Mobile Banking Safety & Security Tips

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Palm TreoI’ve had a Palm Treo for almost two years and one of the nice things about having a smartphone is that it gives me the ability to go online whenever I have cell service. It’s saved my butt on more than one occasion.

With the internet at my fingertips, one thing I’ve done more often is check my banking information through the phone’s web browser. It’s a quick way to see if checks have cleared without calling the bank and navigating the painful IVR systems. However, I’ve always done this without much concern for security.

I know for a fact that the browser doesn’t show a lock icon when communication is encrypted, as it does whenever you use a regular web browser. I just assumed it was. While a mistake, it hasn’t hurt me (communication is encrypted, even if my phone doesn’t explicitly tell me), but I saw this Bankrate article on mobile banking safety and wanted to bring up the topic.

There are three ways you can bank through your phone:

SMS: SMS stands for short messaging service and you’re probably most familiar with its incarnation as text messages. When you receive alerts via text message, it’s sent across SMS. If you’ve started using text messages to send codes to your bank to get your balance or limits or whatever, notice that it never contains any sensitive information like account numbers. Bankrate warns that phishing attempts, much like they always have in email, have started never send out data.

Mobile Web: Mobile Web refers to using your phone’s internet browser to navigate to a bank’s website. The security here is just as strong as if you visited the website from your own computer. So avoid those phishing emails, don’t click on links (go to the website directly or through a saved bookmark), and you should be fine.

Downloaded Applications: These are actual programs that are built by banks and installed on your phone. They’re faster than the web interfaces and the most secure of all three methods because the bank built it themselves to interface with their servers. The only risk here is that the program may store your sensitive information on the phone or that you downloaded a hacked program (unlikely, especially if you go to the bank to get it).

The article gives some more tips on how you can better secure your phone (locking it with a password, no automatic logins, etc.) and they’re good steps to take if you do anything financially sensitive through your phone.

)Photo: gserafini)

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3 Responses to “Mobile Banking Safety & Security Tips”

  1. I too have had a Treo and have an iPod Touch in which I do a lot of online banking stuff. You need to make sure you don’t save any passwords on your mobile device as it’s easier to for you to lose your phone (or iPod Touch). If you do and you keep your information saved, you could have just given someone full access to your accounts.

  2. These are all good security tips. Also, the first thing you should concentrate on is keeping your phone from being stolen in the first place.

    Don’t attract attention to your phone when you are carrying or using it in the street, Don’t leave your phone in your car – if you must, lock it out of sight. It only takes seconds to break the window.

    In case your phone is lost, make sure you properly mark your phone with another telephone number to help someone who finds it to return it to you. Immediately, inform your service provider if your phone is stolen or lost

  3. shadox says:

    I have an iPhone – seemingly made for such mobile banking apps, but I have deliberately resisted using them for financial applications. I know that the wireless link is encrypted and secure, but what worries me is that I lose the phone or someone uses it to access my accounts while my phone is on my desk or something.

    I can wait until I get home at night to pay my bills…

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