Since 2013, cyber criminals have been pulling off what amounts to the largest bank heist in history — hitting at least 100 banks across the globe. During this two-year period, cyber criminals released malicious software targeting bank employees that allowed them to infiltrate bank security systems. The undetected malware resulted in the theft of $1 billion stolen directly from banks.

When Trai Chairman R.S. Sharma dared hackers to harm him by revealing his Aadhaar number on Twitter recently, he may have escaped unscathed. But you may not be so lucky. With data misuse growing rapidly, the RBI, banks and financial intermediaries can only make the system robust at their end and educate the public. “No one can save us if we reveal our own data,” warns Peeush Jain, Head of Retail Banking, Lakshmi Vilas Bank. So, how do we protect our data and in turn, our money?

Step need to prevent your valuable data to go into wrong window.

Protect your Wi-Fi 
In our wired world, most devices are connected through Wi-Fi and protecting the connection should be priority. The risks are many. Neighbours tapping into your connection and using data at your expense is a risk. However, the risk quotient rises markedly if financial fraudsters use this route to access your personal data or terrorists use your network for their activities. Some simple solutions can help. Switching off the Wi-Fi when not in use,changing the user name given by the manufacturers, making a complex password and changing it regularly are some. You can also choose to go invisible. 

Free can be costly

Anything free makes us Indians happy, but you need to control your glee when it comes to free Wi-Fi. Most experts advise avoiding public Wi-Fi and using it only when absolutely needed. “Attackers can track the entire traffic in a Wi-Fi zone and spot systems with weak connections. While you may be browsing normally, attackers may be carrying out financial transactions using your device. 

Guard your devices
The first step is to install high quality antivirus and anti malware software. Avoid free softwares as they could be spreading viruses and malwares. “I don’t like anything free. As the saying goes, ‘If you are not paying, you are the product and not the customer,’” says Savnal. Even if you have a strong anti-virus software in place, you cannot let your guard down. Just like Wi-Fi, the outside world would have access to your Bluetooth. “If Bluetooth is on, anyone near you would have access to your devices. So turn it on only when it is needed,” says Nadkarni. Similarly, there is no need to tell the entire world about your location in real time. 

Choose apps with care
Mobile apps today are many and mostly free and we are only too happy to download them. However, experts advise caution and recommend using the fewest possible as most data is now leaked through these apps. The problem stems from the permissions the apps demand. Most seek access to your contact list, camera, phone, sms, location, etc. You are also given additional incentives for downloading the apps. Once permission is given, the apps can collect almost  all the information you store on your phone. “Our study of 100 apps developed in India and meant primarily for Indian audiences revealed that 31% apps take more than 10 dangerous permissions and shared data with at least one third party,” reveals Nadkarni. 

Email alert
The first step in guarding your email lies in a strong password that is changed regularly. The second factor authentication is the next step. “Most emails allow you to set up two-step authentication and everyone should use it,” says Wig. This will send you an OTP every time you try to login from a new device, thereby reducing chances of hacking. Hackers also try to get hold of your email or device by sending attachments that contain viruses or malwares. “Don’t open mails in the spam folder because the mails also can have viruses or malwares now,” says Savnal 

Shield your passwords
Passwords are supposed to protect us, but the problem is most users don’t know how to protect their passwords. The issue is compounded by the fact that we have multiple bank, investment, mail and social media accounts. Several online portals, ticket booking sites, service providers, etc also insist on a user name and password for ‘better service’. And most of them want these passwords to be complex. “Since it is difficult to remember so much, most people keep simple passwords. This is a high risk strategy because if one such account is hacked, the hacker could have access to all your other accounts,” says Wig. Writing down your passwords in one place is also risky. So memorising all the passwords is the only safe option. If you must write down your passwords, keep the language coded. 

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