Posted July 1, 2015 by Bex in Article

Is it safer to do my online banking by phone?

Just a few years ago many of us wouldn’t have even considered doing mobile banking on our phones, presuming that it was a very unsecure method of accessing our accounts. But, surprisingly, experts are now advising that doing online banking on our smartphones is actually safer than doing it on our PC’s.

banking-in-PakistanIn a recent article published in the Telegraph, it was suggested that because the onus is being placed on individuals, rather than banks, when it comes to paying expenses connected to fraudulent cases, it would be much more beneficial for customers to start using their smartphone to do their banking. The theory behind it is that even though PC’s are so versatile and arguably easier to use, they are also more susceptible to virus and other malicious hacking attempts.  Although it is possible to defend your PC against these malicious programs, it is incredibly involved and often takes more than one single piece of hardware/software, which will also need regular updates. Confusing for even the most technically minded amongst us, but an absolute minefield for those of us that really wouldn’t know where to start.

But, how is banking by smartphone any different to using a PC? Surely, by logging in online it is just as unsecure as doing it from a home computer?

The answer to this is ‘no’, because the only way to install a program on an iPhone or Android device is to visit an app store, such as iTunes, and any apps you download will have been thoroughly vetted by the vendor.  The majority of the larger banks have their own smartphone apps and by using these you are less likely to be stung with any charges should fraudulent activity occur on your account. Clay Calvery, who is director of cybersecurity for MetroStar Systems, explains, “No online banking is completely safe, period, however, unrooted tablets and cellphones are much safer than using PCs for banking. The primary reason for this is that applications are vetted before they’re sent to the app store and made available for download. Apple and Google specifically look for malicious behaviour built into apps that are submitted by developers and will reject anything that presents potential security risks.”

There are, however, certain limitations as to how much you can do with your smartphone and you are unlikely to be able to carry out all of your banking online requirements. Standard mobile banking apps will generally allow you to do the following:xperia2

  • View account balances and mini statements
  • Transfer money between your own accounts
  • Some apps will allow you to transfer money to other accounts, but they must be existing recipients, who has been pre-authorised through the banks online service.

Basically, using a banks own app is great for accessing and checking the activity on your account, but not so great if you want to take money out. From a security point of view this is fantastic, as it allows you to check if any fraudulent activity has occurred and contact your bank a lot quicker. Specific banking apps do not store any of your bank details directly onto your phone, which means you don’t need to worry about personal information being found if your mobile is stolen. Instead, the app will access your information from a secure data centre, for example HSBC, First Direct, Santander, NatWest, RBS and Lloyds all use the mobile banking service provided by Monilink.

Barclays Pingit_3Some banks will allow smartphones users full access to their online banking sites and if this is the case it is absolutely essential that you install a decent antivirus onto your phone to make security as tight as possible. Due to the rise and ever changing nature of mobile viruses, many of the major anti-virus providers now offer dedicated smartphone security packages. These work by monitoring the background activity on your phone and help stop viruses from compromising your personal data.

Follow these top tips and be more confident about the security of your bank account:

  1. Only download apps from reputable sources or directly from your bank – remember they should always be free to download and use.
  2. If your bank offers free security, download it!
  3. Always ensure you smartphone is locked when you are not using it. Set it up with a PIN or password that you will remember, but is not too easy for others to guess.
  4. Make sure the browser you use on your phone doesn’t automatically input your passwords or usernames.
  5. Switch Bluetooth off when you are not using it, as this will prevent any unmonitored wireless activity from occurring on your phone.
  6. Delete any text messages you have received from your bank when you have finished reading them.
  7. Only download anti virus software from reputable sources.
  8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks to carry out any online transactions.