Mobile banking apps might save you a trip to your bank, but you should be aware they also come with innate security risks. Here are some practical steps you can take to protect your personal information and finances from criminals.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
According to Amy Fontinelle with Investopedia, never log in to your bank account via a public Wi-Fi network. While the “HTTPS” in front of a website URL offers some protection against hackers, there’s always the risk of someone obtaining your banking information through the public network. The only exception should be if you log in to your mobile banking account via a virtual private network or by using your cell phone’s network.
Be cautious about new apps
While new apps you download to your phone might be delightfully diverting, they can also pose a security risk when it comes to online banking. As Stacey Bradford, contributor with CBS News, warns, apps are “one of the easiest ways a thief can access your personal information.” Besides tapping into your personal info, thieves can also infect your phone with malware once you download the app. Before you download any new app, Bradford advises you make sure the app was released six months ago or longer, and that it’s been reviewed by credible sources.
Don’t follow links
Another helpful strategy is to always access mobile banking by typing in your bank’s website URL, rather than clicking on a link from an email. Sam Abraham, contributor with Business Today, points out a bank’s URL will change from “HTTP” to “HTTPS” to indicate a secure connection. In addition, make sure that a locked padlock or unbroken key symbol appears in the browser window; this shows the site you’re on is encrypted, as any legitimate mobile banking page should be.
Guard your passwords
Avoid writing down or emailing yourself your banking login credentials. As Fontinelle cautions, if you email yourself login credentials, all it takes is just one criminal to hijack your email account to obtain this personal data. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, use a credible password manager like Dashlane or LastPass to keep all of your passwords organized in a secure system.
Another threat to online banking security has to do with your browser’s cache. Since browsers keep a history of pages you’ve viewed — in case you want to visit a recently viewed page again — a criminal can easily crack into the cache to extract personal information. Abraham advises you regularly clean your cache to avoid this type of information breach.
Another practical way to enhance your mobile banking security is to make sure you can easily locate your phone if it gets lost. A lost phone could get into the hands of the wrong person — and so can your mobile banking information, especially if you allow automatic login options on your phone. To avoid this scenario, Bradford recommends investing in a security service for your phone. Lookout is a great service for Windows Mobile, Android and BlackBerry devices. If you have an iPhone, check into the comparable service offered by MobileMe.
By applying these sensible strategies, you’re well on your way to protecting your personal information and financial accounts while managing your money online.