By Mohammed Waseem
Today, almost every business is venturing into mobile applications. Be it retail, real estate, stock trading, banking, and even government services. In this article, I will talk about mobile banking apps and their security.
The first bank in the world to offer mobile-based banking through WAP is reportedly Fokus Bank of Norway in 1999. As the mobile phones became more popular, this was adopted all over the world. With the introduction of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms, this became even more accepted due to the ease of use, user-friendly platform, speed, etc.
Today, almost every bank has an app for Android and iOS. Apart from dedicated apps created by the banks, there are third party apps such as Mint, Mobile Checkbook, Pageonce (now called Check),etc. which help users manage bank accounts, loans, investments, etc. across multiple financial institutions. Banks try their best to ensure highest security for their apps, so do leading third party app providers. However, we must know what are risks involved in this and how to avoid them.
When you download a mobile banking app, check who the publisher of the app is. For example, if you are downloading an app for Bank of America, it should be published by Bank of America on iOS, Android and other app markets; preferably browse to the Bank of America website from your phone and click on the mobile banking app download link provided there; in most cases, banks provide links to app markets on their websites. If you are using a computer, the link may be sent to you by SMS or email. For third party apps, you can use the link provided in app description to verify the publisher and read reviews of the app and the publisher before using them.
Why is this so important? Because you are providing them your sensitive personal information such as bank account details, passwords, etc. which are not stored on apps that come from the right source. If the app stores this information, someone may be able to access and misuse it. Even when you are using trusted apps, make sure you do not save usernames and passwords on your phone.
A banking app must necessarily be tested by the publisher for security flaws and must be screened for malicious software and published only after they pass this testing. Banks and leading third party app providers do this testing and only then release the apps. The concern is however for the untrusted apps which may seem exactly what you are looking for, but may leak your information to someone who may misuse it. You must also avoid using mobile banking apps on unsecure public Wi-Fi networks.
All of this may seem like hindrances to the convenience mobile banking apps provide, but obviously is worth it.