Just when you thought online banking was the most convenient item your bank has offered in a long time, they now are introducing banking over cell phones. Just as online banking presents security concerns, so does using a cell phone. Yet, there is no need for paranoia.
For some reason, perhaps due to the Hollywood portrayal of how easy it is to hack into networks, there is a level of fear and hesitance whenever new ways of doing business are introduced using existing technology. People have now come to accept conducting online banking transactions over wireless internet connections, which also have vulnerabilities, but millions of transactions are made each day without any realization of the risks.
Cell phones are simply a large wireless network used for some specific communication purposes but is slowly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Are there risks? Certainly, but why is it any more risky than speaking over the phone to conduct banking business? The myth that cell phones can be easily tapped means they can easily be monitored for voice transactions too. Cordless phones that use landlines can be tapped and even non-cordless phones can be tapped.
Automatic teller machines can be rigged to capture date. People with telescopes or hidden cameras can shoulder surf to get your pin. Your garbage can be sifted through to gather information to steal your identity. A seemingly innocent phone call with someone on the other end who is using social engineering can pull information out of unsuspecting people. Your bank teller, your postal worker, the clerk at the gas station, and anyone else in between a transaction could conceivably abuse the information you provide.
There are risk all around and much vulnerability, which can and have been exploited in our society. The reality is, however, the percentage of successful abuses are relatively low compared to the total number of transactions taking place on a daily basis. If it were not, then commerce would come to a screeching halt. Just as a bank that is constantly robbed would eventually shut down and move.
Besides putting various controls in place to help keep honest people honest while slowing down the dishonest people, their protections in place for consumers. A credit card is an easy target to exploit; it does not require specialized electronics and knowledge to hijack like a cell phone would. Yet there are limits to the consumer’s liability if fraud happens. The same is true for debit cards and ATM cards, which grant direct, access to bank accounts with very weak security of only four digit personal identification numbers.
Could you be at risk using cell phones to conduct banking business? Certainly. Ever technology has a weakness, but the probability of being a victim is low. The best defense against it is the same for cell phones or any other method of conducting business pay attention. Watch the transactions on your account. Keep tight books, and if you see something out of the ordinary take action.
Whenever possible, use difficult passwords and never write them down or share them with others so they know your scheme for picking and memorizing them. A four digit PIN may be convenient, but that only requires 10,000 guesses to figure it out. That might seem like a lot, but it really is not. If you can choose a longer one, do it and do not choose something obvious. If you have to write it down, encode it by adding your birthday to it. For example, if you pin is 1234 (never use that as a PIN by the way) and your birthday is December 25th, or 12/25, then add 1225 to 1234. Write down 2459 and just remember when you need to recall your PIN to subtract your birthday.
If you are really paranoid, open two accounts. One that contains just enough money in it to allow you to live your lifestyle while the money you fear losing is in the second account. Do your credit card, cell phone, online banking transactions with first account only, knowing that if it is compromised the thief would then only have access to a limited amount of funds instead of your entire nest egg.
Technology is a convenience we can all enjoy but it should never replace common sense. There will always be weaknesses and over time improvements will be made to those weaknesses and other holes will then be discovered. Although reliable and the chances of problems are slim, no solution is completely safe. Being smart at how you use the tools will keep you best protected.