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Safeguard your mobile banking account

Date posted:  10/12/14 03:45:00 AM Make sure your mobile banking app is from an authentic app store such as iTunes.

Mobile banking is no longer just for consumers. According to Paul Merski, chief economist with an independent banking association, small businesses are now starting to take advantage of mobile banking platforms to save time.

"The whole banking platform is becoming more electronic and more mobile, particularly for small business owners that don't have time to make trips to the bank," Merski told the New York Post.

He also said banks that welcome a mobile platform for commercial accounts might see an uptick in business, as early adopters of mobile banking have reaped the benefits of a swift surge in usage.

Criminals go to where it's crowded
The rise in mobile banking's popularity isn't just from consumers and small businesses.

Mary Monahan, executive vice president of Javelin Strategy & Research, told Bankrate that popular tech applications and outlets are routinely targeted by criminals. 

"As more and more consumers move to mobile, (cyber criminals) follow where the money is," Monahan said.

Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst with Aite Group, concurred. While Inscoe told Bankrate she believes the current setup of mobile banking is pretty safe, she noted that could change as banks continue to add more complex capabilities to their mobile banking apps in order to satisfy growing consumer demand.

"It's going to attract the criminal element to attack (mobile phones) more," Inscoe said.

Here are a few mobile banking safety tips: 

Mobile browser vs. bank application
When you first set up your mobile banking account, check to see if your bank offers an application. An application will have more security features installed than the typical mobile web browser.

"If a bank has issued an app, they will ensure it's secure," Inscoe said. "By far, the preferred method is to use the method your bank provided for you to use (for mobile banking)."

Inscoe noted most banks build extra security features into their app for an additional safety boost. Banks can't do that to standard mobile web browsers.

Monahan said consumers are following suit. She told Bankrate the number of people utilizing mobile banking apps has surpassed the number of people using a mobile browser for their banking needs. Much of this has to do with the growing number of banks offering mobile applications.

Bank applications still need work
While a mobile banking application is a safer way to look at your financial records than a standard web browser, it's important to know that some banking apps can still have glitches. Security firm Praetorian recently revealed that eight of 10 mobile banking apps contained security weaknesses.

"They're failing to meet very basic security best practices," Paul Jauregui, Praetorian vice president, told Bankrate.

Jauregui anticipates that data will improve similar to the way security systems were tweaked when online banking first came into popularity.

Jack Walsh, a mobility program manager at an independent division of Verizon, said apps are probably less safe than banks and consumers may think.

"Banks may not think they need to protect it, but a bad guy who is looking for a way in can inject some code in here," Walsh told Bankrate, adding the code could send personal passwords and information to a cyber criminal.

Be on the lookout for deceptive apps
Walsh added that some hackers go as far as to design a faulty app that looks like your mobile banking application. Third-party app stores are the likely hiding spot for many of these apps, so Walsh is asking mobile banking users to download apps through certified app stores such as iTunes or Android's Play Store.