Whether you’re paying for that latte with Google Wallet or simply checking your balances, mobile banking is the wave of the future. And with an estimated 30 million people using some form of mobile banking, it’s very much the present, too. With advantages like being able to check balances, depositing checks via text message, monitoring investments, paying for goods and much more — all whenever you like, wherever you are and on a diversity of platforms — this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
There’s just one thing holding the tide back: mobile banking security, about which there’s a surplus of misleading or inaccurate information. So just how secure is it? Let’s take a look at a few security threats, and see just what you can do about them.
The Problem: Forgetful Users
The great thing about mobile devices is their convenience. Just slip them into your purse or pocket, and you’re good to go. But what makes mobile devices convenient is also what makes them easy to lose. It’s one thing to abandon your device on a restaurant table, another thing entirely when that device functions as your wallet.
If you’re a forgetful person, don’t leave your device out when you’re not using it. Other than that, your risk really isn’t that much higher than losing your credit card. You might consider locking your device with a pin, making banking passwords complex and not saving them to your device, just in case you do lose it. You can also rest assured that, thanks to the GPS capabilities on your mobile devices, your bank will notice something suspicious when they see you banking from some place unusual and will contact you or freeze your account, just like they would with suspicious activity on a credit card.
The Problem: Phishing Schemes and Malware
You’ll probably recognize these security risks from your interactions with email and the web. Phishing, at its core, is anything that tricks users into revealing private information, like passwords, social security numbers, birth dates — you name it. Malware, on the other hand, is a piece of accidentally downloaded software that likewise accesses a user’s information or tries to capture keystrokes.
As it stands right now, mobile devices aren’t targeted nearly as frequently as PCs, though that’s likely to change as mobile banking grows in popularity. Use the same common sense as you would on your PC, like not clicking on links sent to you by a suspicious email address pretending to be your bank, which will send you to a “spoofed” site. You’ll also want to avoid offering your password or account information via text message, as well as downloading any applications you haven’t thoroughly checked out. Lastly, stick to official apps created by your bank, as the security standards tend to be high.
The Problem: Public WiFi Networks and Websites That Aren’t Secure
No matter how you slice it, public networks just aren’t that secure. In fact, it’s pretty easy even for an amateur to lift private data off of your smartphone or tablet with free software. And, just like when you’re browsing the web on your computer, it’s easy to stumble upon websites that are lax about security.
Avoid the temptation to check your balances over public WiFi, particularly when they don’t require a password. Yes, this cuts into your ability to “bank wherever you are,” but it’s better to stick with something you know is secure. When loading websites, look for the “s” at the end of “https” (signifies the network is secure) and the secure lock symbol in the address bar.
The Problem: Apps That Share Too Much Data
Even when your data is secure, it’s important to ensure it’s not being sold to third parties you don’t approve of.
Read the fine print on those privacy policies, and take the time to really research what they mean.
The Problem: The User
Yes, one of the biggest risks to the security of your mobile banking data is you. Will you be wary of unsolicited downloads? Will you follow crucial app update prompts? Will you keep your devices by your side? It all comes down to you.
Mobile banking does have its fair share of security risks, but no more so than doing regular online banking or even interacting with an ATM, onto which it’s easy to install a fraudulent card reader. In fact, mobile banking may be more secure, particularly as biometric security measures advance. One thing is clear: as long you remain vigilant, the convenience of mobile banking mostly outweigh the costs. So get swiping, and enjoy that latte.