There’s no doubt that mobile device usage has become pretty universal in today’s digital age. Moving far beyond basic text and calls, our smartphones now serve as alternatives to automated teller machines (ATMs), menus, global positioning systems (GPS), and much more. Aside from providing all types of entertainment and help in looking up the best new local restaurant, mobile devices have become widely embraced by users—and at a breakneck pace—for banking needs. According to a recent survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 32% of adults and 35% of mobile phone owners in the U.S. bank online using their mobile devices. And the numbers will only continue to grow in 2014. However, as we become more reliant on our mobile devices for everyday activities, the potential for data and identity theft increase exponentially.
Forrester Research predicts that mobile banking will reach roughly 46% of all U.S. bank account holders by 2017, which means a lot more information to steal for cybercriminals. With the number of mobile devices connected to financial accounts increasing daily, it is no surprise that criminals have turned their sights on mobile—oftentimes faster than businesses and banks can respond. And while it’s certainly convenient to check an account balance from anywhere anytime, mobile banking has also given savvy scammers another way to steal precious information from unsuspecting users.
As 2013 comes to a close, it is important to better understand how mobile devices will continue to impact financial institutions and consumers, as well as what to look out for in 2014. Security expert and Gartner analyst Anton Chuvakin warns that financial institutions should prioritize protecting payment data on mobile devices over other endeavors. While many banks and merchants are inclined to concentrate more on the regulatory part of mobile transactions such as industry security standards that are handed down from governing bodies, the real emphasis should be on preparing for and staying abreast of emerging security risks. Threats like mobile phishing scams and banking Trojans are expected to be on the rise, so protecting information at the device level is key as this is where many attacks start.
When it comes to consumer best practices for 2014 and into the future, the most important factor will be vigilance. It is easy to get too comfortable using mobile devices for everything from shopping to depositing checks, and cybercriminals bank on users’ lack of awareness in protecting their data and devices across all mobile activities. While the responsibility lies in part on the merchant or financial institution to protect transactions and other activities on their sites, it lies as much in your hands to protect your device and data. Mobile devices are constantly exposed to risks by way of unsecure networks, device loss/theft, and other threats on the user side.
So, with these current and new threats in mind, how can you continue to enjoy the convenience of mobile banking without exposing yourself and your data to new risks? Below are some tips to help keep your device and information safe in 2014 and beyond:
- Update your mobile software. If your mobile carrier allows for it, updating your OS can immediately improve the security of your device.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks to access your bank account. Avoid checking your bank account or downloading any content while on unsecure networks. Cybercriminals often use public Wi-Fi in places like coffee shops as a hunting ground for victims.
- Stick to your bank’s app. Avoid the possibility of logging onto phony mobile sites when banking by using your bank’s app. These have been created by your financial institution specifically to enhance the security of your transactions.
- Don’t store banking information on your device. You never know what could happen should your phone fall into the wrong hands. Keep your accounts safe by keeping your bank logins saved elsewhere.
- Lock down your device with a PIN Code. Regardless of what information you store on your device, keep it passcode protected and keep the cyber snoops out.
- Don’t share account information over text. Never share sensitive information over unsecured text channels such as email, text message or chat. Even if you receive a message supposedly from your bank, call them first to confirm that the message is in fact from them, as banks should not be asking for such information in writing.
- Go the extra mile when it comes to mobile security. Vigilance is not always enough, which is why enlisting the help of a security service is a crucial part of mobile device safety. McAfee® Mobile Security detects some of the top Android banking Trojans and protects devices from any subsequent data loss. Additional features include remote lock and wipe functions should your device become lost or stolen, as well as virus protection with continuous scanning and monitoring of your mobile activity.
When it comes to your personal banking there are a number of additional proactive measures you can take to keep your information safe, both on and off of your mobile device. For more tips on how to enjoy the convenience of mobile banking while keeping your important data safe, visit the McAfee Security Advice Center.