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Protecting financial assets when using mobile devices

Date posted:  11/3/15 10:30:00 AM With the ever-increasing popularity and use of smartphones and tablets, mobile security is more important than ever.

Cyber security is no longer a practice for just desktop and laptop computers, as individuals and businesses around the world rely increasingly on smartphones for everyday tasks. Independent market research company eMarketer estimated there will be nearly 2 billion people with smartphones by 2016, which means mobile cyber security will be more important than ever.

Cyber security methods for mobile devices aren't that different from what many users are accustomed to with their computers. The main tenets of cyber security remain the same for each device: update software routinely, understand privacy policies and protect against the loss of information. For individuals with significant assets, the need to secure personal banking and investment data is ever-important because hackers may target and attempt to infiltrate accounts with a higher market value than the standard investor. Because of this, account security while using a mobile device is paramount.

Mobile device usage
Though listening to music, communicating via text messaging and streaming videos are all common uses of smartphones, users also conduct a large amount of research on their phones. Data from Smart Insights indicated 48 percent of all mobile research begins with web browsing via a search engine. Additionally, 33 percent of mobile research starts with specific websites and another 26 percent is done through apps.

"Individuals should be certain they trust the platforms and apps they use the most."

Users spend 89 percent of their total time on mobile devices within apps and 11 percent on the web. Individuals should be certain they trust the platforms and apps they use the most, whether to look up personal financial advice, research potential new banking options, adjust portfolio allocations or transfer assets between accounts.

Though some may view mobile devices as more vulnerable to data breaches simply because they are a newer technological innovation, smartphones are actually just as secure as other types of devices with online access, and in some cases even more so, Institutional Investor reported. Nevertheless, appropriate preparation and security measures should be implemented to prevent theft or loss.

With this heightened level of mobile interactivity, users must be protected from malware, phishing scams and other potential web-enabled threats.

Key security measures
A report from CTIA - The Wireless Association stated users should be aware of the agreement they are signing when downloading an app. App stores may be loaded with scam apps while others may require users to hand over vital personal information, which could later be used for theft or fraud. This is a particular concern for those with considerable financial or retirement assets because cyber criminals recognize an opportunity to access a larger amount of wealth.

Similarly, device operators update security software to prevent hackers and cyber criminals from accessing authentication credentials and potentially stealing private information. SecurityWeek noted most organizations and individuals have moved a large part of their data to the cloud, which means smartphone users who enter information through apps need to trust where their information is stored. This makes the careful selection of cloud platforms a crucial component of true mobile security.

Since high net worth individuals are more likely to travel abroad and have investments that extend beyond domestic borders, the use of apps and reliance on the cloud overseas should be limited when handling sensitive financial data. 

MediaSmarts gave the following tips of how to secure the mobile-browsing experience:

  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections that aren't being used and make sure phones are not discoverable by other devices
  • Steer clear of public hotspots and Wi-Fi connections, especially when ordering items online
  • Set all browsing platforms to only access secure connections

Additionally, wealthier individuals should also advise caution to their family, business partners and close associates because hackers can access private information via other people's missteps. Asset transfers, purchases, investments and trades made via apps or mobile devices should be restricted to secure connections, and done sparingly. 

Smart practices
Smartphone owners are responsible for how they choose to use their devices, which means online behavior that seems risky should probably be avoided. For instance, apps and mobile websites with a lot of pop-ups, or those that insist on the release of financial information are likely to be less safe. Apps that geotag the location of users or grant permission to host personal data elsewhere should also be used with caution.

Understanding the parameters of cyber security and how they pertain to mobile devices is just as important as making smart online decisions each time one logs in.