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Post Online Banking and Privacy
Created by John Eipper on 01/27/13 7:31 AM

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Online Banking and Privacy (John Heelan, -UK, 01/27/13 7:31 am)

Istvan Simon asked on 27 January: "Does keeping your money in banks lead to loss of privacy?" The answer is "Yes." However, generally we have no alternative, as the currency in which our monetary value is recorded is electronic and not hard cash that could be stored under the bed. Data is much easier to steal than cash.

Privacy loss can occur in several ways. Law enforcement/intelligence services can gain relatively easy access to your bank records. Banks are legally required to provide data on their customers to various institutions and credit-checking agencies, some of whose operations are themselves fraught with danger. Then there is the increasing level of identity theft. Although for obvious reasons banks claim that their online systems are secure but the pronouncements are usually just wishful thinking to avoid bad PR that would dissuade customers from benefiting the banks by using online systems. They usually do not broadcast or even acknowledge when their data security has been breached.

More and more financial institutions are outsourcing their call centres to low-cost countries like India and the Philippines. Identity theft fraud is rife in India, which has technically well-educated and intelligent people working for a pittance. Some are easily tempted to capture data illegally to pass onto fraudsters. Then there is online banking, whose security can be breached by malware on their customers' computers. By the way, banks often refuse to reimburse funds stolen this way, passing the blame onto the customer!

How do I know all this? One of my major projects was to install machines in each of the 1900 or so branches of a major UK bank. Another was setting up UK call centres for one of the world's biggest mobile phone companies.

As a result, my own security policies are: avoid on-line banking, do no business with a company that outsources its data operations outside the coverage of UK law, scrutinise closely my bank and credit-card statements while ensuring that my machine is kept clear of viruses, data loggers and malware. An overreaction? Maybe. But the cost and pain of attempting to recover hard-earned funds lost through identity theft and fraud would be far worse.

A further thought, that's a bit techy:

Although PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is usually secure in itself, storing the PGP key on a machine compromised by data loggers or malware generally is like telling a thief your PIN. Most people online these days, I suggest, do not take enough precautions to secure their machines.

JE comments:  Keep a close watch over your money:  this is advice from my mother that I'll never forget.  But how does one avoid on-line banking, as John Heelan recommends?  Try to do an international funds transfer, for example, without logging on.

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