Banking online picking up steam – stay safer with a few tips

July 30, 2009

Banking online picking up steam – stay safer with a few tips


A new article by Herb Weisbaum – ‘the consumerman’ – on MSNBC outlines the sharp increase in the number of users of online banking services, and cites Linda Criddle for how to stay safer when doing so.

The article references a Harris Interactive survey that found 80% of U.S. households with Internet access – nearly 70 million households –– use some form of online banking service. That’s a sharp increase of over 2 million households in the last year.

The number of online banking customers is expected to continue rising. “We predict steady growth as more go online and see the benefit of doing your banking from anywhere at anytime, ” says Steve Shaw, director of strategic marketing at Fiserv, a financial services technology firm.

At the same time, banks are shedding retail branches. On Tuesday, Bank of America announced it is closing about 600 branches. The reason? Liam McGee, president of Bank of America’s consumer and small-business bank, said part of the reason for the move is that more customers prefer online and mobile banking.

So how do you bank online safely?

Internet security expert Linda Criddle, who runs the Web site, describes herself as an avid online banker. She says you need to ask yourself three questions before jumping online.

  • Is your computer secure? You must have up-to-date security software, which means antivirus and anti-spyware protection.
  • Is your connection secure? Make sure the firewall is on. If you use a wireless network it needs to be encrypted so someone who is lurking outside the house can’t collect your information.
  • Do you have a secure password? It doesn’t have to be hard to remember, just hard to guess. Don’t share it with anyone and don’t respond to any e-mail requesting that information. That “urgent” message may look like it’s from your bank, but it’s bogus. A financial institution would never send you an e-mail asking for your PIN or password. Never!

“If you’ve done all of the above, then you’re off to a good start,” Criddle says. “You can have reasonably strong chance of having only positive experiences.”

You also need to be extremely careful when you conduct banking business away from home. Your laptop needs to be secure and so does your wireless connection. Criddle recommends avoiding computers at Internet cafes.

The bottom line: Before you conduct your most sensitive financial transactions you need to be absolutely certain both the Internet connection and the computer you’re using are secure. If you don’t have 100 percent confidence – don’t take the chance.

Read the full article here.



Listen to the new Summer Online Safety Tips Podcast

July 7, 2009

As president of the Safe Internet Alliance, Linda Criddle recently hosted a podcast to discuss Summer Online Safety Tips with Kim Sanchez of Microsoft and Holly Hawkins of AOL.

For most kids summer affords more free time – and with working parents, much of that time for teens is spent on their own.

But unlike past generations, with today’s technologies that does not mean they are unsupervised. Parents and children leverage cell phones and computers to create new forms of connectedness and are likely to be in touch more frequently throughout the day. They connect via calls and texts to cell phones, through IM and 4% of parents even communicate with their kids through their social networking sites.

In fact, a majority of adults say technology allows their families to be as close or closer than their families were when they grew up according to research conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Despite fears that technology use would pull families apart, 25% say their family is closer because of their internet and cell phones, more than twice as many who say they have grown apart.

That doesn’t mean these technologies don’t have pitfalls, but the majority of parents and teens are positive about the opportunities they provide.

A few hot Internet-risk topics primarily catch the media’s attention to talk about, and then other areas that don’t get the attention they perhaps deserve. This podcast looks at some of the risks most often overlooked.

Read on to see the stats we cited and questions we asked. Or, go to Safe Internet Alliance Web site to listen to the podcast, or read the Safe Internet Alliances blog on the podcast. Check out press coverage of the event on PC Advisor Parents urged to discuss online safety with kids, PC World Parents Need to Talk to Kids About Internet Use, Experts Say, or search for more articles generated by the discussion online.

Here are the Questions we asked the panelists:

  1. Each of you (MSFT and AOL) bring tremendous knowledge about what youth are doing online – with hundreds of millions of users, your insight provides a sample size and perspective that traditional research can only dream about.
    What internet safety issues do you feel are most pressing for youth, particularly during the summer months?

    1. What is your perspective on the evolution of internet risks for youth? What dynamics are the biggest factors in driving the changes?
  2. Cox communications just released research conducted by Harris Interactive that indicated teens are conflicted over online safety. It found that most teens surveyed were aware and concerned about the risks of putting personal information out in the open. In fact, 59% say having personal information or photos on a public site is unsafe, and 26% say they know someone who has had something bad happen to them because of this. Still, 62% of teens post photos of themselves on blogs or social networking sites and greater than 40% name their school or the city in which they live. To be clear, the research did not ask whether these teens social networking sites were set to public or private – which makes a huge difference in terms of safety – but we know many teens do have public profiles that share too much information.
    How can parents, websites and internet safety organizations be more effective in driving safer practices? Do you have recommendations for each group?
  3. The Harris Interactive research also indicated that 19% of teens go online via their cell phone. Of those, 19% say their parents are unaware that they do so. 80% of teens whose parents do know they go online via their cell phone, say they are not given any limits or controls.

