Are mobile banking apps safe?

mobile banking app on smartphone

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Around half of us now manage our money online, according to the Office for National Statistics.

These days you don't even need to be at a computer to manage your accounts, you can do it through your smartphone.

Banking applications allow you to pay bills, transfer money and keep an eye on your finances. But are they safe?

Is mobile banking risky?

That really depends on the application. Most internet banking providers invest heavily in the security of their mobile applications.

Stay safe on your mobile

  • Never leave your device unlocked
  • Keep the apps on your phone regularly updated
  • Try not to use unsecured wi-fi networks for banking, purchases or checking your emails
  • Take care when downloading apps - if something looks too good to be true, it probably is
  • Encrypt your phone
  • Check the security settings in your device to ensure maximum protection

What is an app?

These apps often have limitations on the amount of money they can transfer to minimise the risks.

Alternatively, they might require a code from a token or card reader to authorise larger transactions.

Often, doing your banking through your smartphone may be more secure than on a standard computer but there are some exceptions.

The most important thing is to make sure you use the official application for your bank and that you keep it updated.

Check that your bank's mobile app has been validated for its security. Firstly, you should look on the bank's website for their own published statement on how they have validated the security of their app.

If you can't find anything there, look for views from other customers that have used the app. One way to do this is to put the bank's name and 'mobile app' in an internet search engine such as Google to see what views there are of the app.

Are the risks different to normal online banking?

Generally speaking, there is far less nasty stuff targeting smartphones than traditional computers, which in a way makes them more safe.

That said, there are over 650,000 malicious Android applications out there. Many of them are fake banking applications that claim to be official.

Much like a phishing campaign, these applications are put onto various app stores where they wait for users to hand over their banking information.

It is critical that you make sure you install the right banking application.

Check your bank's official website for the latest advice on how to safely download the latest version of their banking app to suit your phone.

What can I do to minimise the dangers of mobile banking?

Staying safe online

Once you start using the application, find the option to be sent a message every time there is a transaction in your account. If your bank sends you an SMS whenever money goes in or out of your account, you can quickly spot if something is wrong.

More generally, switch on your phone's pass code, password or pin security lock so that only you can unlock it every time you go to use your phone.

You should also keep the operating system and apps updated with the latest versions. You can do this in your phone settings.

Getting a phone-tracking app which allows you to erase your data if it gets lost is also an excellent idea.

Are antiviruses needed for smartphones?

Depending on the smartphone operating system, antivirus technology could be a good idea.

Apple iOS for example operates a locked down or 'walled garden' model where only trusted applications can be installed on the device.

There have been examples of malicious applications but they were quickly removed from devices (not just the store) by Apple.

The Android operating system requires appropriate security controls and best practice to keep it safe.

Malware which poses as a legitimate application (or a free version of a commercial application) is very common and often relies on you to download and install it.

You can pick up free antivirus for Android via an app store.

What should you do if you think you've been scammed?

Contact your bank immediately and you can report your case to Action Fraud.

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