Word is out that mobile banking may soon become the new black. Account balance and recent transaction inquiries, and fund transfers may be the most common mobile banking transactions nowadays, but with the development of better and more advanced phone banking applications, it certainly won’t be long before you’re using your phone more than your local branch for banking matters.
If you think about it, it’s not surprising at all that more people would be encouraged to take up mobile banking. It is after all, the ultimate in banking convenience. Even when you’re on a road trip or having fun under the sun in the Caribbean, a forgotten payment due date or an account running low on funds isn’t that much of a problem as payments and transfer are just a few cell phone keys away. But once you’ve established how convenient and time-saving the technology is, you’d most likely ask yourself, “How safe is mobile banking?”
Despite its ubiquity, many people believe that mobile banking still has a lot of security issues to contend with. A study made by Javelin Research and Strategy reveals that of the estimated 30 million mobile banking customers in the US, about half think the technology is not as secure as it should be. But while there is some truth to this, the reality is that one of the more obvious disadvantages of using a mobile phone for bank transactions has nothing to do with the technology, but is associated more with the fact that cell phones are quite easy to lose.
However, even if you do happen to leave your phone at a crowded restaurant for instance, it’s not as if someone can just use it to siphon money out of your account. Just as in online banking, depositors are required passwords and/or personal identifications numbers (PINs) when transacting via cell phones.
Some Surprising Truths
Not taking into account the “mobility” of the cell phone and its susceptibility to getting lost or stolen, studies have shown that mobile banking may actually be safer than online banking — at least for now. This is because malware and viruses specifically aiming for mobile devices are not as rampant yet as the threats that currently besiege the online community.
Unlike computers, different mobile phones use different mobile operating systems which make them more difficult to target with password-stealing malware and hacks. Because of the diversity of platforms, most security specialists conclude that computer fraudsters stand to gain a lot more by creating a single virus for millions of Windows users, than making one that is directed solely at a single cell phone brand and model.
Security firm Sophos in its annual report thread last year categorized the risk of a mobile device getting infected with viruses as “tiny” in comparison to a PC. On the other hand, senior analyst for Javelin Strategy and Research Tom Willis qualifies this risk by saying that mobile banking can indeed be safer than online banking through a PC, if the security features of the phone are enabled.
Practicing Safe Mobile Banking
Just because mobile banking is still relatively safe today doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. As mobile banking usage grows, and as more financial transactions are enabled using cell phones, cyber crooks will find it a more attractive “business” to get into. Plus, mobile browsers are not equipped with anti-virus and anti-phishing software as PCs are, so the chances of getting tricked into revealing your financial data may very well go up.
To protect yourself from these possible threats, make sure that you apply the best practices associated with mobile banking. Some of the most basic things you can do to safeguard your phone banking capabilities are:
- Locking your phone using a password or PIN;
- Switching off the Bluetooth feature when not in use;
- Downloading mobile apps only from your banks or any other institutions you highly trust;
- For Blackberry and iPhone users, using the remote-wipe feature to clear the data on your phone remotely, in case you lose it;
- Installing security programs where applicable. Phones operating on Symbian OS and Windows Mobile for instance, can use the Kaspersky Mobile Security;
- Activating bank alerts that inform you when substantial amounts are withdrawn from your account.
Mobile banking is by no means a foolproof technology. But by knowing the potential risks and taking steps to safeguard your transactions, you can maximize the convenience that mobile banking offers in a secure manner.