Judith Bitterli, Chief Marketing Officer at AVG Technologies explores the rising popularity of mobile banking and presents some simple rules for keeping your financial information safe, and your phone protected.
More American adults now bank online than don’t. As of last year, Pew Research Institute found 51% banked online. Increasingly that means mobile banking. In it’s 2013 study, Pew found that 32% of US adults, and 35% of cell phone owners, bank using their mobile phones. Particularly during summer travel time, many of us are likely to do more of our banking, bill paying and, even, investing from our mobile devices.
Banks and other financial institutions are catering to the our mobile lifestyles and offering their own money management apps, as well as other apps for convenience like a local ATM finder – helping you to find a cash machine whether you’re in Boise or Borneo. And, in recognition of the risks controlling your finances brings online and on your smartphone, they’ve also been adding layers of security and encryption to make the processes safer.
Identity theft, scammers and phishing are unfortunately a risk of doing business or even being online. (That’s why we’ve made it our business at AVG!) But smartphones are even more problematic. Because they’re smaller and portable, they’re more liable to be forgotten in a hurry and easy prey for folks with sticky fingers. A just released report by Consumer Reports found that a staggering 3.1 million Americans had their cell phones stolen last year!
In the US, there is a Mobile Theft Deterrence Act in the works, introduced by Senator Charles Schumer of New York, which would mandate that stealing or tampering with a smartphone will have added criminal weight. (You can read the proposal here. And the major US phone carriers agreed this Spring to voluntarily implement a “Kill Switch” feature, which allows phone owners to wipe and shut down their phones remotely; this may be a standard feature as soon as next year.
That’s all good news. But in the meantime, if you manage finances online you have twin issues: keeping your financial information safe, and keeping your phone protected. Some simple precautions can go a long way.
First, here’s some advice for protecting your smartphone or mobile device when it comes to banking:
- Go straight to the bank. Get your official banking app from your bank, not from an app store. And be wary of sites that offer to connect you to multiple banks.
- Get up to speed on scams. For example, a bank is never going to send you an email requesting your security passwords. A good resource here is the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, found at www.acfe.com.
- Read our e-book, “Bank on It,” It not only has other great advice, but also goes into more detail about banking apps and the risks of other sorts of apps.
Now for five more general smartphone safety tips:
- Get some security software for your device. Apps such as AVG’s Antivirus for Androidcan help keep your phone free of malware that may spy on you but can also help recover your phone should it get lost or stolen.
- Lock it! As soon as you get a new phone, set a hard-to-guess password. (You can generate a truly random password. Also, if you don’t know how to set your password, it’s a good place to go for instructions, whether you have an iPhone, Android or other device.
- Get a mobile theft tracker, if you don’t have one. This will help you and the authorities if your device is stolen. Many are free.
- Set up a SIM card lock to stop it from being used in another phone.
- Back up any valuable materials, including photos, documents, and data. We all know this one, and still often fail to do it!
Mobile banking gives us convenience and allows us to be in charge of our finances while we’re on the go. A little awareness can go a long way to secure the process and our mobile devices – and give us a little more peace.
This post first appeared on the AVG Blog and is re-used with permission.
It is an interesting review of the mobile banking security landscape. However, all those tips are useless against threats in the OS itself. For example, recently one forensic scientist identified suspicious ‘back doors’ running on every iOS device. During his talk at HOPE/X Jonathan Zdziarski detailed several undocumented services (with names like ‘lockdownd,’ ‘pcapd,’ ‘mobile.file_relay,’ and ‘house_arrest’) that run in the background on over 600 million iOS devices. Just the possibility of such hacks in the OS ruins any attempt to secure your mobile bank experience.