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How We See It

Sheri Parish

Sheri Parish

April 27, 2012

Is Your Wi-Fi Connection Safe for Online Banking?
By: Sheri Parish, Sr. Vice President, Assistant Manager, Technology

First of all, what is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is a technology that allows electronic devices to exchange data wirelessly over a computer network via radio waves.  Many devices are being made with Wi-Fi capability now, such as TVs, laptops, iPads, computers, printers, cell phones, tablets, and even refrigerators!

Second, and most important, is your Wi-Fi connection at home safe enough for online banking?  The honest answer:  It depends.  Our TBT online banking site is secure, but if you transfer any personal or financial data to your computer, it could be at risk if you do not do so over a secured wireless network.  There are security features you can set up to make your Wi-Fi less vulnerable to attack, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.  I would dare say that none of the security features offered today are 100 percent safe, but you can take good measures to dramatically decrease the risk of having your information made available to an unauthorized person.

For those of you who have devices (such a smartphones) with wireless capability, you have probably been walking through a store or down the street at some point and noticed that, occasionally, “available networks” pop up on your smartphone.  If the network is unlocked, you can “join” that network to surf the Internet on your phone, tablet, or laptop.  While that’s really convenient in stores or places like Starbucks, you don’t want to offer your neighbors free access to your personal Wi-Fi at home.  Not only could a neighbor using your Wi-Fi slow down your internet access, someone with the right skills could sit outside of your house and gain access to your hard-drive where he/she could possibly find bank account numbers and other sensitive information.  

So how do you make your Wi-Fi at home more secure?  I have two suggestions {this information is strictly informative – if you do not understand the concepts discussed in this article, please consult with your computer technician prior to making any changes to your current system(s)}.

  1. Choose a wireless access device that is WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) compatible, or upgrade your current device if it is newer than 2003 - See your instruction manual for details.  Since 2006, WPA2 certification has been required for any new device that bears the Wi-Fi trademark.  Look for the Wi-Fi trademark if you want to be sure the device is WPA2 compatible.
  2. Create a password for your wireless network that is at least 13 characters long and uses letters, numbers, symbols, and does not spell a real word (example: nikmabcnwy$wm1 – you can make passwords easy to remember by making it a sort of acronym.  The example above is the first letter of every word in the phrase “now I know my abc’s next time won’t you sing with me” – I made one of the s’s a dollar sign and then added a number to the end just to make it that much more complex and hard to hack).  Remember, WPA2  is still vulnerable if you use a weak password.

You can never maintain ultimate security on the Internet, on your wireless network, or even in your home or life.  A criminal can usually find a way if they are determined enough, but these security measures can help reduce the risk of criminal activity on your wireless network. 



Below is some additional information for a deeper understanding of security options for wireless networks:

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) – One of the original security features for wireless networks.  Over the years, it has proven to have numerous flaws and fails to meet its security goals.

WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) – In response to the flaws of WEP, WPA was released in 1999 to help to offer a more secure Wi-Fi while waiting for the more complex WPA2 to be released.  It contained enhanced security over the previous WEP technology.

WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) – This more secure and complex version of WPA was released around 2004.  It contained enhanced security over the previous WEP and WPA versions and is highly recommended over WEP and WPA today.





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