There were times when common banking activities like withdrawal of money or deposit of money meant time-consuming visits to the bank and waiting in line for hours. As inconvenient and troublesome as that was, it also meant less risk of being cheated and less chances of theft of personal information. Today, we have banking at our fingertips, with mobile banking applications. What we used to do in probably three to four hours earlier, can be done now with a few simple clicks or taps in a matter of seconds and that too from anywhere in the world if you have a smart device and the internet. But how secure are these mobile banking apps and online transactions? Could someone be stealing all the information you send out through such apps?
The truth is that there are various risks of being victims to such cyber attacks, but thankfully mobile banking apps these days are made with several layers of protection and it would take considerable effort for a thief to break in through all of that. Nevertheless, there are some things that you should do too, to make sure that your information is safe and protected while using mobile banking apps. Here’s what you should do for a safe banking experience online:
- Avoid following links and thus phishing – Phishing refers to the practice of acquiring personal and important information such as passwords, usernames and the like by pretending to be a trustworthy person or entity. It basically involves tricking someone into providing sensitive information and then using that information for malicious practices. It is in a way similar to actual ‘fishing’ as both of them involve bait to lure the victim into the trap. The bait in phishing could be a simple text message with an internet link or an email, or even a website, which could even look like your bank’s website (spoofing). You should never follow links on such emails and messages. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these are the most common ways that scammers use to steal private information from you. Legitimate companies and banks never ask for credit or debit card numbers, passwords or social security numbers and the like through emails and texts, so if you see a message somewhat like this:
“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
DO NOT click on the link.
- Download only the official banking app from a reputed site or store – Most leading banks offer their official applications on most smartphone app stores. For a fact, such apps are a lot more safe and secure than other apps and are definitely better than sending SMSs and emails. Banks actually go a long way to ensure that any information entered and sent across through their apps is encrypted. Hence make sure you download only the official app and only from leading well-known app marketplaces, like that of Google’s and Apple’s. Your bank will probably have information about their official app on their website, which you can use to verify the credibility of the app you are about to download.
- Avoid banking through public networks – Public WiFi networks are often not that secure. Even simple banking activities like checking your balance can make your private information vulnerable over the network. Most places that offer such WiFi or hotspot networks often advise their users not to share private information through it. It is always better to switch to your phone’s network in case you have to use your banking app while in a public network, as fraudsters and thieves could also be using the same network and may be waiting to steal your information. Some phones allow automatic switching to WiFi once they are in range of an open one. Hence, make sure you are not on a public network before using online banking apps or sharing any private, sensitive data.
- Avoid having personal data on your phone – For the same reason that your phone is the most convenient tool that you can easily carry around everywhere, it also proves to be sort of a risk sometimes. Your phone can have all kinds of information, like your calendar appointments, your passwords and your contacts. Such information can be read by other apps and other devices if not properly monitored and can be used against you. It also means you should be careful about where you leave your phone. Try avoiding maintaining private information on your phone as much as possible. If at all you have to, make sure you have several layers of protection for your phone. This will at least give you some time to lock your phone in case it gets stolen or lost.
- Make sure you have an updated anti-virus system – Keeping your system up to date with the latest software along with the latest security patches can actually help a great deal in keeping away malicious software and people. It is also good to download an appropriate, trusted antivirus program for your phone as well. That adds as an extra layer of protection to the phone as well.
Keeping all these points in mind, you can very well use mobile banking apps safely. All you need to do is be a little careful and alert. In spite of all this, if you happen to lose your phone, you have the Federal Laws to the rescue. According to CNN, you can recover your losses with a limit of $50 if you report the loss within two days of its discovery. Several banks apparently already have policies in place, that waive the liability completely. Even then, prevention is better than cure, so it’s always better to avoid theft and follow these simple steps while using mobile banking apps.
With great power comes great responsibility. We’ve all heard of that haven’t we. Well, here is a little modified version of that – “With great benefits come great risks”. Yes, it’s true. Especially in the case of mobile payments. While we are all basking in the glory of the “great benefits” accruing from the digitization of world of payments, the flip side of things is often overlooked. How many of us know the risks associated with mobile payment portals?
Let’s just say it’s complicated. One thing to keep in mind though, is that, irrespective of what industry it is, new developments in technology mean new vulnerabilities and risks and the only way to move forward is to be well aware of them and find ways to deal with them. I’m going to take you through some risks associated with mobile payments here. Before that, let’s take a look at how mobile payments work.
How does it work
Mobile phones contain a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip inside, which stores the bank information or debit/credit card information securely. NFC is a short-range wireless technology used for communication between various digital devices. When a consumer makes a purchase, the NFC chip transmits the relevant information through wireless technology, as the consumer enters the range of a retail register. It is similar to the Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) used in contactless credit cards and transit cards.
First of all, the GSM or CDMA standards used by the service payment providers may be the primary cause of risks or vulnerabilities. Many service providers often use messaging protocols along with their data transmission systems for the sake of convenience or ease. But they fail to provide the required level of security encryption, which makes it easy for frauds to break in and steal important information, like for example payment authentication information.
Another issue with mobile payments is shoulder surfing and device theft which involve spying on the users of cash-dispensing machines or any other electronic devices and obtaining their Personal Identification Number (PIN) or passwords and the like. Sometimes such spying can take place even through malware like malicious programs, viruses, and other such invasive software. This risk can be avoided through an appropriate antivirus software or by using trusted sources for downloading applications.
The Point of Sale (POS) terminal device used by NFC technology in mobile payments is another risk. These terminals may get hacked and can be used within probably a distance of 20 centimeters from your device. This increases the chances for other malware to be uploaded onto your device, which in turn leads to fraudulent NFC transactions in the same name. Such risks can be minimized by having a bilateral system authentication before making a mobile payment. It also helps to keep away from false payment requests. As a matter of fact, the source of the payment request needs to be checked properly for its genuineness, as it is a clear indicator of a risk.
Then there are regular risks associated with payments as well, like the chances of someone else’s expenditure being charged to your account or the same purchase being charged twice to your account and the like. Such risks arise irrespective of whether you swipe a card to make a purchase or whether you make contactless payments.
Mobile payment basically brings with it a lot of risks along with benefits and conveniences. A major concern of the people regarding mobile payments is having to disclose a lot of personal information in order to make purchases easier. Such information, once fed into a mobile wallet stand the chance of being used by other applications in your mobile device as well, if not properly protected. Most of the time, people ignore the permissions page while downloading an app and grant permissions to Apps straightaway without reading them. Sometimes, it doesn’t even make sense for apps to request permission to access certain information that is clearly not necessary for it to function. But we tend to overlook this in the urge to install applications that we find interesting, without even knowing how our private data can get compromised through such apps. It would help to read through these once before installing apps so as to minimize the risks of your personal details being shared.