Demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes has resulted in mass adoption of digital payments solutions, including mobile banking, electronic banking, and mobile wallets. This means that a lot of people are now using their mobile devices to transact electronically for the first time, and it's not just an occasional use but the primary means of accessing their finances.
But once you download an app, how will you make sure it is secure? Most banking apps are secure, and do use strong encryption techniques, there is a lot you can do as well to make sure that you do not fall prey to hackers and compromise your financial apps. Here are 6 things you can do to protect your mobile banking and wallet apps.
1) Keep a lock screen code your phone
The first security measure - that you should take not just for your financial apps but because of all the other data that is also on your phone - is to set a lock screen code on your phone. This way, even if your smartphone is stolen, the thief will face some difficulty in stealing your data, including that of mobile banking and wallet apps. Even affordable smartphones now come with fingerprint sensors, so adding this layer of security should be easy and convenient. On phones without fingerprint sensors, make sure you set up passcodes or pattern locks to protect your device and data; if you use a passcode, make sure that you have not used it elsewhere, or shared with anyone.
2) Use app lockers
There are numerous apps available on Google Play that allow you to set a passcode on other apps. This means that to access a locked app, you would have to type in a second password. Why do you need to do this? Well, suppose you need to give someone else your phone, to make a call or for any other reason. You'll have to unlock the phone and hand it over, so it's probably a trusted person, but even then, do you trust all friends and acquaintances with access to your financial information?
Having an app locker allows you to give people access to your smartphone, without allowing them to look at your sensitive data - this could range from your banking apps, to even things like your mail, for example. Some popular app locker apps are AppLock and CM Locker, both of which have good reviews on Google Play.
Another option you can consider, if you don't want to go with a third party app, is to look up guest mode settings on your phone, and enable the option when you are giving your phone to someone.
3) Keep a track of your notifications
Whenever a transaction is made via your account, banks send you an alert via SMS and email. Keeping a track of these is essential to ensure that no one else has access to your finances, digitally or otherwise. Apps such as Money View and Walnut can keep a record of transactions made on your accounts by accessing SMS alerts from your bank.
If you have registered your netbanking account from a secondary email ID to avoid spam, set up email forwarding to send notifications to your main email. Otherwise, an important notification that would alert you about misuse, might not be seen for hours or even days, at which point it might be too late to do anything.
4) Don’t use jailbroken/ rooted phones/ apps from unknown sources
Do not use jailbroken iPhones or rooted Android smartphones to access your mobile banking apps and mobile wallets unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. When you root or jailbreak a smartphone, you forego some of the security Google and Apple have used on the core OS to protect it from malware and hackers. This makes the device vulnerable to attacks, and will allow hackers to steal your financial data remotely.
Similarly, if you are installing an app from unknown sources on Android, you don't know how trustworthy it is, whereas the Google Play store and the App Store are relatively safer.
5) Avoid third-party keyboards
Third-party keyboards are great for many purposes, but you don't know what data is being stored by these keyboards, which have access to all your inputs. This makes the third-party keyboards a little un-secure for your banking apps and mobile wallets, since your passwords and codes will also be visible to them. Companies such as SwiftKey say they do not store any personal data, but it boils down to how much you trust the companies in question. For complete peace of mind, switch to the default keyboard when using sensitive apps.
6) Never use mobile wallets and banking apps on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are usually unencrypted, putting you at risk from hackers, who could access whatever you are viewing on your device, including your mobile payments apps. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks, especially on a device that has sensitive personal information or financial apps.
Disclosure: Paytm's parent company One97 is an investor in NDTV's Gadgets 360.