Is it safer to check your bank account on your computer or your phone? You might think it’s your computer because of the internet security you’ve installed, or you might think it’s your phone because you unlock your mobile app with a passcode.
The reality is far more complex than that, with arguments to be made on both sides. While both types are secure provided you take care, both also can and have been exploited.
So can one be said to be safer than the other? Here’s a look at the differences between the two and how each ensures your internet banking is kept secure.
We’ve been able to use our computers for internet banking for a lot longer than we have our mobiles.
On the one hand, this has meant that cyber criminals have been targeting online banking customers for longer, but on the other hand we’ve had longer to develop our defences against them.
Also, online banking with a laptop or desktop typically allows you to do more with your account – beyond just checking your balance or transferring cash. This in itself has made more robust security a necessity.
Ever since broadband started taking off and we began using the web for more and more services, we’ve all been conditioned to take care with security. While we think nothing of installing security and anti-virus software to our computers, fewer of us think to do the same on our smartphones, even though they are miniature computers.
Your physical connection makes a difference too. A wired connection to your router means that your data can’t be intercepted wirelessly, while your security software should take care of securing the data being transferred.
A wireless connection not properly secured can leave you vulnerable to cyber thieves though, allowing them to snoop on the private information being sent through your network.
The smartphone boom has led to a boom in mobile banking too. As a result, the banks have all developed their own mobile banking apps, allowing customers to transfer cash and check their balances on the go.
As this technology is relatively new, the cyber criminals are playing catch-up for now, giving mobile banking customers a head start.
These apps are passcode secured though, and as your mobile is generally on your person it makes accessing your account fairly difficult – at least physically. Even if you lose your phone they’d struggle to access it.
Also, the fact that mobile banking app functions are limited in comparison to web-based banking limits the potential damage somewhat.
On the downside, mobile banking means transmitting your data wirelessly – be that over wifi or mobile network. There is always the risk that thieves will find a way to intercept this data, but if you’re using a wifi network, the data they might grab would be encrypted anyway.
While malicious hackers haven’t yet caught up with mobile banking customers, virus developers are already creating malicious apps to infect people’s smartphones, so it might not be long before they find a way – even if it’s as simple as creating an app which looks very similar to your bank’s mobile banking app, enough so that you download it and enter your password data.
There are security apps you can download to sniff out these hoaxers though, with big name security firms like Kaspersky releasing mobile versions of their software, often for free.
Which is safer?
The simple, if evasive, answer is that they’re both safe, provided you take precautions. Use security software on both your computer and mobile, secure your wireless connections and beware of phishing emails which attempt to get you to input your password or bank account details.
Always look out for the secured page padlock in your browser frame on a computer and only ever download a mobile banking app if you’re certain the developer really is your bank.
The Apple app store is perhaps more stringent with its controls on who can market an app, but in the free-for-all that is the Google Play store (formerly Android Market) you could be caught out.
Both types use fairly robust password systems to access your accounts, but make sure you don’t save those details on your computer or phone for a thief to find, it’s like leaving your front door keys under the welcome mat.