It’s not unlikely your smartphone is rarely out of reach if not constantly in your hand during waking hours. Smartphones are a one-stop-shop for seemingly every need you have, whether it’s surfing the web, responding to emails, texting a friend or engaging on social media. These devices have also become increasingly useful for managing your money thanks to the availability of online banking. You may have reservations about incorporating this very important aspect of your life into your smartphone, and that’s perfectly reasonable — using a banking app on your phone is not without risks to consider.
How apps are vulnerable
Your hesitance to download a banking app on your phone likely stems from the fear that your accounts and personal information could be compromised. While the number of massive data breaches might lead you to believe that mobile banking is not as safe as you would hope, the Identity Theft Research Center found that mobile app breaches accounted for just 3 percent of all hacked information in 2016.
Still, this is not to say that there are no risks involved. NerdWallet’s Margarette Burnette writes that mobile banking apps are primarily vulnerable in two senses: man-in-the-middle attacks and key logger software.
With a man-in-the-middle attack, a hacker will intervene in the communication between a banking app and the financial institution’s server. Because a bank needs an authenticated server certificate to proceed, a hacker might send back a false server certificate that allows them to collect your personal information.
A key logger is a malicious kind of software that exists covertly on an electronic device. As the name suggests, it literally logs every key input you make, which allows the software installer to get your passwords, account numbers and other vital information.
How you can protect yourself
According to Burnette, banks are doing their best to thwart hackers by employing standards, policies and online protocols such as firewalls, website encryption software, anti-virus protection and fraud monitoring to keep your account information safe. Check with your bank to ensure that it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that your money and identity are protected from thieves. If your bank is not using satisfactory measures, consider finding one that does.
While it’s essential that your bank be proactive in keeping your money safe, it is imperative that you take the steps necessary to ensure that you are using a mobile banking app intelligently. Ensure that your device has the latest in anti-virus software, which better ensures that your device would not become infected by a key logger or other malware.
Burnette also recommends that you take advantage of two-factor authentication, which increases security by requiring a second piece of information like a one-time pin number sent to your phone or email before allowing you to log in. Many banking apps also offer fingerprint and facial recognition, which helps to ensure that you and only you are able to access the app.
If you are downloading a banking app for your smartphone, Burnette recommends ensuring that it is authentic. You should only ever download official banking apps from verified marketplaces like the App Store and Google Play, and you should be diligent to ensure that you are downloading the actual app and not a clever spoof.
It is also imperative that you not use a mobile banking app over public Wi-Fi. Doing so leaves you open to man-in-the-middle attacks and makes it easy for others to see and abuse your information. You should only ever bank on a trusted home wireless network or on your mobile’s cellular network.
Although nothing is foolproof, you can increase the safety of using a mobile banking app by being aware of the risks and taking steps to avoid them. If you do, you’ll find that managing your money will become quite a bit easier.