How Safe is Paying with Your Phone?

by Robert Siciliano

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mCommerce, or mobile commerce, refers to financial transactions conducted via smartphones or other mobile devices. But are mobiles really meant for financial transactions?

While about a third of mobile phone users remain unwilling to dabble in mCommerce due to identity theft concerns, the majority of users are apparently comfortable making purchases with their phones, just as they would with a PC.

mCommerce’s strength is the variation between mobile operating systems and handset technologies from different manufacturers, which makes it difficult for criminals to create and distribute mobile malware. Additionally, mobile carriers’ networks have higher levels of encryption, making it more difficult for a hacker to access a 3G connection, for example.

Handset manufacturers, application developers, and mobile security vendors continue working to improve mobile security. Banks are offering a consistent sign-on experience for both their online and mobile channels, including multifactor authentication programs for mobile.

Consumer Reports estimates that almost 30% of Americans that use their phones for banking, accessing medical records, and storing other sensitive data do not take precautions to secure their phones.

  • Download a mobile security product. This is particularly crucial for Android users, as Androids tend to be more vulnerable to attacks.
  • Use your carrier’s 3G connection to send sensitive information, rather than Wi-Fi.
  • Use your bank’s dedicated mobile application, rather than accessing their main website via mobile device.
  • Set your device to lock automatically after a set period of time.
  • Invest in software that can remotely lock, locate, and wipe a missing mobile.

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Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto.