How safe are third-party financial mobile apps? Understanding security risks and ways to safeguard your personal data

Besides providing a user with the convenience of doing cashless transactions and paying bills online, third party financial services applications also act as a guide on managing and even planning personal finances. Mobile applications like Cred, Groww, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Paytm, among others offer extensive services related to finance and have a large user base. Most of the third party applications provide users with the ease of online payment, which can be substantiated with the fact that 782 crore UPI transactions worth Rs 12.8 lakh crore were made last year in the month of December alone. Though these apps claim to provide the highest degree of security, some recent incidents have shed light on how hackers are getting more sophisticated.

How apps are posing security risks

There are many financial apps that may themselves depend on other third parties for retrieving a user’s account information. Though unknowingly, users in such cases end up sharing personal information more broadly. Even in case of a one-time transaction, for instance: to verify your bank account, third parties may store your online user ID and password indefinitely. According to the US-based Citizens Bank, such apps may collect information unrelated to the transaction made by a user. “If this information is compromised, you may be at greater risk of fraud,” it said.

Moreover, after saving a user’s login info, some financial apps even take the user’s consent (when they agree on the ‘Terms and Conditions’) to access their accounts at any time. Once these third-party apps have the access, a user is subject to their terms, conditions and privacy practices which may vary among different apps.

Here’s how you can protect your information

Read the ‘Terms and Conditions’

When it comes to reading the ‘Terms and Conditions’ related to any product or services, most of us casually scroll through and click on “I Accept”. While going through the lengthy document may seem like a Herculean task but being very careful here is the key for keeping your personal/financial information safe. One must properly review the terms of service and privacy agreements of each third-party financial app. These policies can help a user in understanding what they are signing up for in terms of information/data sharing through those apps.

Use public Wi-Fi cautiously

When you are on the go and want to stay connected with the internet, public Wi-Fi networks offer convenience. However, don’t fall for it entirely as they might not be as secure as one might think. According to Forbes, there is a cyber attack known as “Man-in-the-middle”. In such attacks, hackers can electronically eavesdrop on a user’s banking and other online activity. It’s best to avoid using online or mobile banking when you’re on a public Wi-Fi network.

Don’t avoid banking alerts

Banks provide users with a basic service of sending alerts whenever any activity takes place related to their account. One must always pay heed to these alerts and keep a check if there’s anything suspicious going on with their account. Remain vigilant especially for “Failed Login” alerts. A proper lookout can save a user from a lot of trouble.

Use unique and strong passwords

This is the most common yet effective way of dodging troubles. A strong combination of passwords makes it difficult for the hackers to find an opening to access your personal information. Many applications already suggest this to users when they are setting up their account and even if they don’t, one must make sure to create unique passwords.

Enable multi-factor authentication

A user must ensure that there are multiple barriers to their personal information. Multi-factor authentication warrants more verification factors that bring down chances of a cyber attack. Such authentication creates a layered defence that makes it quite difficult for unauthorised persons to sneak in.

Choose trustworthy applications

Lastly, a user should go for the most trustworthy application. Almost all the third party financial apps provide ease in all things financial but they are not all equally safe. One must go through the developer details, ratings and reviews on the App Store or Play Store before downloading any financial app.

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