Why You’re At Risk With Mobile Banking, And 3 Ways To Protect Yourself
Making financial transactions over the internet has been common for many years. However, as we rely on our phones to browse the internet more than ever before, the method of doing it is gradually changing. More and more, people are transferring money to their friends and family on the train ride to work and they are checking their latest bank statements on an app while walking to the shop. Even the senior vice president of FIS said that “in the next year mobile users will exceed the number of online users. Mobile users are already respnsible for more transactions.” The risk that you take by web banking on your smartphone is huge though. Be it a major or minor transaction smartphones are susceptible to hackers, they’re not very well protected, and that’s not to mention they’re easily lost or stolen. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to protect yourself if you are inclined to manage your finances in the palm of your hand.
Watch out for WiFi sniffers
Imagine the scene: you are on holiday and need to make an urgent transaction from your, let’s say, Natwest account. You find the nearest coffee shop with a public WiFi hotspot, take a seat in the corner with a fresh latte and quickly do it all over your smartphone. What many people don’t realise is that whether it is a coffee shop or a hotel, an airport or a restaurant, cyber thieves can easily prowl the network and infiltrate your device. It’s often done with a very simple piece of software that intercepts your internet signals across a particular network. This is what is known as WiFi sniffing.
If this were to happen, you could be the victim of identity theft and any passwords you use for web banking would be compromised — all before you had a chance to finish that latte. This is a big problem if you are inclined to leave your WiFi setting on, roaming from one hotspot to the next, each of which leaves you open to hackers.
Don’t worry though, the best ways to ensure you are protected while web banking on your phone are incredibly simple: make sure you find a password secured hotspot to conduct your finances and use the encrypted ‘https’ URL to access any site where you’re handing over personal details such as social media accounts, e-mail addresses and (it should go without saying) internet banking pages.
Protect your phone in case it’s lost or stolen
There are plenty of arguments for having your smartphone perform almost any function you might desire. First and foremost, it puts everything you need in one handy place: your pocket. However, there is one enormous argument against it, which is ‘what if the phone is lost or stolen?’ If it were to go missing it would be like handing over the keys to your entire life — your photos, social media accounts, contact numbers, calendar entries and, most worrying of all, your finances. It’s a legitimate concern considering a staggering 1.6 million phones were stolen in the USA last year alone.
There are ways to protect your phone and, in turn, your finances beyond password locks and keeping it in a safe location. In particular, if you are someone who stores or uses a lot of personal information on your smartphone it would be worth investing in an app like ‘Android Lost’ or ‘Find My iPhone’. These will let your remotely control your smartphone via a PC. They can lock your phone; erase the data; send you a GPS location of exactly where the device is and even take a photo of the thief with the phone’s front or back camera. It means that if you are inclined to use your phone for web banking, your financial details are protected even in the worst case scenario.
Make sure you are using reliable apps for web banking
Most people who use web banking on their phones do so via apps. However, not all of them are trustworthy. Last year a number of fake ones appeared on the App Store designed to look identical to the actual web banking apps. They asked customers to enter their unique password which would not only potentially give its creators access to your account but also let them steal important data off your smartphone including the IMEI and IMSI numbers.
Some banks attempted to combat this by using a two-tier security system that sent the customer an authentic transaction number via text. This meant that more than just a username and password was needed. However, some of these fake apps equally responded by installing SMS forwarding malware when they are downloaded on your smartphone.
There are several easy steps to verify you are using the authentic, official app of your chosen bank: check the star rating on the store before you download; read the fine print carefully; and look out for revealing factors, like whether it refers to you simply as ‘customer’ or whether it knows who you are. It’s also worth investing in an app like Malwarebytes for Android to protect against the aforementioned SMS forwarding.