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.

Resolve: I will learn how to help save a life during an emergency

Red Cross logoWe hope you have never been there, but so many people now wish that when at a sudden time of earnest need, they had some basic training to help sustain or save a life. You know, that time interval that seems like hours before the emergency medical team (EMT) arrives. Those few minutes can mean opportunity to save, or opportunity to lose.

Consider some scenarios when “I wish I could” is a poor second to “I knew what to do”:

  • The grand-child you are babysitting chokes on something it put in its mouth.
  • You are caring for your aged parent or grandparent who begins to have labored breathing.
  • Your spouse complains of a particular pain in the upper abdomen just prior to passing out.
  • A neighbor volunteers to help mow your lawn and collapses in your back yard.

The heroes are the ones who do something meaningful when it happens.

A critical life-threatening situation can strike at any time, any place. Have you ever thought you’d like to be able to do something more than merely dial 911? The Red Cross offers a variety of training and certification classes that may be just what you need to be prepared to act in a meaningful way. Many of the classes can be completed in just one day!

The American Red Cross Training & Certification class page:

How important is knowing CPR? How important is knowing what to do if your child goes into cardiac arrest? More people are parents and caregivers now than perhaps at any time in history. If you or someone you know is acting as a caregiver, share this site with them. Basic life-saving techniques may be just enough to save a life, and allow it to continue thriving.

Take a look at the opportunities in your area. Who knows… the life you save may be the one closest to you. Being a hero is a poor second to having your loved one with you longer.

Webcams: Security first, all other features second

Webcams security firstMaybe you think your webcam security isn’t important. We would suggest that webcam security is more important than even the pixel and color quality of the camera itself. Why? Think in terms of the risk. Take just 2 examples:

  1. Many Realtors like to install a webcam pointed at the lake and may think the security isn’t all that important. Until it gets hacked to show a photo of a dredged pond in front of a coal yard with their logo imposed on it.
  2. Some families just want to see how their pet is getting access to the ‘fridge. Until a gang saw they have 2 dogs, not just the one that barks and used that to their advantage when they knew the family wasn’t home.

The security risk of webcams is the potential for abuse of the information the video broadcast conveys. Some abuses may be trivial, others aren’t. Forbes Magazine reported some horrible person hacked a baby video monitor and screamed obscenities to wake the baby up when it was sleeping.

By the way, we’re not talking about the camera built-in to your laptop or the webcam you use for video conferencing and chatting. We’re talking about cameras you would use to monitor your home, baby monitor, real estate selling attraction, etc.

If the webcam displays things you don’t want the bad guys to see, or if the video content is important to your business, then take simple, appropriate steps to secure the webcam and its transmission.

Here are some basic steps to protect the access of this remote webcam technology:

  1. Only purchase a camera that encrypts its data feed. (Accessed via a web address that begins with https://)
  2. Make sure the camera’s internet connection is hard-wired, or if wireless is using security protocol such as WPA2. (Your wireless router should be using this protocol, too.)
  3. Make sure your administrative access and password to the camera is not the factory default. Even a dumb hacker can access the system if you use the factory default.
  4. Make sure the webcam software is up-to-date. Often the publisher will fix holes or bugs in their software. The software that comes in the box is generally not the most recent version.
  5. Protect the internal network that hosts the webcam with a firewall and up-to-date router.

There is more to it than just these simple things, particularly if more than one user will need to access the camera or if the primary way of seeing the video feed is via mobile device(s).

Peoples Bank wants you and your family to be safe. We believe that financial security is just one aspect of the needful things of life. Physical and technological safeguards must get due consideration, and webcams should absolutely merit your earnest attention.

Get more information about webcam security from the Consumer Protection Agency of the United States Federal Trade Commission. They have a nice resource to help you protect against the bad guys who would abuse your webcam called “Using IP Cameras Safely”, and another briefer post “What to know about Webcam Hackers”.