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Has the advancement of technology made people feel safer or more at risk?

According to an official survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics, there were an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud and two million computer misuse offences last year. The CEO of Lloyd’s, the British insurance company, estimates hacking attacks to cost the global economy a whopping $400 billion each year.

Statistics like these are staggering and despite the advancement of technology are people more or less worried about the risk to them personally?

With cyber-attacks in the news every day and becoming ever more frequent it is easy to see why some people are increasingly afraid that technology is, in fact, hindering their security rather than increasing it.

If we are to talk about the finance sector specifically there are some real concerns around security. Once upon a time, before digital banking, the biggest fear you had for your money was the bank being robbed. Now, however, with the use of internet and mobile banking, it seems increasingly likely that you will become a victim of cyber-crime. Your money is no longer a physical entity, it is all digitised and can therefore, be moved and hidden from a location that has no correlation to where you keep it.

So are these fears founded or are they purely down to the lack of information in the public domain about exactly how much the banks and other financial institutions do to protect your money? Some people would look at the increase in crime figures in these areas and think they would have reason to worry. As people committing traditional crimes such as burglary and theft fall, the criminal contingent is looking for new opportunities to exploit such as gaps in online and banking security.

Where obviously this conclusion would seem to make sense, there is a contrary view that many fail to see. Due to the increase in attempted cyber-crime and its being at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, banks and other financial institutions now have a huge focus on safety and security which should go a long way to allaying the public’s fears. Any company with a commitment to safeguarding client’s funds will use 3D secure (a 3 stage verification process) when taking a payment and 2FA (a 2 stage authentication) when verifying the identity of the user. These are the basic security features for consumer facing products with a multitude more behind the scenes.

I think the real area of concern is not banks but individuals. Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK said “While the industry invests in new systems to stop the criminals, fraudsters are increasingly targeting people directly,” Many people are now finding that criminals are coming straight to the source in order to avoid trying to break through the advanced technological security they experience with a bank.

The key to reducing risk and making people feel safe again is undoubtedly awareness. Where we hear in the news a great deal about cyber-crime, such as the iCloud hacks, we hear very little about how to protect ourselves. People do not realise how key a secure password is. Password management firm SplashData has compiled more than 2 million passwords leaked over the course of 2015, to find the 25 worst passwords. The astounding data revealed that the two most common passwords are ‘123456’ and ‘password’ which makes it obvious that until there is a greater awareness around personal security there will still be people who are easy targets for cyber-criminals.

The reason we have seen such a sharp rise in internet and mobile banking is that as consumers we are obsessed with control and the immediacy of having it at our fingertips. No longer happy with walking into our local branch, we now require the same functionality from a tablet or phone. Some might argue that security is now designed to protect us and not the banks. Bank robbers used to break into a safe with their face hidden behind masks, now criminals sit behind computers which protect their anonymity. When people hack the banks they don’t target the Bank’s passwords, they choose the clients with weak passwords. Therefore, the onus of the security we are so worried about is, in actually, on us.

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