The notion of safety and being secure is very subjective. I personally believe there is no instance where you can say you are 100% secure, completely safe from the evil lurking around you. Especially, at a time, when each one of us is hyper-connected. Well, most of us, if not all.
Which brings me to one aspect where safety is critical, i.e., mobile banking (it has to be since it’s about money). There are two categories of people here: the savvy and the paranoid. Paranoids like myself avoid accessing bank account via browsers or apps. The savvy users, on the other hand, are comfortable carrying their bank accounts on their mobiles.
Irrespective of how savvy they are, the doubt still lurks: “is mobile banking safe?”
Add on top of that the news on banking data being leaked; the doubt becomes a serious threat. It’s not always the bank though or a genius hacker who wreaks havoc. More often than not, it’s us, the human who remains the weakest link. Truth be told, I am no expert on security. But, I do feel obliged to educate the audience here, out of goodwill. Plus, it involves common sense than expertise.
Before we begin the rant on “how to secure mobile banking,” let’s first elaborate on the topic:
What is Mobile Banking?
Mobile Banking refers to the use of your mobile device for conducting banking tasks. This includes fund transfers, making p2p payments, checking the status of your bank account, and electronic bill payments, etc. All this is done using the native application that your bank provides you for the platform of your choice.
What Are the Security Risks of Mobile Banking?
Numerous, to put it simply. You have a ton of apps available to use day in and day out. For instance, you use apps for ordering food, taking selfies, posting status updates and what not. Your “always logged in” bank account resides right there, which is like carrying a checkbook and where each check is signed and left blank. You see where this is going, right?
Some of the most common security risks of mobile banking include (but not limited to):
Watch out for Banking Malware!
This has been on the rise, with mobile banking Trojans designed specifically to attack users and steal money from their accounts. Such malicious tools are designed to fake the appearance of your banking app, get you to install it and then you know what happens.Mcafee Mobile Threat Report released in Q1, 2018 predicted it to rise by 77%, a number that was documented to have surpassed in the 2019 report. These Trojans are on the rise, clearly highlighting the fact that the banking sectors are prone to falling victims to these digital threats.
Below is a snapshot from the report highlighting the growth in mobile malware since 2016. Self-explanatory, I assume?
Tip: Watch out for such malware and always use the official app available via an official link. Don’t trust any other source!
Don’t Use Unsecured WiFi Networks (Especially, Public WiFi)
While it may sound convenient to connect to free public Wi-Fi, the inconvenience it may cause is unfathomable. Not just public Wi-Fis, but even your home or office network poses an equal threat if the right precautions aren’t taken.The most obvious threat is the “man in the middle attack.” It involves a hacker sniffing the data exchange between the victim and the website accessed.
Tip 1: Always prefer your cellular network over public Wi-Fi
Tip 2: Use a trusted VPN to add an extra layer of encryption when connecting to public Wi-Fi
Tip 3: Do read our Public WiFi Tips before you connect to a public Wi-Fi
Make Sure You Protect Your Phone – Don’t lose it!
I guess the risks involved here are obvious. Your basic security features on the device should be set up the minute you own one. Some of those tips include:Tip 1: Setting up a strong password. Avoid obvious passwords like 1234, 1111, etc. Since they are easy to remember, they are extremely easy to guess as well. Do check our comprehensive guide on password security.
How Safe is Mobile Banking on Android
While the Android platform offers its users convenience and ease, it also leaves room for exploitation and vulnerabilities. With Android being an “open source” platform, it is not centrally controlled like the iOS. With an 80% market share and multiple manufacturers tinkering with the operating system, the chances of vulnerabilities increase.Tip 1: Make sure you only download the official apps
Tip 2: Make sure that you have Google Play Protect enabled on your Android Device. This can be done from the Android Settings. Google Play Protect regularly checks your apps and device for harmful behavior.
Tip 3: Make sure all the apps you have on the device are updated. And, delete any app that you don’t use or find suspicious.
How Safe is Mobile Banking on iOS?
Compared to Android, mobile banking on iOS is comparatively safer. This is largely owed to the high standards that the App Store has and that the operating system is a closed system. This means all the apps you use on your iPhone or iPad are downloaded from the official store.Of course, the same doesn’t apply to jailbroken iPhones or iPads since jailbreaking allows you to tweak your iOS device and install applications from unauthorized app repositories.
Tip: Stay away from Jailbreaking, unless you are a pro!
So is Mobile Banking Safe? The Final Verdict
Yes!. As long as you:
- Have the official app installed
- Update it regularly
- Avoid connecting to public WiFi without a VPN.
- Don’t lose your phone!
But, perhaps the most important tip is that you act responsibly!
Hackers, scams and malware will continue to exist and thrive, unless we keep a close watch on what we download, what links we click, etc.
Happy Mobile Banking!