Are Digital Payments Increasing Vulnerability to Cyber Threats?

By Tomer Yair Zemel

The adoption of digital modes of payment has constantly been on the rise for the past few years and the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to it. While many people were reluctant to shift to digital payments when they first arrived, they have quickly seen the benefits it offers. You can transfer money from your bank account to another in a matter of minutes or create fixed deposits through your banking app. You can scan a QR code to make instant payments, and keep a track of your expenses at the tap of a button. All these instant transactions are only possible with digital payment. 

Imagine life without digital payments. Impossible right?

Without digitization, online bank transfers, and online payments it would take hours or even days to complete small tasks... Not so long ago, making instant payments meant carrying wads of cash wherever you went, and to keep a track of your expenses you had to go to the bank to get your bank statement updated. The instant gratification that was offered by digital payment systems is what had customers hooked. Then, as the world encountered the pandemic, digital payment systems became a necessity. While the pandemic did give the required boost to digitization, it gave birth to never heard of security issues. While apex body like WHO also recommended making transactions digitally to avoid the spread of the virus, the. higher usage saw many challenges, compromising security measures.

Most of us use mobile phones for any digital financial transaction.

With the boom in online payment systems, a significant increase in the need for mobile security is required, since most of the apps are used on mobile phones. What I believe is the existing cybersecurity norms do not suffice for the increased demand and users must take additional precautions to safeguard their online transactions and private information. Although mobile phones face the same threats as traditional computers or laptops, we tend not to take mobile security seriously. For example, you may not secure your mobile devices with any security application or solution as you do your personal or work computer/ laptop..

 Not following cybersecurity best practices can also expose you to threats when you make digital payments at online or offline merchant stores.

Remember malware and ransomware are just as likely to attack your phone as your computer if you don’t have any kind of data protection enabled on your device. While we always suggested that Installing BodyGuard or any mobile security application on your mobile phone will ensure data protection and safeguards your mobile against phishing or other attacks aimed at stealing your private data.

I am listing down threats you have to be aware of and protected  against while using digital payment options 

  • Data breaches of all shapes and sizes occur on a daily basis in the digital payments environment and consumers are always at a risk of compromising private data. It could also lead to losing money. While there are many possible types of security threats in a digital environment, the most widespread threats in the payments systems are:
  • Mobile malware: it is malicious software made to target the operating systems of smartphones. It causes the operating system to collapse and leaks private data stored on the phone. Fraudsters can access your banking details through the banking apps on your phone or other data that you may have saved elsewhere on the phone. They can conduct financial transactions from this data which can lead you to lose all your money. 
  • Phishing: it’s an attack designed to make the user reveal confidential data. For example, an SMS or email saying you’ve won the lottery. When you respond to this SMS or email, the attacker asks for critical information such as your banking PIN or login information. Once they have secured access to your bank account, your money will be gone before you know it! 
  • Physical theft: it includes stealing your ATM/debit/credit cards, other documents that can be used to verify your identity, or even the smartphone you use for banking. The attacker can steal any of these things to gain access to your financial information and rob your bank account. It’s crucial not to keep any written PINs and login credentials along with your cards and other documents.
  •  Duplicating SIM cards: if the attacker has stolen your mobile device, they can easily duplicate your SIM card. You will not receive calls and messages anymore, but all the data on your SIM is copied to the duplicate SIM. The duplicate “emulates” the exact behavior of your original SIM, meaning the attacker can conduct transactions involving the use of data stored on your SIM card.
  • Data extraction: fraudsters are constantly coming up with new ways to extract your data from the digital payment ecosystem. That means without strong cybersecurity measures and robust malware protection software, your data is always at a risk of being stolen. All your digital devices that connect to the internet must have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed to safeguard any data you may save in them.
  •  Internet banking frauds: using the techniques discussed above, hackers and fraudsters can steal your internet banking information or hack into the bank’s server to make unauthorized transactions from your accounts. However, it is far more difficult to hack into bank servers as most of them have robust cybersecurity measures in place to ward off such attacks. 
  •  Debit/credit card frauds: the same way fraudsters or hackers can cause internet banking frauds, they can also make unauthorized transactions using your ATM, debit, or credit cards. It’s especially possible if they have access to your security PIN. ATM/debit/credit card fraud has been a severe issue in the past, too, and most banks have a fraud department in place to handle such instances.

Yes, while these attacks and methods are quite surprising, here is what you can do to safeguard yourself and your device.

  •  Avoid using public networks: all digital payments require you to be connected to the internet to process transactions. Avoid using public networks such as open Wi-Fi connections in a café or an unknown open network. It’s best to use your mobile data when you’re out or your personal Wi-Fi connection at home. However, ensure that your Wi-Fi connection has a password protection system enabled.
  •  Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): 2FA usually includes authenticating yourself in two steps. For example, for making a transaction through internet banking, you will have to log in using your username and password, and then also enter a One Time Password (OTP) that you’ll receive on your phone. It adds an extra layer of authentication, enhancing the security of your transaction.
  • Never save or share banking details: avoid saving your card details or passwords on your phone or other devices connected to the internet. Just like you won’t save the details digitally, you must never ever share the details with anyone. Remember, legitimate companies don’t ask for your passwords, OTPs, or any information that’s supposed to be private.
  • Beware of fraudulent links and apps: do not open links from unknown sources or ads, and do not download apps that seem fraudulent. You can identify them from the lack of a ‘verified’ badge, bad reviews, and a low number of downloads.
  • Other things you can do: enable passwords for your devices, create unique passwords for digital wallets, always install the latest system updates, use the remote lock or data-wipe system on your phone, and learn the process of reporting and resolving a fraudulent transaction if it still happens.

You might be thinking that so far you have been lucky and nothing of the sorts can happen to you then Why should you think about advanced mobile security. 

Firstly, my friends, if you have been lucky now, don't think you will have such luck always.

With so many cyberattacks taking place every day, it’s crucial to upgrade your digital security. Just as you would do for any other device 

it’s now time to consider advanced security software for your mobile devices, too. 

At SafeHouse Tech, we have a full solution for you. BodyGuard. BodyGuard is a one-button mobile security app that makes a tunnel for your data to pass through the SafeHouse cloud, where it’s automatically scanned for malware and other cyber threats. It prevents these threats from accessing your device and leaking your data. It ensures a faster, private, and more secure internet experience. It goes far beyond regular anti-malware software and protects you from more than phishing, ransomware, and malware attacks or malicious links. 

BodyGuard is only the beginning of our mission to protect every internet user, regardless of the device they use.

Thanks for reading and keep safe out there!

Team SafeHouse.