Looking for Mobile Banking Security? The Risks of Using Mobile Banking Apps

Mobile banking is more convenient than in-person or online banking, but without the right security tools, you can be vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.
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Installing your bank’s mobile app on your phone is an easy and convenient way to manage your finances from anywhere. However, you may be opening yourself up to hackers and thieves. There are a variety of tools you can use to keep your bank information and your identity safe.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) and password managers are necessary tools for real-time security, but you should also invest in an ID theft protection service. The best identity theft protection services can monitor your accounts, alert you to suspicious activity, and even pay to restore your identity and finances in the event of a theft. We have a full list of how to keep yourself safe and what resources are the best to secure your personal data.

In this article
How secure is mobile banking?
How hackers gain access to your mobile bank account
Is mobile banking safer than online banking?
15 tips for safe mobile or online banking
Bottom line

How secure is mobile banking?

According to the 2023 Global Mobile Threat Report, security vulnerabilities rose 138% on Androids and accounted for 80% of zero-day threats on iOS between 2021 and 2022. 

On top of that, 80% of all identified phishing sites specifically targeted mobile devices. So mobile users are 6 to 10 times more likely to fall for a text phishing scam than an email phishing scam.[1] This is spread across a variety of apps, but mobile banking apps aren’t immune.

Even still, there are ways to stay safe online and protect yourself from hackers, malware, and phishing.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

If you have the option, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for security in your mobile banking app. This extra security layer requires you to enter a code from an authenticator app, text, or email. This gives you an added level of security, so even someone with your credentials won’t be able to get into your account.

Biometric authentication

FaceID and fingerprint scanners are the most common forms of biometric authentication utilized on mobile devices, and they can be used with 2FA to ensure multi-factor authentication. If your app gives you the option, you should definitely enable it. By scanning your unique facial features or fingerprint, you add a personalized level of protection that safeguards against phishing and credentials theft.

Encrypted communication

Your banking app should include some form of encryption, but apps are known to have vulnerabilities and require regular security updates. You should use a VPN for additional encryption. Not only will it encrypt your banking information if you’re on public Wi-Fi, but a VPN will also encrypt all of the data on your mobile device.

Fraud detection and alerts

Hopefully, your bank includes fraud detection and alerts to notify you of suspicious behavior. If not, identity theft protection software can monitor all of your financial accounts. Often, you can set parameters like daily spend allotments, and you’ll be notified if your financial accounts deviate from what you set as normal.

Secure account management

Check for and enable the extra features inside your banking app that allow you more control over your financial management. For example, you can set alerts, lock or unlock your cards, set spending limits, and receive notifications for suspicious activity. If your banking app doesn’t offer this, an identity theft protection service can pick up some of the slack.

Secure transactions

We recommend never using your actual debit card or bank account information online. Instead, use a secure payment app like PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, or CashApp (or even an anonymous payment method like cryptocurrency or a virtual credit card). If your banking app has Zelle integration, for example, use that for money transfers rather than giving out your account and routing numbers. 

Banking best practices include never sending money to an unknown party, so always verify the contact before sending money.

Regular updates

Apps require regular updates to patch security holes or fix vulnerabilities. Banks don’t change an app’s user interface too drastically or often, but they will push out security upgrades. Make sure your auto-update settings are on so you’re never left with a less secure version of your mobile banking app.

Customer support

Whether you need help with a suspicious transaction or just have general questions about your account, only go through verified customer support. We recommend the in-app chat or the numbers listed in the app only, as well as the support number listed on the back of your card. Never call a number you found from an internet search. There are plenty of scam websites out there trying to get you to hand over your account credentials so they can hack you.

Secure data storage

Password managers and cloud storage solutions are easy ways to keep data safe. If you can’t remember the complex password you made for your banking app, a password manager will make sure it’s always available. Cloud storage can digitally encrypt banking information, passport data, medical records, and more. Many of these services are bundled into identity theft protection services.

Compliance with security standards

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of basic standards that was created by the major credit card companies. It ensures the secure handling, processing, and storage of credit card information to prevent data breaches and protect user data. If a business accepts credit or debit cards, it must comply with PCI DSS. Make sure anywhere you’re using your debit card has the PCI DSS certification. If you aren’t sure, use a credit card or a secure payment method instead of your debit or bank information.

How hackers gain access to your mobile bank account

Once upon a time, we went to a tech expo where NordVPN was showing off its new technology. The challenge at the booth was that the NordVPN reps could hack into your phone in front of your very eyes. We connected to the Wi-Fi they used for the test, and in less than 20 seconds, they were in our phone, clicking apps and accessing everything the same way they would if they were us. Shared networks open you up to malware, keyloggers, and man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks.

A shared network isn’t the only way to access your device. Phishing scams come in all forms, including text and email, and can trick you into sharing your username and password with a few simple clicks. Fake mobile banking apps are also prevalent, which is why an app should only be downloaded from a reliable source like the bank’s website or a verified app in your phone’s app store.

A hacker can access your bank account in various ways. Knowing what these are and how to safeguard against them can keep you safe.

