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Resource Center

Resource Center

Mobile Security

You will find updated mobile security tips in this helpful brochure - Guarding Against Internet & Mobile Schemes, Scams and Frauds. This material was also distributed with member statements at the beginning of August 2014.

Known Mobile Threats

102 million Americans use mobile devices to access their financial accounts.  Such a huge number means the ground is fertile for cyber-attacks. To date, there have been no major security events that directly threatened mobile bankers. However, a wake up call was received in June when a Russian malware program named Svpeng was detected in the United States. It has not yet caused havoc in our country but has certainly signaled criminal intentions and should be taken seriously.

Svpeng looks for specific mobile banking apps on a user's Android  phone. A specific set of financial institutions has been targeted: USAA, American Express, Bank of America, BB&T, Chase, Citigroup, Regions Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo.

Once installed on an Android phone, Svpeng scans the device and then throws up a screen informing the victim that U.S. law enforcement has detected 'prohibited content' on the phone. It's all fake, despite the FBI logo and the threatening tone. Svpeng further personalizes the situation by snapping a picture of the victim using the Android's front facing phone.

What happens next is not fake. The phone is locked by the criminal hackers and cannot be used. Rebooting will not remove Svpeng. The phone screen informs the victim that he/she owes a fine of $200 which can be paid using MoneyPak pre-paid cards. Helpfully, it also gives information about where to purchase them.  The victim has two bad choices - pay the ransom or purchase a new phone. If the ransom is paid, the phone must immediately be cleaned of all content (contacts, photos, emails,  apps, etc.) to prevent the ransom from reoccurring.

Mobile Security Tips

Americans increasingly depend on their mobile devices and the frightening situation described above could cost plenty of money, time and anxiety. It already has in Russia and other eastern European countries.  Fortunately, there are ways to protect your security on your phone or tablet. The first step is to educate yourself about the situation and always remember that the device in your pocket or purse is really a small computer and should be protected in the same way. Here are 12 important tips from security experts that will help you keep your private information private.

  1. Do not fall victim to social engineering. Americans love our phones and we overly trust these chunks of plastic and metal. Be wary of any links you receive in email or texts even if they are from people you know. Even more important, don't respond to or click on anything in texts or emails from strangers. They will try to entice you with free restaurant gift offers, discount coupons to major retailers and thoughtful offers to track your missing package. Don't fall for them. The criminals are using your desire for a "deal" to gain access to other data on your phone.
  2. Always secure your phone with a password. We know it's annoying to type or finger swipe every single time but this is the most basic security tip out there. Special note to those using finger swipe patterns - keep your screen clean. Greasy fingerprints can reveal too much.
  3. Ensure that your phone locks itself automatically when it has been inactive for a period of time. Choose the shortest time you can live with. Two to five minutes is much safer than ten to thirty.
  4. Only download apps from approved sources. The Google Play Store and Apple's App Store take security seriously. Use them exclusively.
  5. Don't jailbreak your device. This term refers to the practice of breaking the limitations imposed on it by your carrier. Consumers do this so they can use their phone with other carriers, install cool third party apps or customize their phone's appearance. This action voids all warranties and can leave you significantly more exposed to fraudsters.
  6. Consider installing security software, particularly on Android devices.
  7. Check the automatic permissions on your apps. There's no reason a calculator app needs to know your location. Neither does an alarm clock app need access to your contact list. Take a few minutes to explore and perhaps make some manual resets.
  8. Don't miss operating system updates. These updates often contain system vulnerability patches. When your phone or tablet alerts you to an updated operating system, install it as soon as possible. Even better, set your device for automatic updates.
  9. Turn off your automatic Wi-Fi connection. Continually probing for wireless networks 'leaks' away information about your identity and location.
  10. Be aware of the coffee shop problem. When you use a public Wi-Fi network in an airport, restaurant or similar location, pay close attention to the network you choose. That pleasant looking guy or gal at the next table could have set up a similar-sounding, fraudulent network. Should you accidentally login to that one, you have given them access into your device.  In fact, it is a good idea to avoid accessing personal information whenever you're on a Wi-Fi network owned by others. Yes, check the sports scores. But don't look up your checking account balance.
  11. Turn off Bluetooth when not in use. Never accept a pairing request from an unknown device.
  12. Enroll your phone in Find my Phone or an equivalent service.

The good news is that Americans have had a warning about how these potential threats will work. Be thoughtful and aware when using your phone and it is probable that you will not experience a problem.

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