Mobile payments: 7 ways to be more secure

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee


Since 2014, mobile payment apps have been simplifying the way we transact with businesses, and also making it easier to send money to friends and family when we need to pay them for our share of dinner out.

Because cybercriminals focus on vulnerable technologies they can leverage to make quick and easy money, hackers could target these mobile payment apps. How do you keep yourself and your money safe, while also being able to take advantage of the convenience of mobile payment apps? Read on to learn about how mobile pay apps work and their vulnerabilities.

How mobile payment apps work

Most payment apps require that you link a credit card to the app, so the information is stored on your smartphone, at the ready for making future payments. When you pay for something at a store, you place your phone near the point-of-service device at the register. The terminal then reads your stored payment information wirelessly, usually by utilizing radio frequency (RF) signals, to complete the transaction.

However, you can pay using your phone even without apps. Some companies, such as your phone company, may allow you to pay your bill using standard text messaging. Mobile payment apps are a little different and come in two main categories:

NFC mobile payment apps

This type of mobile payment app uses near-field communication (NFC) technology, which requires you to place your phone near a device to make a payment. Think Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Online wallet apps

This is where you send your money to someone without having to be in the same location. All you need to send money this way is the recipient’s email address. Your bank may offer a similar option. Think PayPal or WeChat.

The main differences between these two options are proximity or the ability to send money using just an email address or user account name.

How to make your mobile payments more secure

Of course, if you’re sending money, you’re going to want the application you choose to be secure. Some tips to make your mobile payment app more secure include:

  1. Choose 2FA. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a password and a second piece of information. Usually, this is a code sent to the phone number connected to your mobile payment app account.
  2. Turn off Bluetooth. Bluetooth is becoming an option for wireless payments, as an alternative to RF. Remember it’s safest to turn off Bluetooth, or any other smartphone feature, until you actually need to use it. Doing so will limit unwanted access to the data on your phone.
  3. Keep your apps updated. One of the easiest ways for hackers to get into your private information is to exploit a known and public vulnerability. App updates patch these holes. You should also keep all the other apps on your phone up to date. Hackers who have found their way into one app might be well on their way to hacking into the rest of your phone. 
  4. Update your OS. Another way that these holes get patched is via your operating system, so it’s important to keep your OS up to date as well. 
  5. Check your statements. It’s easy enough to do with a mobile payment system. All you have to do is open up your app and look for unusual charges. Don’t overlook small charges. Hackers and identity thieves may run trial charges of a small amount or even to see if you will notice bigger charges. 
  6. Try mobile security. Internet security software isn’t only for laptops anymore. It’s just as important, if not more so, for your mobile phone. Software, such as Norton Mobile Security, can help protect your phone from malware and warn you of suspicious apps, including those used for mobile payments. 
  7. Always lock your phone. Turn on auto-lock and create a strong password or passcode. Take a step beyond physical protection by encrypting the data on your phone, too. Norton Secure VPN is a VPN that automatically encrypts all information leaving and entering your phone.

Stay safe when you pay

Although your chances of getting your mobile payment intercepted are relatively low, you’ll increase your security by taking common-sense precautions to protect yourself and your family. By spending just a few minutes securing your devices and your apps, you can make big strides toward making sure that your money will get to its destination safely.

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