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For Financial Privacy, Enhance Your Computer, Internet and Information Security

June 22, 2012

Terry DeWitt

By Terry Dewitt, President & COO, First Landmark Bank

Computer security is ever-changing and ever-growing in complexity, and each day brings new threats and vulnerabilities emerging from many different origins.  One of the challenges that financial institutions constantly face is how to help keep customers safe when it comes to technology.

The three most important steps to take to secure your online financial privacy and utilize safe online banking practices is to:

  • Use secure connections, including secure Wi-Fi connections.  Refrain from using public Wi-Fi connections to access any information that is not meant to be shared.
  • Consider using a dedicated computer for online banking and payments.
  • Know that your financial institution and the FDIC will never email you or phone you or send you a letter requesting account information, online banking passwords, credit card numbers, your social security number or other private personal information. 

While there are computer and Internet security firms that specialize in keeping your information protected, financial institutions have a vested interest in your computer security when it comes to all methods of electronic and remote banking.  For your protection, IT professionals encourage you to:

  • Install an antivirus application, and keep your virus pattern files up to date. Know the name of your program and consider a pop-up window from any other program as malicious software. 
  • Regularly download security updates and “patches” for operating systems and other software.
  • Use strong passwords for all accounts. A strong password includes both upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols or, even better, passphrases.
  • Never share passwords or passphrases with friends, family, coworkers or computer support personnel.  Safeguard written user names and passwords.
  • Consider disabling the “fill in” feature that automatically enters (and remembers)
    a log in.
  • Log out of or lock your computer when stepping away, even for a moment.
  • Refrain from opening any email or attachment or click any link that you cannot verify, including virus hoaxes or chain emails. Best to delete them immediately.
  • Refrain from downloading unfamiliar software off of the Internet.
  • Enable the Windows firewall on your computer.  If networked, consider a hardware firewall.
  • Make regular backups of important files.

Information security is not simply about technology.  Effective security strategies deal with the combination of technology, people and processes.  Business owners may also want to consider the following recommendations:

  • Establish and maintain an organizational culture and behavior that promotes education, awareness and management of computer and information security fundamentals. The best security technology in the world can be defeated by users not following security procedures.
  • Train your users. This is an investment of time and talent, yet a vital component of security.  Necessary policies such as strong passwords and password expiration/rotation, while inconvenient, serve a purpose.  Management should mandate the policies and procedures and have a system to monitor compliance.
  • Establish internal Acceptable Use policies for web surfing and Internet email.
  • Provide all employees information on how to respond to and/or report suspicious computer or Internet behavior.
  • Restrict access to employees for internal programs on a “need to know/need to use” basis.

Finally, it is important to check your organization’s security posture against best practices and against known vulnerabilities and issues.  We all know that a great security system can be defeated by a single password on a single post-it note haphazardly left for anyone to see.  Most security breaches still occur from inside a network, and an independent, objective annual review of security is critically important to most businesses to expose areas needing prompt attention.

Terry DeWitt is President and COO of First Landmark Bank, a community bank headquartered in Marietta/Cobb County that specializes in commercial lending and financial services.

These tips are intended to help promote computer and information security and safe behavior online.  They were, in part, adapted from information from the National Cyber Security Alliance, the American Bankers Association, and SafeSystems, an IT firm that specializes in financial institutions, and in all cases is used with permission.  (Contact Renee White, First Landmark Bank, rwhite@firstlandmarkonline.com, 770.792.8870).

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