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Jessica DuBios-Maahs/MEDILL

Hear how Chicago residents react to a new app that requires your online banking information.

New app Bync raises online privacy concerns

by Caitlin Klask and Jessica DuBois-Maahs
Feb 05, 2013


Caitlin Klask/MEDILL

Want to keep your cyber life safe? Here's how to protect yourself.

A few more cyber-security tips:


- Secure connections: Look for the lock symbol next to your web address. This verifies that you are connected to an HTTPS site, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure site.

- Firewalls and barriers: Firewalls will keep hackers away by literally walling up the door to your information. You can also install anti-virus software, but be careful about your software company choice. Some are more reliable than others – research the supplier before downloading anything.

- Updated passwords: Although it’s tricky to keep track of your passwords, it’s important to keep them updated and strong. Most experts would recommend you change major passwords, like those for online banking, every three months.

- Smart clicking: Viruses are everywhere, and often, it comes down to common sense: If you feel suspicious about a link, don’t click on it.

A new mobile startup that gathers users’ banking information in order to offer more relevant coupons has also raised concerns about security. The application, called Bync for its mixture of “bank” and “sync,” asks for an online banking sign-in ID and password.

Though consumers are nervous about Bync’s intrusive behavior, experts say that the idea gathering methods are normal.

Bync, founded by Ryan Bales in Boulder, Colo., uses an reputable account aggregation service called Yodlee to assess users’ credit information. In beta testing, the site amassed 5,000 users – whereas most sites, including Instagram, only require about 100 to 150 beta users.

“I think it’s a really good number,” said Bales. “We got a really good demographic and a lot of really good feedback.”

Bync tracks the stores that customers visit most frequently and provides deals, offers and even a heat map of spending habits.

“Basically the heat map is just to show users kind of an inflammation,” Bales said. “It might be red-hot for entertainment, and that’ll be the case that the user will get deals for Best Buy and Apple.”

Bales said there were no formal complaints about security issues. Robert Siciliano is a spokesman for BillGuard, a service that alerts consumers to small, unwanted credit card charges. In industry parlance, they are called "grey charges." Siciliano believes the site most likely uses a 256-bit AES encryption – a system used by the government and well established with the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“If they’re doing that, and their servers housing client data aren’t connected directly to the Internet,” Siciliano said, “along with appropriate physical security measures… consumers’ information should generally be secure.”

Last year, identity fraud incidents increased 13 percent from 2011 – even though the dollar amount remained constant, according to Javelin & Strategy Research Inc.

But online banking sites apparently weren’t the prevailing issue. The survey placed the blame on people with public (rather than obscured) social networking profiles, who are more likely to give away information like birthdays, high school locations and pet names – all of which are key bits of information for hackers and identity thieves.

Instead of fretting about security out of your control, try taking steps to change potentially reckless online behaviors. Here are a few tips from experts in the cyber security field.