While on a plane this week, I read a great Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article called “How to Keep Your Mobile Banking Safe.” Although I question whether anyone can keep their online bank account completely safe, it was a good article and had some great tips that I want to pass along to those of you who do your banking online (with the usual caveats that I have offered before, that I am not a fan of online banking and that keeping cash on hand is worth considering).

When banking online, particularly from mobile devices, you may wish to consider (with my comments in parentheses):

  • Enable multifactor authentication to access your online banking account. (This is absolutely the first thing that you should do—no further comment. It’s REALLY important).
  • Apply software updates to your phone and your banking app as soon as you get the notice to update. (The reason you are getting the notice is because a vulnerability has been identified and needs to be patched. The longer you wait to update the software and apply the patch, the longer you are keeping that vulnerability open to access and hacking.)
  • Check your app’s permissions. (This concerns what the app is asking you to allow it to do. We have previously written about checking the privacy policies of apps to determine whether you are allowing access to location, microphone, camera, contacts, etc. )[view related posts here and here]. According to the WSJ, “hackers can exploit those permissions to gain access to your personal information.”
  • Only install apps from official channels. (Meaning don’t install apps from a third party app store; only install apps that are the official bank app, as there are fake apps out there that when downloaded, give criminals potential access to your personal information and even to your bank account).
  • Check your bank’s website. (Don’t just access your online account from your mobile device, as you will be able to see more information about your account, and access to it, when you go through the bank’s official website.)
  • Don’t use public wireless networks. (Also super important—use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or your cellular service to access your bank account. “Public” means airports, public transportation, coffee shops, libraries, or any other open wireless accessible location).
  • See that your financial apps adhere to regulatory standards. (You can look at their websites and use these same tips when using other financial apps).
  • Use a password manager. (There are two sides to this story [view related post], but for many, this is better security than writing down all of their passwords on a piece of paper or keeping them in an Outlook folder called “passwords,” which is not a good idea).

These are all really good tips. I would add another one—remember that your mobile banking information is a digital asset that you should include in your estate plan [view related post].