It's a scary cyber-world out there, and fear concerning Internet security is one of the top reasons that bank customers avoid mobile banking. For banks, expanding mobile offerings is win-win, enabling them to shutter expensive branch locations while opening newer, more modern spaces that cater to banking via the Internet.
So, what do banks need to do to assuage customers' fears about mobile banking -- and, more importantly, what is being done to improve security measures to protect consumers' private information?
Many reasons to worry
Cyber crime is becoming more prevalent, and recent attacks on banks' websites, in addition to the recent ATM heist in Manhattan, were highlighted at the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit last month as prime examples of holes in the current framework of network security. A survey last year by Internet security company Metaforic showed that 68% of smartphone users have yet to use mobile banking because of worries about security, and the company's CEO opined that mobile banking apps and the banks that offer them don't do enough to ameliorate risks.
According to American Banker, a newer threat has just emerged: malware. It seems that cyber-criminals have been keeping busy adapting malware to run on the smaller screens of mobile devices, fooling users into giving up private information. The article notes that 350,000 incidences of malware were found on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android apps last year, up from 1,000 just the year before. Though Google has a security app available, the utilization rate is low -- a mere 20%. Again, banks are called out for not supplying customers with suitably secure banking apps.
Banks are getting on board
Some of the biggest banks are taking this threat very seriously, perhaps because they themselves have been the victims of cyber hacking over the past year. Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) recently took second place in the Keynote mobile banking ratings report, receiving special kudos for its privacy and security efforts. Wells has been quite active in this area and has made it a priority to stress communications between the bank and its customers in order to keep its mobile security tight.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has a dedicated page on its site for mobile banking security, with tabs explaining the specific types of fraud customers can learn to recognize, as well as tips on self-protection. B of A offers layers of protection, including a special passcode feature for any online transaction, including mobile.
Citigroup (NYSE:C) offers account encryption for both online and mobile and doesn't store account information on mobile devices, in case of phone theft or loss.
New protections on the horizon
A recent article in Consumer Reports noted that some big banks are testing new security measures meant to make passwords -- which are hackable -- obsolete. Though the piece couldn't name names, their source indicated that this new technology could be available later this year. If successful, this new layer of protection may be just what banks need to break through the fear factor and get more customers on the mobile banking bandwagon.
Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, Google, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.