection, which in turn mitigates the risks of financial harm that may come from other organizations or people.

No matter which option you use in participating in financial protection, remember that your financial safety is more important than convenience, or peer pressure.