What is the safest way to bank online? | moneyfacts.co.uk

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Michelle Monck

Michelle Monck

Consumer Finance Expert
Published: 01/02/2021

At a glance

  • Banks have high-level security protocols in place to keep your account as safe as possible
  • Mobile banking apps have innovative features that can make them even more secure than going through a website
  • However, it’s important to be vigilant when it comes to your own actions

Is online banking safe?

Generally speaking, online banking is very safe. Banks have numerous security measures in place to keep your details (and your money) as safe as possible, with high-level data security and encryption protocols, together with multi-step authentication processes to ensure that only you can access your accounts.

Yet it’s vital to remain vigilant when banking online; not only is it important to double-check any details you’re inputting when making a transaction, but you’ll need to follow a few safety measures to ensure you’re not unwittingly giving fraudsters an easy ride.

For example, only use secure wi-fi connections or mobile data to access your bank account – never use public wi-fi, as these connections aren’t always secure – and make sure your operating system and anti-virus software is up to date. Choose passwords carefully and always log out of a banking session, and be wary of phishing scams – your bank will never contact you asking for your personal details or passwords, so if you receive an email, phone call or text message purporting to be from your bank that’s asking for this kind of information, ignore it and report it.

Read our guide on how to keep online banking safe for more tips.

How are banks keeping customers safe?

Banks have got a range of protocols in place designed to keep customers safe, from website encryption and security headers to customer authentication and payee confirmation protocols, with several regulations having been implemented in recent years.

This includes strong customer authentication (SCA) regulations. Banks are now required to have a multi-layered approach to online banking logins (the deadline has been extended to 14 September 2021 for online card payments) that involves multiple ID checks, essentially meaning customers have to provide a second form of authentication. This is often a single-use passcode that’s been sent via text message or generated via a card reader, as well as a password, with the latter no longer seen as being sufficient on its own. This two-factor authentication approach is expected to be expanded upon in the coming years, too, with up to five factors (such as location-based approvals and sophisticated voice recognition) being a possibility going forwards.

Another recent development is Confirmation of Payee, a name-checking system that the six largest banking groups have had to implement (smaller banks aren’t currently required to do so, though some, such as Starling and Monzo, have done so voluntarily). The system is designed to ensure that payments don’t go to the wrong bank account by checking the full name of the recipient, whereas previously, it was only account details that were processed and the name was largely ignored. This meant payments could be misdirected (and criminals could take advantage) if the wrong digits were entered, whereas simply checking the name adds another layer of security to prevent this from happening.

Some banks go even further and offer their customers additional security software, known as Rapport software, specifically designed for online banking. This offers protection over and above your usual internet security software to secure your financial transactions as much as possible.

Are mobile banking apps secure?

These days, many people opt for mobile banking apps or savings apps over websites, offering the chance to bank on the go. Perhaps surprisingly, these apps can be safer than using your computer to log in to your account – provided you download the official app from your chosen app store – as it’s more difficult for keyloggers (which can be used to steal passwords and usernames) to be planted on a smartphone, and phones can be remotely locked and wiped of data if lost or stolen.

Even unlocking your phone will typically require biometrics rather than a simple password, and logging into your banking app will require the same kind of access again. Apps themselves often have additional security features in place, too, such as real time spending notifications to guard against fraud and the chance to block certain transactions, giving you more control over your account from the app itself.

The biggest threat to using a banking app, or online banking in general, will come from using a compromised device, whether that’s a phone or a computer. Fake apps can appear in app stores and malware can specifically target phones, but generally, the enhanced security features on offer with many apps mean they could be a way to boost your overall level of security.

There will always be risks to online banking, but the safest way to do it is to make sure you go through the official channels and remember the steps you need to take to keep your account as secure as possible.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

person working at a computer in dark

At a glance

  • Banks have high-level security protocols in place to keep your account as safe as possible
  • Mobile banking apps have innovative features that can make them even more secure than going through a website
  • However, it’s important to be vigilant when it comes to your own actions

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