Mobile banking is an innovative, time-saving concept, but it’s open to pitfalls if users don’t know how to safeguard their information. The idea behind it is to put the convenience of sitting at a computer and logging into your bank account right at your fingertips, no matter where you go. Unfortunately, it can also mean putting your information in front of a hacker if you don’t know how to protect your accounts.
Using a mobile banking feature can mean anything from logging in to check your bank balance on your smartphone or tablet to actually paying for your transactions through your device. It all depends on what type of account you’ve set up and what type of device you use. Interestingly, the wide variety of options available to consumers is something that helps keep hackers at bay; they don’t know what bank, app, or mobile payment option you use just by spotting you in a store, which makes it a lot harder to nab your information on the go.
There are a few more steps you can take to make the job of stealing your data even harder:
1. Connecting in public – One of the longstanding rules of engagement for mobile banking is also the most counterintuitive: don’t. More accurately, unless you have a specific need to log into your bank account in public, why put yourself at risk of a hacker getting between you and your bank’s servers? If you can save any sensitive online activity until you get home to your secured network, there’s less risk of someone infiltrating it.
2. But the whole point is “mobile” – Mobile banking isn’t very handy if you can’t use it on the go, though. If you need to use your smartphone to connect to your bank accounts while out in public, be careful of the network where you connect. Avoid using unsecured public wifi connections that are shared by lots of people, and instead, opt to use your phone’s cellular data connection. Also, install a VPN, or virtual private network, which is like a tunnel that connects you to the internet without other people being able to see what you’re doing. Use that VPN any time you’re doing anything sensitive with your smartphone or tablet.
3. Go for the app – If your financial institution offers it, download their app directly from their website. There’s less chance that you’ll accidentally download a “copycat” app that scammers created to mimic your bank’s app. Using the dedicated app for your mobile banking is also safer than opening your smartphone’s web browser and using the bank’s website.
4. Log out when you’re done – It’s not enough to just close out your banking app by hitting the Home button, you need to actively log out of the app in case your device is stolen. That way, anyone who finds or hacks your device will have extra work to do to get into your bank accounts.
5. Passcode that phone! – It can’t be said enough: the best way to protect yourself from any kind of cyberattack is to use strong, unique passwords on all of your accounts. It’s annoying to have to type in a code every time you wake up your phone, but you have to keep in mind that your smartphone is really just a mini computer. Without a passcode on it, you’ve handed your entire internet life to anyone who finds or steals your phone. Protect yourself with a non-sequential number combination or a telenumeric word that isn’t easily guessed.