More and more people are opting to do their banking at home from their computer over the Internet, rather than take a trip to their local bank branch. It makes a lot of sense: You save time getting to and from the bank, there is no waiting in lines, you save the cost of getting to the bank and back, and it makes the transactions a lot less stressful when you can do them when you want from home.
If you are doing your banking online, you need to take some extra precautions to protect yourself, according to a newly released study lead by professor Atul Prakash from the University of Michigan. The study found that of the 214 U.S. financial institution Web sites that were analyzed, 76% of them had at least one design flaw which could compromise your financial data.
Unlike many studies that focus on the vulnerabilities of the coding of the Web sites, where hackers may be able to gain access to information, this study focused on design flaws of the banks' sites that made it easier for users to be tricked into giving up private information (phishing). The flaws include placing log-in boxes and contact information on insecure Web pages (47% of banks), putting contact information and security advice on insecure pages (55% of banks), redirecting customers to a site outside the bank's domain for certain transactions without warning (30% of banks), emailing security-sensitive information insecurely (31% of banks) and allowing easy-to-guess user IDs and passwords such as Social Security numbers or email addresses.
Before you place any financial information into a banking Web site, you should look for a number of visual clues, according to Tim Callan of Verisign (VRSN), to make sure that you are on the actual Web page that you think you are. These visual clues will help you avoid giving sensitive personal finance information when the page is not deemed safe and secure: