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How to Prepare for a Cyberattack on Your Bank's Website

Simon Zhen
The Internet slows down after a cyberattack was launched against an anti-spam group.

For the past year, bank websites have been routine targets of large-scale cyberattacks that rendered the sites inaccessible. Fortunately, these cyberattacks do not put your account information in jeopardy. However, they do pose a major inconvenience to a financial lifestyle that has evolved to become reliant on online banking.

An Islamist hacker group has claimed responsibility for the majority of the cyberattacks that affected banks. The group used distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that employed a large network of computers to send an overwhelming amount of traffic to bank websites. The artificial traffic prevented customers and legitimate visitors from viewing the websites.

According to online security firm Keynote Systems, cyberattacks forced bank websites offline for 249 hours during six weeks in February and March.

During that time, millions of customers were not be able to use online bill pay or make fund transfers online, which may have resulted in late fees. From a bank's perspective, the financial institution loses business on potential customers who want to browse the website for more information and sign up for new accounts but are unable to do so.

What's worse: These cyberattacks are likely to continue, and could hit websites of some of the nation's largest banks.

Here is what you need to know to avoid being inconvenienced by a cyberattack on your bank:

Find the dedicated login page. More often than not, a bank's homepage offers a login field that allows customers to sign in. However, many bank customers can also log in through a dedicated login page, which might remain accessible in the event a cyberattack targets just the bank's homepage.

For example, Chase customers can log in through the bank's homepage, Chase.com, but they can also log in through Chaseonline.chase.com. When the homepage is hit with a DDoS attack, the dedicated login page may continue to operate.

Typically you automatically land on the dedicated login page after you sign out of your account. Be sure to "bookmark" this page for later use. (Loading may be slower than normal.)

Take advantage of mobile apps. In many cases, anything you can do through online banking can also be done through mobile banking.

With the proliferation of smartphones, you may already be conducting most of your banking through your bank's mobile app. Since this technology does not rely on the uptime of banks' websites, the mobile apps are unaffected by cyberattacks and should function normally if the site is attacked.

If your bank offers native mobile apps, you may still be able to log in through your phone's Internet browser. You'll be directed to a mobile website, which may still work because it is similar to a dedicated login page.

Use phone banking. Telephone banking has taken a backseat now that it is more convenient for consumers to access their accounts through online and mobile banking. However, banks still maintain telephone banking systems that allow customers to perform routine transactions.

For basic tasks, such as checking your account balance and reviewing recent transactions, automated telephone banking will suffice. Other transactions like reporting a lost or stolen debit card may require speaking to a customer service representative.

Be aware, though, some banks charge fees for services provided with the assistance of a customer service representative. For instance, PNC charges up to $3 for a staff-assisted bank transfer.

Visit a branch or ATM. While cyberattacks create problems for online banking customers, bank branches and ATMs proceed with business as usual. Therefore, if a financial chore requires immediate attention, a branch or ATM is a good fallback.

Simon Zhen is a columnist and staff writer for MyBankTracker.com, where he covers banking, financial technology and savings rates.

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