Many major commercial banks are now offering consumers the choice to make deposits, send money, and perform other routine tasks using a mobile app. Bank customers can now use a smartphone or tablet for basic transactions like check deposits and bill payments, making it easier to keep an eye on finances without a trip to the ATM.
Mobile banking is indeed a tempting offer, but some consumers are rightly worried about the additional security risks; a recent report by viaForensics gave a “Pass” rating to just 14 of the 32 financial applications tested for security, and eight of these applications failed the test altogether.
Keeping information safe on your mobile device
You might dislike standing in line to deposit a check or sending a check to your cable company, but you also don’t want to put your private information in the hands of hackers. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make mobile banking from your smartphone safer.
Regardless of whether or not you use mobile banking from your smartphone, you should take advantage of your phone’s locking mechanism—usually a swipe pattern, passcode, or PIN—and if possible, set it to automatically lock the screen when the device is idle. If your applications have a “Remember Me” option, ensure that it’s disabled; you’ll avoid giving strangers access to private information if your phone is lost or stolen. McAfee All Access lets users add a PIN lock on specific apps, which serves as an extra layer of protection for sensitive information.
Updating mobile applications whenever new versions become available is a good practice whether or not you use mobile banking apps. Hackers can track the changes from one version of an app to the next. This allows them to find weak points in security protocols or reverse-engineer viruses and malware. If you’ve got an out-of-date version of an application, you’re more vulnerable to attacks. This advice applies to virus protection, security software, and new versions of a device’s OS.
Some applications allow users to associate an account with a specific mobile device—if you don’t share an account with a significant other, or if only one of the account holders uses mobile banking, linking your account to your device can help prevent unauthorized access to your financial information if a hacker manages to get his hands on your username and password.
Finally, you can protect your financial information by performing your online banking transactions only while connected to a private Wi-Fi connection. This is a good rule of thumb for any web-based banking transactions, whether from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Public or shared connections—like those in bookstores or coffee shops—are less secure than those in your home or office. Don’t assume that a connection is secure just because you need to enter a password, and never use a shared device, like a library computer or a friend’s tablet, to access online banking.
What to do if you’ve been hacked
If you suspect your financial information has been compromised, or if you find fraudulent charges on your bank statement, your first action should be to change the username and password you use to log in to online banking.
Your next step is to contact your financial institution and report the fraudulent activity. They’ll likely close your compromised accounts and open new ones, but it’s wise to confirm that these measures have been taken.
Depending on how soon you detect fraud, institutions are sometimes able to freeze transferred funds or even reverse a transaction. This can be difficult if money has been transferred overseas, as American regulations on electronic banking don’t apply to foreign institutions.
While individual policies vary from one financial institution to the next, some have introduced zero liability policies for customers, meaning any funds you’ve lost might be reimbursable. When you sign up for online or mobile banking, check your institution’s policy on liability.