Is online banking safe?
Online banking is safe under most circumstances. Whether you’re accessing your account through a desktop browser or using an application on a smartphone, digital banking is a relatively safe way to manage your finances.
Risks arise when you fail to take the necessary precautions that keep online accounts safe. Your passwords need to be strong, and you should take steps to protect yourself from malware and Wi-Fi spying. One such step is using a VPN.
How can a VPN protect you?
First, what is a VPN? A VPN is a tool that allows you to access the internet with more safety and security. It encrypts your sensitive data before it even leaves your device and enters the web. This means that no one can see your traffic – not snoopers nor your internet service provider (ISP). Check out our article to learn more on what information a VPN hides from an ISP.
Your data then goes to a VPN server, where it changes your IP address and your visible digital location (if desired). This new information goes to your online destination (in this case, your bank’s website) and back. As a result, the receiver of your data will not be able to see where the data originally came from.
When to use a VPN for online banking
Can a VPN make your online banking more secure? Absolutely! Here are two situations in which a VPN will enhance your safety and help to secure your access to the internet bank.
When using public Wi-Fi
Connecting to public Wi-Fi, whether while traveling or enjoying a cup of coffee in your local café, is risky, especially if the network has no password. Hackers can easily use open networks to hack into your device. Some hackers even create free impostor Wi-Fi networks in public places. These might look like, for example, free airport Wi-Fi services, but they are fake networks — a hacker’s gateway to your device.
If you find yourself using public Wi-Fi for your online banking operations, make sure you use a VPN. It will encrypt your activity, which means that snoopers on the same network will be prevented from being able to brute force their way into your device.
When using mobile apps to access an online bank
If you use mobile banking apps or transfer funds on the go, you should install a VPN on your mobile device. After all, mobile devices can also be targeted, even though they are usually more difficult to crack than computers. NordVPN enhances your cybersecurity and allows you to use the same account on up to six devices, so you can rest assured that your connection is safe whichever device you use.
When using a VPN won’t help
While a VPN is a perfect privacy tool for those wishing to remain undisturbed when online, in some situations, a VPN just won’t help.
If you are using a free VPN
We don’t recommend using a free VPN. If a service is free, it will probably be stuffed with ads that will record your behavior and store data that will be sold to third parties.
Most free VPNs also have low-cost infrastructure. They do not offer the additional VPN features that reputable VPN providers do and are much more susceptible to IP leaks. If you’re using a VPN to protect yourself from hackers, that’s the last thing you want.
Free VPN providers usually don’t have the funds to maintain a broad server infrastructure, which means that server loading times will be much longer and your internet speed will be lower. Taking into account all the differences between paid and free VPNs, a free one probably won’t help you with safe online banking.
If you are using a VPN and keep changing your locations when accessing your bank accounts
Banks ask you to notify them if you leave the country for a reason. If they see someone logging into your account or transferring money in a country other than the one you reside in, they will become suspicious. If the location of your billing address and your IP location doesn’t match, your bank might identify it as fraud and block your card or void your online purchases. If you are using a VPN for online banking, connect to a server in your home country.
If you are using a VPN and visit untrusted websites
If you are visiting suspicious websites (especially ones that have HTTP in their URL instead of HTTPS), it’s very likely they are already infected with malware that could easily compromise your device. Such websites are not secure and could expose the data you submit on the website to hackers.
If you don’t practice safe internet behavior
Good internet behavior is important. A VPN is safe for online banking, but you should also take other precautions. If you don’t have up-to-date antivirus software installed, your operating system is old, or you ignore virus alerts, you will still be at risk of being hacked even if you are using a VPN.
If you use weak passwords and your data is leaked
Many companies accidentally leak their user data. Such information can easily land in the hands of a hacker, and if you use a weak password (even worse, if you use the same one for all your accounts), the hacker will be able to access your bank account without even breaking into your computer.
Can banks detect a VPN?
While a bank cannot tell that you’re using a VPN specifically, they can see your IP address — or rather, the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to. This won’t always be a problem because your IP address does change depending on the network you’re connected to. However, if you connect to a server in an unusual location, like a foreign country you don’t normally visit, your bank might ask you to confirm your identity.
Is online banking safe without a VPN?
Is online banking safe without a VPN? It depends. In most cases, if you have safe online habits, you should still have a reasonable level of protection while using an official banking site. But if you use a VPN for banking or online transactions, your data traffic is encrypted, which keeps your internet traffic extra safe from prying eyes.
If you’re looking for the best VPN for banking, just follow the tips in this article and on our blog to keep hackers from stealing your information.
What to do if you can’t connect to a VPN
If you don’t have a VPN, or if for some reason your VPN isn’t working, can you still use online banking safely? In most cases, the answer is yes. Online banking websites and apps come with encryption and security protocols in place. However, if you’re using online banking without a VPN, we would recommend that you avoid using public Wi-Fi.
However, if you’re using online banking without a VPN, we would recommend that you avoid using public Wi-Fi.
More ways to secure online banking transactions
As well as using a VPN, you can implement some of these online banking safety tips to enhance your security:
- Don’t keep unprotected login credentials on your device. This goes for any passwords, but it’s especially important when it comes to online banking. If someone steals or accesses your device, they’re likely to check your notes and messages for login details. It might seem like a good way to avoid forgetting this sensitive information, but it’s not worth the risk.
- Be wary of emails and SMS messages from your bank. Hackers often impersonate banks when emailing their victims. If your bank contacts you and prompts you to follow a link, be on your guard. When receiving an unexpected message or email from your bank, it’s best to contact it directly, ideally by phone, and check if the message is authentic.
- Diversify your accounts. For added security, don’t use one bank account for all your transactions. A good security measure is to keep a separate bank account that you use for online activity and which contains limited funds. This means that even if a site that stores your payment information gets hacked, the amount you can lose is restricted to whatever is in that one account.
Why use NordVPN?
- You can connect up to 6 devices using the same NordVPN account. Whether it’s your laptop, phone or tablet, your online transactions will be safe on all of them.
- You can choose from over 5,500 servers in 60 countries. If you select the same location as your country of residence, your data will be protected and your bank won’t stop you from making transactions.
- With Threat Protection you will be able to block unwanted ads and trackers and protect yourself from malware during downloads.
- Using our Meshnet feature will allow you to remotely access your home devices while you’re abroad and ensure that you can connect to your banking apps from a familiar home IP address.
- We provide high-quality customer support so that our users can always ask for help. To find out more, check out our NordVPN reviews.