How safe banking on your phone is depends primarily on you. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2014 U.S. State of Cybercrime Survey, the banking sector is among the most vigilant about mobile security. Therefore, customers have to do their part to protect themselves against hacking of personal information, identity theft, and fraud. The good news is that best practices have evolved to enhance the security of mobile banking.
At the top of the list is to download directly from the bank’s website its mobile app. That ensures you will always be connecting with the bank, not a fake. Criminals are adept at creating look-alike apps which customers have been known to log into with their password and disclose account data.
Next is to develop the habits that have been proven to deter cybercrime. Those include making your phone only password-accessible and locking it when not in use or when it’s not in your direct possession. A time-out feature will automatically do the locking when the phone is on down time. If your mobile banking is based on SMS (short message service), some financial institutions provide one-time passwords (OTP). With each transaction, the bank provides a new password, which is then deleted afterwards.
When transacting mobile banking business, only do that over a secure wireless network or a trusted hot spot. That rules out relying on public Wi-Fi, which is what is usually available in most airports, hotels, and coffee shops. Those are known to be vulnerable to hackers monitoring them for the transmission of financial data. After transacting business with the bank, it is critical to formally log out. Some apps facilitate this automatically. Not logging out could leave the accounts accessible to hackers.
But, phones do get lost or stolen. To reduce the damage that could happen, contact the bank immediately and explain the situation. Simultaneously you can arrange with the phone provider to disable your phone remotely, temporarily or permanently. You can also erase its content.
Another best practice is to be cautious about downloading apps and what permissions you grant them. McAfee Labs found that between 2012 and 2013, targeting of mobile devices surged 197 percent. That malware frequently comes in the form of what seems to be a cool app. In the phone it will lurk, awaiting your logging into the banking app and accessing financial information.
In addition, security experts recommend regularly inspecting the phone to catch if any unknown apps have been installed. Also, those kinds of check-ups might turn up that text messages are being transmitted without authorization.
Vigilance also demands you are suspicious of all unexpected communications on your phone that claim to be from the bank. Too often these are what is known as “phishing” messages. Their purpose is to gain access to financial data. Your vigilance can determine how safe is banking on your phone.