Look, hackers are out there, and they aren’t just going after businesses. They are going after individuals as well. Yes, in some cases, hackers are going after your personal information. But others, well, they are going after your wallet. But with all the technology available today, can hackers really get to your money? Unfortunately, yes. But not all payment methods carry the same risk.
There are two types of credit cards, magnetic stripe cards, and chip cards. The magnetic stripe cards are by far the easiest to hack. Hackers use a tool called a “skimmer” to read the magnetic stripe on your card when you use it. Think gas stations, ATMs, or anywhere a card reader could be left unattended. While the card reader is left unattended, hackers can add their skimming device, which is usually hard to detect. Then when someone uses the magnetic stripe card, the skimming device collects your information (card number, name on card, expiration date), and they are off on their shopping spree. In other words, magnetic stripe credit cards are very vulnerable.
Surely the chip cards are better, right? Sure, they are better, but that doesn’t mean they are hacker-proof. When a transaction takes place with a chip card, a single use key is generated, which encrypts your credit card information. And that key is only valid for a few seconds – you know until the card reader buzzes at you. This new technology has prompted hackers to come up with a new tactic called shimming. A shimmer is a thin, small chip that gets inserted inside the slot of the card reader. And, as you probably guessed, the shimmer is placed there to steal card data, which means the enhanced security of these chip cards is bypassed.
Think Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, etc. These apps are located on your smartphone or a wearable device like a watch and store your financial information. And, when a transaction takes place, you tap your device to initiate the payment. During the transaction, your financial information isn’t actually transferred. Instead, an encrypted version of your stored credit card is used to authorize payment of whatever you are purchasing. Encrypted is good. Accessing your device through a password, is better. But combining an encrypted transaction, with a password protected device and a biometric login procedure is best. These payment apps provide an opportunity to add things like a fingerprint scan or facial recognition to use them. This means that even if your device is lost or stolen, accessing your payment app will be quite the challenge.
But (yes there is usually a but), there are potential hacking opportunities. In this case, the opportunities come in the form of other apps. Apps that are completely unrelated to your payment app could contain malware that was designed to access, capture, and share your financial information with hackers. Your best bet in this situation is to know, understand, and research the apps that you are downloading. Read reviews, check app permissions, and pay attention to the number of times the app was downloaded. If you see any type of red flag when digging into the app, you may want to reconsider downloading it.
Safe Payment Tips
We all know that hackers are out there, and they are trying to access things, like our credit card information which does not belong to them. Your goal is to protect yourself by making it harder for them to access your information. To do so, consider these tips:
- Check your credit card statement frequently and notify your card’s fraud department if you see irregular activity
- If you are using a mobile payment app, keep the app up-to-date and use the latest version
- Be on the look-out for fraudulent mobile payment apps – they exist, and they want your info (stick with the well-known, reputable apps)
- Be cognizant of other apps downloaded on your smartphone or wearable device, and research them before you download them
- Lock your smartphone with some of the latest features like face recognition or fingerprint scan or at the very least a strong password
- Do not add credit card information to mobile payment apps while on public Wi-Fi (stay away from online shopping while on public Wi-Fi as well)
And, above all, know that technology is constantly changing. The most secure payment method today, may not be the most secure next year. Because, as we have learned, as technology evolves, so do hackers. Stay informed, read about cybersecurity relative to paying for things, and be vigilant with your financial information.