Today’s mobile phones are more advanced than ever before. In fact, for many people, making and receiving phone calls is the least of their concerns when it comes to comparing device capabilities. It’s more about the variety of apps, the speed and strength of the network and how many functions we can perform on a device that fits into the palms of our hands.
One type of app that you can find on almost any smartphone is a mobile banking app. Almost every banking institution offers its own application, allowing customers to check balances, transfer funds, make deposits and more without setting foot in the bank.
These apps all offer convenience, but some consumers resist mobile banking because of security concerns. To some, the notion of accessing sensitive financial data using a mobile device simply does not seem secure. What’s to stop a criminal from accessing your banking information if you lose your phone, or by using their own advanced hacking or tapping capabilities?
As it turns out, if you have the right security measures in place, quite a bit. As experts at online information security colleges point out, taking similar precautions with your mobile device that you would with your computer can keep your data safe and allow you to enjoy the conveniences of mobile banking while keeping your information safe and secure from prying eyes.
Same Rules, Different Device
Many people don’t consider antivirus protection for their mobile devices, thinking — incorrectly — that such protection is only necessary for a computer. But if you use your mobile device to access the internet, including using apps over the network, antivirus is an absolute must, especially if you use an Android device.
Incidences of Droid apps being contaminated by malware are growing. While the Apple iOS system is largely immune to threats from mobile-specific malware, the risk is still there as cyber criminals grow more sophisticated and the app market is flooded with new, unproven apps. Attacks on PCs still outnumber attacks on mobile devices, but the risk is real. That means that robust antivirus protection designed specifically for your mobile operating system can help keep your data safe and secure. In addition, when you download your bank’s mobile banking app, acquire it directly from your bank’s site; if you get it from an app store, confirm that the developer’s name is that of your bank, to avoid downloading a counterfeit or contaminated version of the app.
Antivirus protection is only part of the battle, though. Much like with your home computer, you need to create complex passwords — in other words, “password” and “abc123” are no more secure on your phone than on your computer. Use the same protocols you would on your computer to create mobile passwords, and change them regularly.
Phishing is also a risk to mobile banking customers. Some have received text or e-mail messages purporting to be from the bank, asking them to log in or provide identifying details, including passwords, via text message. Keep in mind that your bank will never ask for such details via text, and use caution before clicking on any links you receive. If you receive a suspicious message from your bank, call or stop by a branch to determine whether they’ve made contact and to handle the situation safely and securely.
Theft: The Greatest Risk
Because of the multitude of channels, operating systems and robust security measures, it is difficult for criminals to create widespread mobile scams targeting banking customers. For that reason, if you use your phone for financial transactions, the greatest risk to your information is the loss or theft of your phone. If you have an automatic log-in via an application on your phone, and it falls into the wrong hands, it won’t be long before you see your accounts emptied out.
For that reason, use your phone’s locking feature to thwart any unauthorized user from accessing your personal data. Avoid staying logged in to any apps, and do not save your username or password on your mobile banking app log-in page.
Don’t forget to call the bank as well the minute you realize your phone is lost. Most banks can disable their apps remotely, and will place a notation on your account to be on alert for suspicious activity. Your wireless carrier may also be able to remotely wipe all data from the phone, but at the very least can disable the service to the phone.
Using your mobile phone for banking is convenient and efficient, allowing you to save time while you’re on the go. And if you take the proper precautions, it’s perfectly safe as well.
Sonia Colson teaches courses in information security at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. She is certified in information security and previously worked for a major bank developing high-level security protocols.
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Category: Money Basics