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Banking apps fail security tests

By David McMillin · Bankrate.com
Friday, August 26, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

If banking means powering up your smartphone, it's time to get wise to which applications, or apps, are keeping your personal information secure.

Digital forensics and security firm viaForensics conducted a mobile application security study to determine how well some of the most popular consumer apps protect sensitive data. Only 14 of 32 Android and iPhone financial apps passed the test.

The study evaluated three major security areas: passwords, usernames and other confidential data.

Some banks and payment platforms -- including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and AprivaPay -- passed with flying colors. However, some personal finance apps revealed major flaws. From the ability to review payment history to seeing partial credit card numbers, user names and passwords, money management tools from Chase, Mint and other banks and companies had their share of troubles.

Even if your banking app passed, your mobile device may still store your confidential information. If the password to transfer money between your checking and savings account is the same password you use to post status updates and connect with your friends, watch out. None of the 19 social networking apps included in the study passed the test.

From frequently changing your passwords to using unique character and case combinations, there are steps you can take to ensure your information stays private. However, so many texters and talkers know that losing a phone certainly can happen. If your phone is stolen or misplaced, thieves may only be a few keystrokes away from access to your checking, savings and credit card information.

I expect security will continue to be a leading issue as banks expand their slate of mobile services. Whether you're depositing an image of a check or paying your bills with the push of a touch-screen button, mobile banking transmits plenty of information that can lead to fraudulent activity or identity theft.

What do you think? Does this latest report of mobile app insecurity give you second thoughts about using your smartphone to manage your finances? Or does convenience outweigh the worry of your confidential information falling into the wrong hands?

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