On Line Financial Services

Overview

Financial services like Quicken, Turbotax and Mint have  broaden their customer bases and are offering their financial services on line (i.e. you don’t buy the software, download or install it from a CD onto your PC, you just run it inside of your favorite (supported) browser)). From what I can tell, these on line versions have pretty much the exact same tools and functionality as the versions that folks buy and put on their PC, which is a point in their favour.

Let’s run down some of the advantages and disadvantages of these tools.

Advantages:

  • Exact same functionality, and many times newer features are added sooner and you are not constantly updating the software with new updates from the manufacturer. The software simply runs (usually inside of your browser)
  • You can access your records from anywhere, not just your PC at home. You can look at your finances at work, or if you need to while you are on vacation.
  • If your PC crashes, you don’t lose your data, and you can simply access it from another computer. Under this same point, your data is backed up by the financial service provider as well (so it is safe, because the backups are not in your house).
  • The service provider is now the one having to protect your information from Hackers, Malware, Viruses and other nefarious folk.

Disadvantages:

  • If your internet connection is dead, you don’t have access to your records any more. This doesn’t happen very often, but it can happen at the most inoportune times.
  • On some of the services (like Mint) you are putting all your on line banking information into the tool (including your passwords), so it can automatically update your financial data on line. You may want to check with your Bank or Credit Card company because their rules may prohibit you from giving this information out (or they may not protect you if your account gets hacked).
  • All of your financial data is no longer under your lock and key (metaphorically) it is now in someone else’s house on their server.
  • You are accessing all this information across a network connection, not just on your local PC (which can also be insecure), but all the way along the network there can be interlopers trying to steal your data (encrypted data hopefully).
RRSP, RESP, RDSP, Mastercard

Internet Cafe an Insecure Place

As you can tell from my posts this week (Financial On Line Security especially) , I am really not comfortable with my information being available on line, and putting all my banking information into these services really makes me nervous. Accessing this data over any kind of network makes me twitchy as well, but even if you do choose to use these services remember never to access the accounts via:

  1. Internet Cafe or untrusted PC’s, those things are always teaming with viruses and keyloggers to steal your vital financial information
  2. Public wireless access that does not use any kind of encryption (like say Starbucks or other restaurants)
  3. If you use any kind of shared PC at work make sure your Browser history queue and password cache is FLUSHED when you log off.

This is very important (and I am pretty sure the On Line Financial Service folks would agree with me on that).

My Opinion

As you could guess, my opinion is to not recommend using  the on line versions of these financial tools.  The tools themselves seem great, but my inherant mistrust of computer networks and knowing of all the Blue Meanies out there trying to steal your information, I just don’t feel comfortable putting this information in an easy to find single place. If the service site gets hacked (much like Epsilon was), suddenly hundreds of thousands of folks banking info is compromised, so where do you think the hackers will be concentrating their attacks?

Please don’t take this as me saying these tools are bad, or that you should not use them, but if you do, you should keep in mind the points that I have brought up, and read over (closely) the agreement you “sign” with the Financial Service Provider and read over their Security Rules.

Do use Financial tools like Turbotax, Quicken, Mint or the like, they are important to helping you get your finances under control.

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Financial On Line Security

More Security Fun On Line

A few weeks ago I mentioned the importance of  security (especially in Lent), where I said it is important to change your on line passwords more than once (i.e. leaving  the initial password you set, and never changing it), and today I received yet another affirmation that my statements are not just the ravings of a paranoid financial blogger.

I have heard in the past two days from Best Buy and the Hilton H-Honors program that their “… database marketing vendor, Epsilon…” has had a data breach and information about me has been taken by nefarious folks of unknown origin. The e-mail(s) go on to explain that the only information taken was my name (my REAL name) and my e-mail addresses (this is evidently supposed to make me feel more at ease).

First let me say WTF! (for those who don’t know that TLA, look it up, that was what I said out loud). Data about me is now in the hands of folks who steal identities and worse, steal money, so no I am not happy, nor am I impressed.

Secondly I am skeptical that this is all the data that they managed to remove from Epsilon’s database of marketing information. My guess is there is plenty of other data collected that may not want to be spoken of, by the companies I do business with directly, but that is only my opinion (for now).

RRSP, RESP, RDSP

Security Needs to be Watching

I note that the e-mails from both Best Buy and Hilton are remarkably similar in content and both are adament that no financial information was lost because of this data breach. They seem almost relieved that all this security breach may cause is for me to be inundated with more SPAM and PHISHING e-mails (like this is a consolation prize), which is an odd way to look at things. More SPAM? I am currently getting about 100-200 SPAM messages a day, I cringe to think what more SPAM might look like.

Ironically, the Hilton H-Honors e-mail was actually in my e-mail SPAM folder (so maybe the SPAM folders at my E-mail provider is working better than I thought). Luckily for Hilton I check my SPAM folders sometimes to see if they are being Hyper-vigilant or not.

Thirdly I look forward to finding out what other  companies I deal with , that also work with Epsilon. I plan on sending a very terse e-mail to Best Buy and Hilton asking why when I specifically clicked on the “Don’t Give Out My Personal Information to 3rd Parties” box, did they give my personal information out to Epsilon? Yes, Epsilon is their contractor, however, they are not mentioned in the agreement, so I hold Best Buy and Hilton responsible here as well.

Still think that Internet security isn’t that important?

Be secure, be prudent and be safe on line folks, it’s your money they want.

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