Mobile banking puts customers more at risk for hacking

The recent hacking scandals involving nude pictures of dozens of celebrities exposes just how vulnerable all of us are to hacking and cyberspying.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney talked to a high level security expert about what you can do to protect yourself.

Right now 50 percent of banking customers do their banking online or via their smartphones. As more banking moves toward our phones, the stakes are getting higher. The need to be vigilant is greater than ever

Actress Jennifer Lawrence tops a group of A-list celebrities whose nude photos appeared online after cyber criminals hacked into their smartphones.

What happened didn't surprise Gary Miliefsky. He's CEO of the Internet security firm SnoopWall.

"The best way to steal information if you're a cyber criminal and to extort someone is on their mobile device," said Miliefsky.

We've become more and more dependent on our mobile devices. The Federal Reserve found 50 percent of smart phone owners have used their devices for mobile banking.

The more banking we do on our devices, the less cost there is for banks. It's no wonder that banks are encouraging their customers to utilize mobile banking.

Beth Mills is with the California Bankers Association.

"It's just the convenience of online and mobile banking has really appealed to people. Essentially you're bringing the branch of the bank into your phone," said Mills.

But how safe is mobile banking? According to Miliefsky, it's not safe at all.

"Mobile banking today is very insecure, and to top it off there's no antivirus out there that works well on any smartphone," said Miliefsky.

He says the biggest gateway for cyber criminals are the apps that we use. Many of us may be unknowingly giving app developers access to information that could leave us vulnerable.

"Why are mobile application developers sending data to other countries, geolocating people, looking at their pictures, looking at their videos, sending & receiving information over the internet, looking at your contact list, having rights to read your SMS messages. It's unbelievable," said Miliefsky.

Even apps that seem innocent and safe like a flashlight app, aren't. Federal regulators reached a settlement with the app Brightest Flashlight, forcing it to now disclose its data collection activities in its privacy policy.

Miliefsky says that's a start, but not enough.

"We're finding that apps that continue to run in the background and misbehave and collect information are not the ones that you want on your phone while doing mobile banking," continued Miliefsky.

He warns that hackers can eavesdrop on you if they are within 100-feet of you if your blue tooth is enabled. He suggests to think twice about granting any app permission to access the internet.

"So if you can get apps that will run without internet access, you're going to be much, much safer," concludes Miliefsky.

The California Bankers Association offers these safety tips for mobile bankers:

  • Password protect your phone

  • Don't use public wi-fi when accessing your bank online

  • Close all apps when you're done

  • Don't leave apps running in background

  • "Customers are not responsible at all for any transactions that are made online that are found to be unauthorized transactions," said Mills.

    Both SnoopWall and the American Bankers Association say you should be concerned about using any flashlight app. SnoopWall has a free flashlight app.
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