Online banking has made it possible for the average person to have quick, convenient and round-the-clock access to his or her personal or business accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, and other financial products and services. With online banking services, financial institutions bring the process right to the customer’s hands, with everything done via computer or mobile device.

The advantages of doing your banking online can not be denied. While physical bank branches have limited hours of operation, which may make it difficult for those with hectic schedules, online banking is typically available at anytime of the day, so you can do what you need to do at your most convenient time. Whether it is paying bills, transferring funds to your savings account, or just to inquire about your balance, the information and transactions can be accomplished online when you want to.

With the rise of online banking also came new challenges to customer privacy and safety. As millions of customers now perform confidential financial transactions from their desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, criminal elements have also adjusted their tactics and are targeting unsuspecting users who do not take necessary precautions to safeguard their personal data.

Many of the basic precautions customers can take when using online banking services do not differ too much from the usual safety reminders for over-the-counter or ATM banking, such as regularly changing passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), and verification questions. But other safety procedures are unique to the online setting, such as looking for the “lock” icon on the bank website which signifies that it is secure, or ensuring that there is a “Verified” sign when making Web purchases or transactions.

Firewalls, security updates, and other software and apps should not be taken for granted when you do your banking online. The firewall protects your information from being accessed by people through your Internet connection. Without a firewall, your data is easily retrievable by any one with the knowledge to obtain it by attacking your Web connection.

Depending on what operating system you use, security updates are regularly sent by the manufacturers in order to keep your computer or device updated with the latest security patches or fixes. You can schedule these updates to run automatically, or you can accept the updates any time you get a prompt or notification. Usually, when manufacturers are able to identify security attacks or bugs, they release fixes via security updates so that the users are protected.

It is not advisable to access your online banking information from a public or shared computer, but if you must do so you should know how to clear the cache and history after use. Some data may remain to be easily accessible if you do not remove the cache or browser history. Experts also remind online banking customers not to leave or save passwords on public computer terminals or shared devices.

If you are careful about your activities when going to your bank, then you should also have that alert mindset when using online banking services, where the threats of identity theft and unauthorized data use are just as real and prevalent.