Is It Actually Safer to Bank on Your Smartphone?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The question does not get blunter: Is it plain reckless and foolhardy to do banking and other financial transactions on a mobile phone?

Consumer survey after survey consistently tabs security worries as the number one deterrent to adoption. If there’s a number two, it’s gripes about the form factor (too small a screen, too hard to enter data). But the reality is that it is the security worry that keeps many of us from embracing mobile phones as the primary instrument for financial transactions.

Now worry even more: the architecture of the Apple iPhone operating system effectively precludes running meaningful antivirus or anti-malware programs. Android is slightly more open to protective programs, but a good policy in using mobile phones is to assume there is no protection whatsoever, said many experts.

Frightened now?

Here’s the irony: At this very moment in time most users are much safer doing their finances on a mobile phone than on a personal computer, certainly if that computer is a Windows computer (which represents 90% of the computers in use). The reason: there are tens of thousands of sophisticated pieces of software aimed at stealing the money of PC users, such as the many variants of the so-called Zeus keylogger, which records typing and sends it back to the controller, thus reporting username and password for banking sites.

There is nothing nearly as effective for mobile phones.

“For the most part mobile malware fits into more of the nuisance category,” said David Lindner, global practice manager for mobile application security services at Aspect Security in Columbia, Mar.

There’s certainly increasing numbers of mobile malware, especially on Android but also on iPhone. Yet mainly the malware does things like send SMS to premium numbers where charges of $5 here, $10 there rack up, Horribly annoying to the victim? You bet. But this does not rise to the multi-million criminal level of a Zeus, not even close.