3/19/08

8 Golden Rules To Protect Your Money Online

. 3/19/08


Most retail trading is done online these days, and in general phone brokers only deal with big tickets. Trying to get your head around the volumes that are traded each day is almost impossible, and it’s certainly no surprise that traders make attractive targets for hackers and data thieves.

Security is a relative concern. It’s only as strong as its weakest link, and it’s as much an exercise in practical paranoia as it is a pragmatic and essential part of business. You should be able to feel perfectly safe if you take care of some basic security considerations before trading online. Good computer security habits are advisable for any computer, but they’re an absolute must if it’s a computer you intend to use for trading or banking.

Below is a list of basic steps you can take to make your online trading environment safer:

1. Secure wireless connection – If you’re on any wireless LAN, make sure it’s using strong wireless security, ideally Wi-Fi Protected Access(WPA). Don’t use public hotspots or networks to transfer any sensitive data – you never know who’s listening in.

2. Up-to-date software – Stay up to date with your OS patches, antivirus and anti-spyware software, and do full scans at regular intervals. Be careful of what you install on your PC: a lot of “anti-spyware” software is itself spyware in disguise!

3. Stay safe on the web – Avoid obscure sites and software wherever possible. Take some steps to tame your browser scripts on the web can be very dangerous and visiting the wrong page can give the bad guys control over your computer. It might be wise to set up a “white list” of allowed scripts and deny all others. Always clear your browser cache after each session.

4. Website encryption using Transport Layer Security (TLS)or Secure Socket Layers (SSL) – This usually appears as a locked “padlock” in the status bar of your browser, and denotes that your communications are being safely encrypted. This should be present for all of your web transactions.

5. Hide passwords and PIN numbers – It’s hard to remember all of them, but writing down passwords, especially on your computer, or letting your browser remember them is risky. Find out how to manage your passwords easily and safely.

6. Avoid phishing – Phishing scams are all too common these days. The scammer fakes a letter from an organisation (usually a bank) requesting financial or personal details. Very few banks send e-mails to customers though, and if they did they would never ask you to provide personal details.

7. Don’t give yourself privileges – By restricting the rights of all users but the necessary administrator account, you can prevent too much damage being done by an unauthorised user logged in with your account. Microsoft Windows Vista restricts your privileges by default, as do most modern flavours of Linux.

8. Get serious at a hardware level – Software efforts will go a long way to creating a secure environment in which to trade, but hardware security measures such as those featured in the HP ProtectTools security suite are essential if you’re serious about security.

It’s generally agreed that the biggest threat to data security is ignorance on the part of the average user. Armed with some basic knowledge though, and the will to keep the crooks out of your PC, you’ll have every reason to feel comfortable trading online.





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