  • Phishing attacks (including phishing emails): You receive an email saying you need to click a link or open an attachment to verify information or get a receipt. These will either deposit malware onto your device or steal your credentials so the hacker can log into your banking app.
  • Smishing: Same as phishing, except you receive a text message with the same requests. Never click links from emails or texts. Always go to the bank’s site or app. If there is a problem, there will be an alert waiting for you when you log in.
  • App-based banking trojans: These mostly affect Androids. Downloading a fake app or clicking a text message link can result in getting this trojan.
  • Fake banking apps: Fake apps that steal your data. Never download an app unless it’s from the bank’s verified website or verified in your device’s app store.
  • Keyloggers: This is software that allows hackers to see what you’re typing by recording the keys you hit on your keypad. They are usually installed on your device via malware or shared networks.
  • Data breaches: When a hacker gains access to your personal information after a website or company is hacked.
  • Wi-Fi hacking (man-in-the-middle attacks): A hacker intercepts data between when it leaves your device and before it accesses another device or website. Again, the most common method of infection is disreputable downloads and shared networks.
  • SIM swaps: Your phone is activated with a new SIM card. This usually happens when the hacker convinces your mobile carrier to activate their SIM card instead of the one you currently use.
  • Stealing and hacking your phone: This is just brute force theft. If your phone gets stolen and the hacker can get into it because of lax security, they can access your accounts.
  • The dark web: Here’s a fact that won’t make you feel great: With all the data breaches that have happened around the world over the past several years, most of our data is on the dark web. This is why identity theft prevention services are so important: they can protect you against circumstances you can’t control.

Is mobile banking safer than online banking?

Both mobile and online banking have drawbacks and benefits. Mobile banking involves using an app on your mobile phone or tablet to access your bank account. Online banking involves using a browser on a computer or even a mobile device to access your bank’s online banking portal via its website.

Mobile banking security pros and cons

  • Can enable 2FA and MFA biometric login security features
  • Added security of app encryption and smartphone’s OS encryption standards
  • Frequent software updates patch holes and vulnerabilities
  • Vulnerable to public Wi-Fi networks
  • Increased risk of identity theft via hacked, stolen, or lost smartphone
  • Requires specific software, and app issues can cause usability problems

Online banking security pros and cons

  • Allows safer account access via your secure home network
  • Online banking activities are protected by your computer’s antivirus
  • Poses fewer security risks than banking on mobile devices
  • Must have access to the internet and a secure web browser
  • Risks of identity theft via weak or reused passwords, data breaches, malware, or phishing attacks
  • Can't receive convenient, real-time alerts

15 tips for safe mobile or online banking

Mobile banking is convenient, but it also poses more of a security risk. Connecting to public Wi-Fi without a VPN can leave you vulnerable to hackers. Additionally, successful phishing can result in the devastating effects of identity theft.

We’ve created a list below of everything you can do to secure your information and stay protected.

  1. Use strong, unique passwords for your banking apps.
  2. Don’t reuse passwords across online accounts.
  3. Change passwords when you change your smoke detector batteries.
  4. Store passwords in an encrypted location like a password manager.
  5. Never share mobile banking passwords.
  6. Enable two-factor authentication.
  7. Use MFA and biometric security features if available on your device.
  8. Update your phone’s operating system and apps regularly.
  9. Don’t click unfamiliar email links or open unknown attachments.
  10. Only use in-app support to communicate with your bank.
  11. Only download apps from official app stores.
  12. Only bank on secure networks, and avoid using public Wi-Fi without a VPN.
  13. Don’t share personally identifiable information or account details, especially over text messages or public Wi-Fi.
  14. Use up-to-date antivirus software on your mobile device.
  15. Invest in identity theft protection services.

Identity theft prevention services

If you’ve never looked into identity theft protection services, you may not know how many benefits one of these subscriptions provides.

There’s identity theft insurance, which usually comes with remediation specialists to help you in case your identity is stolen. You’ll also receive security alerts about anything from your email address involved in a data leak to someone attempting to transfer your home title to their name.

Each offers different features, but the best include alerts, monitoring, and remediation. This three-pronged approach helps prevent, catch, and restore if there are any incidents. Check to make sure the insurance provided covers lost funds in case your account is hacked. Combining all of this together under one service means you can feel confident that your mobile banking is protected.

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Are mobile banking apps secure?

Yes, if you download the mobile banking app from a verified location, like your bank’s website or through your phone’s app store, mobile banking apps are secure. To increase security, you’ll want to enable two-factor authentication, biometric login, and have encryption software, like a VPN, installed on your device.


What are the disadvantages of mobile banking?

Hackers tend to target mobile banking more because mobile devices are easier to find in the wild. When you’re connected to shared Wi-Fi, a hacker can easily put malware on your phone if you don’t have the proper security software installed.


How can I protect my mobile banking?

To make mobile banking safe, always adhere to banking best practices. You can protect your mobile banking by creating a complex password, storing that password in an encrypted password manager, using a VPN, disconnecting from shared Wi-Fi when accessing your account, and including identity theft protection software into your security stack.


What is the safest device for online banking?

There is no 100% safe device for online banking, but a computer connected to your home network is better for online banking than accessing the site via your mobile browser. You should also have an active antivirus product — and using a VPN only adds to the security. When safeguarding your finances, there’s no such thing as too much security.

Bottom line

Mobile banking is perfectly safe as long as you take precautions. By educating yourself and being diligent about phishing and smishing, using security software, and signing up for one of the best identity theft protection services, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of being a victim.

If you do find yourself in an identity theft situation, your remediation specialist through your ID theft protection service will help you restore your good name.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.


[1] “2023 Global Mobile Threat Report