We take a look at how to securely access online banking when abroad or using public wifi. We’ll explain how to use a VPN to keep your information secure and the best VPNs for online banking.
When we’re traveling abroad or accessing wifi from an untrusted public location such as a mall, coffee shop, or hotel, we want to be assured that our connection to the internet is secure and trusted. These concerns aren’t entirely unwarranted. Public wifi networks can be infiltrated via a number of methods such as man-in-the-middle attacks, packet sniffing, DNS spoofing, and phishing scams. Hackers understand the popularity of online banking (more than half of Americans use these services) and our temptation to connect to public wifi networks.
When it comes to online banking, it’s even more crucial to safeguard your internet connection. After all, if hackers gain access to your banking details they could drain your account and even use the information to steal your identity. The quickest and most efficient method to ensure that your digital footprint is encrypted and secure is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN encrypts all the web traffic flowing to and from your device and tunnels it via an intermediary server. By using a VPN you’re setting up an ironclad layer of security that hackers will find incredibly difficult to penetrate. A bonus is that a VPN obfuscates your actual IP address and makes it appear that you’re in a different location. This makes it easy to access your online banking from anywhere in the world, even when banks geo-restrict their websites and services or flag foreign logins for fraud.
In this post, we’ll explain how to use a VPN to safely access online banking and provide additional tips for boosting your online security.
What’s the best VPN to access online banking safely and securely?
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is highly recommended. This provider ships with some of the toughest encryption protocols in the industry and has a network of more than 2,000 servers from across the world to choose from. It doesn’t log any user details such as source IP addresses. Other features like perfect forward secrecy and an internet kill switch mean that the company goes the extra mile to ensure your connection stays out of harm’s way.
There’s 24/7 live customer support and you can use the software on a number of devices including Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and some wifi routers. What’s more, a single subscription allows for three simultaneous connections so you can protect multiple devices or share with friends and family.
BEST VPN FOR ONLINE BANKING: ExpressVPN is our top choice. With fast speeds and military grade encryption ExpressVPN tops our list. It’s also great for streaming. Includes a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee, so you’ll receive a full refund if unsatisfied.
I’ve downloaded a VPN. What do I do next?
Follow these simple steps to ensure your account is encrypted and secure.
- Once you’ve registered for a VPN proceed to download the relevant app for your device directly from the provider’s site or relevant app store.
- Clear all cookies in your browsers and restart the devices.
- Connect to a VPN server outside your current location. The connection will take a few seconds to establish and you will receive a notification when it’s complete.
- Now your internet connection is secure and private and you will be able to safely access your online banking account.
- Proceed to log in to your bank’s online portal and carry out transactions as normal.
Can I use a free VPN to safely access online banking?
We understand paid VPN services like the one we’ve recommended in this article entail a cost, but you definitely get what you’re paying for.
It’s tempting to opt for a free VPN because there’s no upfront payment involved, but such services have a plethora of other concerns. These providers deploy criminally weak encryption standards, have a choice of only a small number of servers, and are known for their slow speeds.
Some dubious services have also tracked and mined user data in order to sell to third-party advertisers, while others have forcefully injected malware or turned idle user bandwidth into a botnet army. When it comes to protecting your online banking, a secure and reliable paid option is the clear choice.
What else can I do with a VPN?
The core use cases of a VPN are to access blocked content, evade government restrictions on sites and apps, and prevent monitoring by ISPs, hackers, and other snoopers. As mentioned earlier, VPNs can spoof your location and make it seem that you’re in a different city or town. This has the potential to open up geo-restricted streaming media sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and more.
If you’re traveling to a country where social media apps like Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat are blocked, then the use of a VPN can help you access these as well. All in all, it’s a great option for bypassing restrictions and accessing the unfiltered and unharnessed web.
How else can I ensure the safety of my online bank account?
Other than just using a VPN, you can also deploy these methods to make sure you’re safe and secure on the web.
1. Keep your device updated
Making sure that your device is operating on the latest version of its operating system is a prudent method to guard against hackers and other malicious entities. That’s because developers are constantly researching new and emergent threats – when they ship an update it’s in your best interests to download that. It’s possible that the update includes some new source code that helps quell attacks and fights malware.
2. Stick to secure sites
The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) provides an easy method of determining whether the site you’re logging in to is encrypted by default. Simply look for the padlock icon next to the website address in your search bar. If it’s present and the address starts with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP,” that means the site you’re trying to access is encrypted and should prevent hackers from forcing their way in.
3. Don’t give away any personal information
A common phishing scam is a trick to divulge confidential information like your login information, social security number, or other personally identifiable information that can be used for purposes like identity theft and gaining access to your bank accounts.
Fraudsters often send emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as your financial institution. In some cases, they copy the text and design of emails that you regularly receive and dupe you into thinking that it’s really your bank requesting information. However, banks generally do not request that you send personal information via email, and we recommend that you simply don’t respond to such requests.
There are various tell-tale signs of a phishing email, including a domain name that doesn’t exactly match that of the real institution, links that don’t match the domain (you can check by hovering over them), and poor spelling and grammar. If you’re unsure, you can always call your bank to check.
4. Enable two-factor authentication and use strong passwords
Many banks and financial institutions use two-factor authentication to add an additional layer of security. What this means is that a simple username and password isn’t enough to access your account. You’ll need to complete a second step, such as answering a security question or entering a code sent to you via email or SMS.
In the same vein, we encourage you to deploy strong passwords. Such passwords use alphanumeric combinations to guard against things like brute force attacks. Comparitech’s password generator tool can help if you’re unsure about how to go about this.
5. Set up notifications for your banking activity
Some banks give you the option to receive text message alerts when there’s activity on your account. While this may entail an additional monthly fee, it could be a step towards securing your account. If there’s a suspicious transaction, you will at least be notified immediately and can take corrective measures without further delay.