Managing Your Financial Security in the Era of Google Wallet

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Google-Walle

New financial services can keep you secure, or put you at risk

We tech bloggers love to dream about the days when wallets will be a thing of the past—all your credit cards, IDs, business cards, and photos, will be stored on your smartphone. While this can make identity theft more likely if you’re not careful, it can actually be a safer way to do business with the right precautions—after all, you can’t password-protect your wallet. Here are a few ways you can turn your phone into a secure, convenient place to organize your finances.

Password-protect your phone

If this seems like an obvious step, you’ve got the right idea. More and more, smartphones are becoming the main access point for personal and financial information, and setting a PIN is the least you can do to protect yours. It won’t interfere with your ability to accept incoming calls (unless you want it to), and it can be an effective way to keep your credit card information and social networks secure. The odds of guessing a 4-digit PIN are 1 in 10,000, which will at least give you time to shut down your phone if it’s lost or stolen. (Just don’t use your birthday, your bank PIN, or digits from your Social Security number.)

Use long, mnemonic passwords

Unfortunately, most of what you’ve been told about “strong” passwords is inaccurate. While including numerals, casing, and symbols can increase your password strength to some extent, the best way to strengthen your password is simply to make it longer, because each additional character in your password makes it at least 26 times more difficult to guess. Of course, a gibberish password of the same length will be more secure, but you’ll likely be tempted to write it down, which is by far the most common way that passwords are stolen.

Change financial passwords frequently

“Brute force” password guessing (applying a computer to make constant, random guesses at your password) are rare for ordinary users, but they do happen. Changing your password every three months makes this kind of hacking virtually impossible, since it takes a significant investment of time and computer resources to mount this kind of attack.

Read terms of service for any app that accesses your financial data

If you use your smartphone for access to budgeting software, web-based accounting, or any mobile shopping, be sure that you know exactly what data you’ve shared with each app on your phone. You may be tempted to ignore the apps’ terms of service and privacy policy, but if you’re sharing financial information, it’s far too important a step to skip. Of course, any app that doesn’t include a terms of service and privacy policy in connection with your financial data is probably not a legitimate service.

Be very careful about jail-breaking your phone

The trouble with jail-breaking phones is that it requires a lot of code—and that means a lot of “hiding places” for malware. The safest option, of course, is to leave it alone completely; but if you’re determined, here are a few tips to keep your data more secure. Never download a jailbreak from a source you don’t absolutely trust—and to be safe, you should reset your phone to manufacturer specs before even attempting a jailbreak. If you have someone else jailbreak your phone, make sure you know where the code is coming from.

Download a shutdown app for your phone

With the right app, you can remotely lock down your phone if it’s ever lost or stolen. Most of these apps allow you to change your password, shut down your phone, or even wipe your phone’s memory completely, with a single call. The best options require a security subscription, so you should weigh whether the information on your phone is sensitive enough that the “insurance” is worth the cost; but if you’re a small-business owner with work data on your mobile device, it might be worth the price.

Know the Guest Author:

Julia Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.

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