  4. Do you think enough focus has been placed on newer risk areas like cell phones, and does the risk increase in summer months when they may not have the same in-person contact with school friends and more idle time?
    1. Sexting – sending sexual images to others via their phones – has certainly made the news in the last year, and Harris’s research says 19% of teens surveyed have engaged in sexting. 60% of teens who sent sext-messages, say they send photos to their boyfriend/girlfriend, a shocking 11% say they have sent sext-messages to someone they don’t even know.
      1. What are your thoughts on this, and do you equate sexting on phones to the same sort of highly sexualized behavior many are doing through their webcams and computers?
  5. One risk that is rarely discussed is how friends expose other friends – I’m not talking about cyberbullying here, just the typical comments friends share. We’ve all seen sites where the owner made a conscious choice to protect their personal information, but friends without thinking left comments exposing their phone numbers, full names, locations, schools, ages, photos, and more. Pew and the American life project’s research indicates that 83% of social networking users have added comments to a friends picture, 77% post messages to friends pages or wall, 66% post comments on a friends blog, and 54% send bulletins or group messages to all their friends
    1. Does social networking chat increase in the summer between teens, and do you see outing others personal information as a problem? If so, how do we get the message about respecting others’ privacy boundaries matters? That ‘friends don’t expose friends’ information’?
  6. As we round out this call, I want to give time to each of you to share final thoughts about summer internet risks and teens, and about the resources AOL and Microsoft provide for teens, parents, and others to start the discussions on safety in positive, proactive ways.
  7. Do you have thoughts about what The Safe Internet Alliance could do to help drive solutions and socialize those solutions to stakeholder groups?

Again, to learn how these questions were answered and follow the full discussion, go to Safe Internet Alliance Web site to listen to the podcast. Or read the Safe Internet Alliances blog on the podcast, check out press coverage of the event on PC Advisor Parents urged to discuss online safety with kids, PC World Parents Need to Talk to Kids About Internet Use, Experts Say, or search for more articles generated by the discussion online.

Your Internet Safety Bill of Rights

October 23, 2006

ALL Internet users have the right to a safe Internet experience. Your safety and the safety of your family on the Internet should not be left to features a company adds at the last minute (“add-ons”) or those you have to pay extra for. You can’t buy a new car without safety belts or air bags; you shouldn’t have to settle for Internet products or services that fail to offer safety in the same basic way. In a nutshell, I believe every online consumer has these rights:

  • You have the right to an informed online experience.
    • You should know in advance about any potential risks in such Web programs and services as an Internet dating service or an instant messaging program, so you can make safe choices.
    • You have the right to complete information about every safety feature in a product or service, and safety recommendations by feature should be easy to discover. At the bare minimum, you should be able to find safety information in the Help section. Ideally, however, the program would give safety advice at key points, such as when you type in information or before you post a picture.
    • When services are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features or changes to existing features and their impact on your safety. Not only that, you should have a clear way to opt out of any features you’re uncomfortable with. For example, if changes are made to a subscription you’ve paid for and you want to cancel, you should be able to get a refund for remaining time.
  • You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience (within the constraints of the law).
    • You have the right to get content that matches your values and blocks content you do not wish to see, no matter what your age.
    • You have the right to set boundaries so that you are only exposed to the level of potential risk you’re comfortable with, whether you’re more willing to take risks or more risk averse. This includes being able to manage the online experience of minors in your care.
    • You have the right to know if you are being monitored online and how you are being monitored—such as which of your activities are being tracked and to whom they are is being reported. Your children have this right, too.
  • You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety.
    • You have the right to feel confident that products and services will not be released to the public without undergoing rigorous safety, privacy, and legal reviews and testing.
    • You have the right to know the privacy and safety policies of online products and services. These should be easy to find and written in terms that are easy to understand.
    • You have the right to easily report abuse of the products or abuse through the products of you or a loved one. You also have the right to know how well the company enforces its policies and to expect immediate action from the company.
    • You have the right to expect a “product recall notice” or alert if a significant safety risk is discovered in an online product or service.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. You can make a difference. Your safety rights won’t be established in Internet programs and services overnight. But if you let companies know what you think, they will surely be delivered faster. Linda