Safeguard your smartphone

Old crimes, new ways … cyber criminals are targeting mobile devices, but you can keep them at bay.
Old crimes, new ways … cyber criminals are targeting mobile devices, but you can keep them at bay.

The strategy: To keep my electronic toys safe from scammers.

Do I need to do that? More and more of us are using smartphones or tablets to do financial transactions - whether it's online banking, trading shares or buying things. Apps make it easy to manage our finances while we're out and about and, while that's a great convenience, it's also an open invitation to scammers.

The Australian Bankers Association and the Australian Federal Police warn that fraud, scams and harassment have moved into the digital world as criminals use information and technology to commit old crimes in new ways.

So, just as you had to learn to keep your home computer safe from the bad guys, you need to protect your mobile technology as well.

How do I do that? The two bodies have produced a great fact sheet listing security tips for your smartphone and tablet.

For starters, it says, think of your smartphone or tablet as the valuable device it is and store it in a secure location when you're not using it. Set it so it locks automatically. Set a pass code for your device and a PIN for your SIM card. The password will ensure no one else can use your information.

Protect your device with up-to-date antivirus and firewall software and ensure it is updated regularly. Keep an eye out for attempts to steal your information. The fact sheet says free downloads, programs, software or screen savers can carry malware and spyware, and those hoax emails are as much a problem on mobile devices as on home computers.

Offers that are too good to be true, or are supposedly sent by banks or agencies such as the Tax Office requiring you to confirm information, should be treated with extreme caution.

Texting can also be a problem. Never disclose personal information, such as account numbers or passwords that could be used to steal your identity, via text and clear any text messages from banks, especially before sharing, discarding or selling your device.

Use only official apps and don't perform internet banking transactions on a jailbroken device.

What's that? According to the fact sheet, it's any device not designed or authorised by the parent company. Similarly, it says, don't do internet banking using unsecured wi-fi networks and, if you're using the device in public, keep an eye out for people looking over your shoulder.

Protecting your passwords is critical. Don't keep your banking PINs or passwords in your smartphone or tablet and make sure you keep all your PINs and internet banking logons and passwords secret.

While there's a real temptation to keep things simple by using the same password for everything, the fact sheet warns this can make you vulnerable to fraud - especially when you use the same password for websites that have your sensitive personal information.

If your banking app allows login with a PIN, make sure it is different from the one used to unlock your mobile device.

Clear your browser's cache regularly because some mobile devices store copies of webpages that might contain your banking information, and always log out of mobile internet banking sessions once you've finished.

How can I tell if I have a problem? The fact sheet says you should always check your bank statements and contact your bank if you find any suspicious transactions.

Fortunately, mobile devices are covered by the Electronic Funds Transfer Code, which means you won't be liable for unauthorised transactions, as long as you have taken due care.

Contact your bank immediately if you lose your smartphone or tablet. You might need to provide your new mobile number if your bank uses an SMS message to authenticate transactions. For more information, see or /policing/cybercrime/crime-prevention.aspx.

Goodbye from me This will be my last column for Money. It couldn't pass without a thank you to our readers who have made my time here so rewarding. Your questions, comments, criticism and praise have all been welcome and have formed the basis for many story and column ideas.

Money prides itself on putting its readers first, rather than being a vehicle to promote products or vested interests, and it has been an honour to be part of that. Best wishes for the future to all of you.

This story Safeguard your smartphone first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.