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Banking online can make bill payments convenient and keeping track of your finances a snap. However, you should be aware of what software you can use and what choices you should make to keep your financial data secure.

The first step towards online security should be making sure you have an anti-virus program installed and kept up to date. Lately I've used the free versions of AVG or Avast!, thought I plan to try Microsoft Security Essentials the next time I install of Windows.

A firewall should also be used. Most Windows users likely have the Windows Firewall activated, though the free versions of Zone Alarm and Comodo may offer more security since they question almost every action when first installed.

The passwords you choose can create a huge risk to the security of your banking info. Using passwords such as your maiden name, birth date, or home town may be easy to remember, but it's also likely that someone could find this information and guess your password. Maybe you have a great password that includes numbers and symbols and would be impossible to guess? That's a good start, but if you use that same password on every site and it becomes compromised, everything you have online could be accesses. To be best protected, you need a different, secure password for every site. You should also consider changing your passwords after a certain period of time. To help organize and remember these try KeePass, it's a free program that can protect all your passwords with one master password.

Beware of phishing emails. These are emails that ask you to log into your bank or PayPal and ask you to log in to update your password or other information. The problem is that what the link takes you to may look like the actual site but are actually fake version designed to capture your passwords and other important information. Never click a link asking you to log in. Even if you think it's legit, go to the site on directly from your browser and log in there.

Taking these steps will help to keep you secure when you bank online. However, since new threats could appear at any time, keep your software up to date and consider the risks when using email and your internet browser.

Image by Jorge Franganillo
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