Cell Phone Safety: How to Keep Financial Apps Secure

A young man wearing glasses looks down t his mobile phone and secures mobile finance and banking apps.

Managing finances on the go has become a way of life for many of us, as banking apps, investing apps and other financial apps become the norm. But as with most technology, there are risks to keeping financial information on your mobile phone or tablet, and it’s important to think about whether your information is safe on your phone.

By taking a few necessary precautions, you can help ensure your mobile device—and any connected financial accounts—are secure.

Have a Screen Lock or Passcode

If you misplace your phone or tablet, the person who finds it should not have access to your apps. To avoid that possibility, enable a screen password to open the phone. Even better, use a touch ID that will only open with your fingerprint.

Set Secure Passwords

Even if a person with dishonest intentions was able to get into your phone or tablet, he or she should not automatically be able to access your financial apps. Make sure you activate a strong password to access each app that contains private or financial information.

A strong password should be at least 12 characters and should contain a variety of characters including upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. If your banking app or other financial apps allow touch ID, or access with your fingerprint, enable it for added security.

Keep Your Operating System Updated

It may seem like your device is always asking you to download another update, and that can get annoying. But keep in mind that the goal of those updates is to keep your information secure.

Rather than giving in to any feelings of annoyance, always download the latest updates on your phone or other mobile devices. Remember that device manufacturers are constantly designing updates to combat new vulnerabilities. By keeping the latest update on your phone or tablet, you and your information will be better protected against potential cybercriminals.

Download Apps Only from Official Channels

Bad actors, or would-be cyber thieves, look for any possible avenues to get inside your phone and get to your financial information. That’s why you have to be careful about where you download apps. Third-party app stores may include bogus versions of financial institution apps, which are designed by hackers to steal your financial information.

Make sure you always download the official version of your financial institution’s app by downloading it directly from the financial institution’s website.

Check App Permissions

When you download an app, it may ask for various permissions such as permission to access your location or to run in the background even when you’re not using it. Make “no” your default answer. When you grant unnecessary permissions to apps, you could be providing hackers with another way to access your financial information.

If it turns out that you actually wanted to give the app permission to send you notifications or run in the background, you can always change your permissions later in your device’s settings.

Only Use Secure Wireless Networks

Airports, coffee shops, salons and even city parks offer free wi-fi. But when you use public wireless networks, hackers can easily access your traffic because they’re able to use the same network. That makes it easier for them to hack into your device and potentially steal personal or financial information.

To stay safe, avoid using public wireless networks. Instead, choose networks that require a secure password. If you need to log into a financial app in a public place, your phone’s cellular data connection is a much safer choice than public wi-fi, Brian Reed, chief marketing officer at NowSecure, a mobile-app security company, told The Wall Street Journal.

Banking and investing on the go can be convenient and help simplify your life, but only if you take steps to ensure security and avoid a damaging situation.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.