Cyber-Securing Your Mobile Devices

Michael J. Krouse

By: Michael J. Krouse - Information Security Officer, STAR Financial Bank

Category: Financial

While phishing, vishing and smishing may sound like terms you would find in a Dr. Seuss book, they represent different ways in which a cybercriminal may attempt to gain access to your personal information and finances. Here are some things to consider before hitting "share" or "send" the next time you're using a computer, tablet or smartphone.

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    Safe Apps:
Smartphones have become a part of our lives and provide a little extra convenience to managing our daily tasks, but cybercriminals see them as a way to access your personal information. From downloading apps to accessing an Internet browser, you need to protect your smartphone. Both Android and Apple set standards for apps that are released into the market place. Regardless of the preventative actions taken by your cellular manufacturer, you are ultimately responsible for your actions on your mobile device. To be sure you are downloading a safe app:

-Avoid downloading apps that have few or no ratings, no privacy policy or have only been downloaded a small number of times.

-Only download applications from trusted, well-known sources.

-Be aware of how you are using your cell phone – if an application seems untrustworthy to you, it is best to leave it in the app store.

    Secure Your Wi-Fi:
Be careful of unsecured Wi-Fi. In general, it is unwise and unsafe to surf the web using an unsecured Wi-Fi source. While you may need to utilize unsecured Wi-Fi to surf at an airport, coffee shop or library, the risks of this practice may, at times, outweigh the reward. Unsecured Wi-Fi allows cybercriminals to easily and anonymously access data and information stored on your computer or utilized during your unsecured surfing. This could mean your e-mail password, bank account login information and much more.

    Beware of Phishing Emails:
E-mail provides cybercriminals with multiple opportunities to scam consumers. Phishing involves attempting to obtain information such as passwords, financial details or usernames from consumers by posing as a trustworthy source and soliciting the user to click on a link, button, or attachment. Once clicked, either a virus can be downloaded onto your computer or the user is redirected to a spoofed website. Recently, it has proven relatively easy for cybercriminals to create spoofed websites, which appear nearly identical to many trustworthy websites. Consumers will then attempt to login to those fraudulent sites, providing the thief with personal identification credentials.

There are ways to detect and avoid these schemes. A general rule of thumb is: never directly log into any site using the link sent to you via e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, manually type your bank’s web address in your browser or use a bookmark you have already created to login onto your account. Just like the link in the email, do not call the phone number provided in an email.

    Phone and Text Scams:
Cybercriminals are also taking advantage of consumers by attempting to acquire information from them via phone, vishing, and SMS text, smishing, in a similar fashion to Phishing. Often times, older adults fall victim to telephone calls from thieves pretending to be family members, financial institutions, or survey companies. They’ve been known to ask for your social security number, banking information or to have money wired or sent to them. Be wary of any request via call or text pertaining to your personal information.

Unfortunately, the list above does not encompass the entire scope of ways you can be attacked electronically by cybercriminals. Below are some important safety procedures to practice when it comes to your computer.

-Always be aware of who is using your computer. Monitor family members who use your computer, especially if it stores your personal or financial information, as they may be unknowingly visiting sites that send out viruses.

-Ensure your computer has firewall protection. A firewall program is part of your computer's operating system and can be built into the modem or router and filters incoming information, protecting your computer from spam, viruses, and hackers.

-Use strong passwords. A strong password consists of at least 8 characters, utilizing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. The password should not contain dictionary words and should not be based on personal information. Change passwords periodically.

If you have questions about how to protect your bank account while accessing it online via a computer, smartphone or tablet, speak to your local banker. It is important to go to all lengths to verify the identity and motive of someone asking for your confidential information before sharing.

Michael J. Krouse is the Information Security Officer at STAR Financial Bank

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