1. Transactions from a computer connected to a trusted network
If you are connected to a trusted network such as the one from your home or from your workplace, then you don’t need anything else except having a proper security solution installed and active at all times, that also monitors your web browsing. Don’t ignore the warnings you receive from your web browser or security suite. If they consider something as being suspicious, you should do the same and tread carefully.
2. Transactions from a computer connected to public network
Personally, I avoid making any kind of financial transactions when connected to a public network. Free Wi-Fi can mean that someone is nearby, sniffing the traffic going through that network. You can also be the victim of man-in-the-middle attacks. If you must make financial transactions when connected to such networks, pay special attention to the warnings given by the browser or your security suite. Modern desktop browsers are able to detect when someone tries to replace security certificates with fake ones and try to be the middleman between your computer and the websites you want to visit. If your browser says certain certificates are invalid or your security suite reports anything suspicious, simply stop and disconnect from that network immediately. It is also good to change the passwords for the services you accessed via that network as soon as you get connected to a more trusted network.
Another good recommendation is to use the features included in modern security suites that can run your browser in a safebox that’s isolated from the rest of the operating system and make it harder to intercept what you you are doing. Some security products also encrypt the traffic that goes through that safebox, thus making it harder for others to intercept your web traffic.
Many people also use a mobile Internet modem to connect when they are on the road. Using this connection is much safer than using some free Wi-Fi you know nothing about. If you can choose between the two, always make financial transactions via the Internet modem.
3. Transactions from a public computer
Making transactions from a public computer is definitely NOT recommended. Public computers are used by many people who can install keyloggers and other forms of malware.
If you really must use a public computer to make financial transactions then I recommend the following:
- Use a free online antivirus scanner to scan it for malware. If important threats are detected, don’t use that computer.
- If there is a security product installed on it, double check that it is active or start it up yourself if needed.
- If more modern browsers are installed, navigate the web using their private browsing features such as Internet Explorer’s InPrivate mode. Such browsing modes guarantee that no history is stored and, as soon as you close the browser, all the cookies and the active sessions are gone. Other people won’t be able to resume from where you left off.
- Do not set the browsers you are using to remember the passwords you type.
- Always log out from all websites you have logged in, prior to closing them.
4. Transactions from a Tablet or SmartPhone
If you need to do online banking from a smartphone or tablet, try not to use the mobile browser available. Mobile browsers are not as evolved from a security perspective as desktop ones. Instead, install the banking application provided by your bank. Such applications generally have good encryption and are much safer to use on mobile terminals. The same recommendation goes for any online stores that have a special mobile app.
For the mobile platforms that have security suites available – always use them. Consider installing at least a trusted free security solution, if you can’t afford a commercial one with more security features.
If you are connected to a public network you are even more vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks and networks sniffing than you are on a laptop. Avoid making financial transactions at that time. It is much safer to turn off the Wi-Fi and use your 3G or 4G connection with your mobile provider. Those connections are a lot safer.
5. Pay Attention to Your Passwords Use
No matter where you make financial transactions from, you should stop using the same password for your e-mail account(s) and the accounts on websites where you perform financial transactions of any kind. Having the same password for your e-mail account as for your Amazon or PayPal account is a HUGE PROBLEM!
Think of all the places where you make financial transactions of any kind and make sure that for each account you have a unique password. You will be surprised to see so many places storing your credit card information. Here are just a few, to get you started with your thinking: Amazon, PayPal, Steam, Google Play Store, the App Store, the Windows Marketplace and the Windows Store, the PlayStation Network, GOG, eBay, the airlines you fly with, travel agencies with whom you book your vacations, etc.