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Top concern of banks: Making sure mobile is secure

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There is a spate of pessimists among us who will deposit their “mattress money” only in a bank with armed guards and a security system that rivals Fort Knox. Others read screaming headlines outlining that well-known Company X was hacked and Social Security or credit card numbers were compromised.

For banks rushing to offer the latest and greatest applications in the mobile banking arena, quelling consumers' security fears will be an everlasting work in progress.

“Home banking apps that have been adapted for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have created a significant security challenge for worldwide financial firms,” Ariel Sanchez, a consultant at IOActive, an industry leader of computer security services, told PC World magazine earlier this year. “As our research shows, financial industries should increase the security standards they use for their mobile home banking solutions.”

But while the pessimists wait in line at their local branch, consumers armed with a new smartphone or tablet appear to be embracing mobile banking.

Javelin Strategy & Research reports that the adoption of smartphone, tablet and mobile banking is “shattering expectations,” which raises the stakes for financial institutions to compete through “superior” mobile banking. According to Javelin, 95 million U.S. adults used mobile banking in 2013, up 27 million from 2012.

However, the Javelin study relents that 40 percent of smartphone users fear that as financial institutions push forward offering innovative and convenient financial options, consumers are left questioning whether some aspects of security were compromised in their rush to market.

The good news for apprehensive customers: transactions are taking place over cellular networks or within secure applications.

Wireless networks are secure connections over Wi-Fi. Because of this, mobile banking sessions may be less susceptible than many other forms of e-commerce transactions over the Internet. Wireless phones typically don't allow browser plug-ins or background processes to operate, so consumers who choose effective passwords can be comfortable knowing that their mobile banking transactions are safe and secure.

Duane Coda is a freelance writer based in Mountain Lakes.

THE CHECKLIST

When choosing a mobile banking platform, experts say to check to see if the following security building blocks are in place:

  • Firewall systems and intrusion-detection software.
  • Sensitive information encryption that protects ID data sent over the Internet.
  • Advanced encryption technology that prevents unauthorized access.
  • Profiles and passwords with multifactor security.
  • Alerts for users to download the latest security fortifications.
  • Real-time threat-detection platforms.

                                                                                                       

Mobile banking aficionados know that when it comes to security, it is not a one-way street paved only by the bank. Users must participate in the paving process. The following tips may seem like no-brainers to some, but these friendly reminders always are appropriate:

  • Deploy the digital locking mechanism on your mobile device.
  • Do what you’re told: download and apply security updates and patches to your mobile browser when these are made available by your wireless provider.
  • Do not install pirated software or apps of unknown origin.
  • Log off properly after each mobile banking session.
  • Immediately report lost, stolen or damaged handheld devices to your bank (even if it’s a false alarm).
  • Don’t get phished in: banks and most other merchants will not ask you to confirm sensitive ID data via email.
  • Don’t perform any mobile banking maneuver down at the corner coffee shop that lures you in with free Wi-Fi. More times than not this is public access Wi-Fi.

Public Wi-Fi connections have a propensity to be full of holes. When accessing account information in this situation, switch to another network. For smartphone users, disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to a cellular network is a secure route to take.

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