21 Feb 2020

The Top 3 Security Risks for Mobile Payment Methods (& How to Stay Safe)

Technology is making payment methods more convenient every decade. First, there was chip technology in credit cards. Now, the newest payment options have done away with physical plastic altogether.

Mobile wallet options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Chase Pay cut down on the need to carry a wallet around in addition to a cell phone. However, many individuals and business owners alike are worried about the cost of that convenience when it comes to online security.

Are Mobile Payment Methods Safe?

Depending on the situation, almost any payment method can be risky. Schemes in which fake credit card readers are fitted over regular card readers in locations like gas stations aren’t uncommon. It can be unsafe to carry too much cash because you become a better target for mugging. For a while, chips in credit cards and some debit cards caused concern because people were worried about others carrying around chip readers that could steal their information from a short distance. 

The newest technology always comes with this question: is it safe? The short answer is that mobile payments aren’t 100% threat-free, but there are some easy ways to manage the small risks that do exist. In fact, some would say mobile payment options are more secure overall than a physical credit card or cash, as long as you have security measures in place. 

 

Risks & Security Tips for Mobile Wallets

1. Losing your devices

These days, losing your phone is just about as dangerous as losing your credit cards. And, when you have multiple devices in the hands of multiple employees, that threat feels a little too close for comfort.

The good news is, a lost device with security precautions in place isn’t usually a big deal for businesses. Here are some questions to help you assess how great your risk is, and a few simple solutions to increase security in case of a lost device.

Questions to Consider:

  • How many devices do you have?
  • Who has access to your devices? 
  • Which devices are connected to payment methods? 
  • Are your mobile devices locked?
  • Do you have a password manager in place?
  • Do you have policies in place about using personal and business devices? (i.e. not allowing business use on personal devices and vice versa)
  • Do your employees understand those rules? Have they been trained on how to protect their devices?

 

Tips for Mobile Device Security:

  • Create an inventory of your devices and who has access to them. Keep track of what apps are used where (and which are allowed in certain places). This way, if a device goes missing, you have all the information on hand to intervene and protect your financial data.
  • Use a biometric locking feature on every mobile device (such as facial or fingerprint recognition) for the highest level of security 
  • Require multi-factor identification on your devices. Or, if that’s too inconvenient, you could require a second verification before you can activate payment methods on your phone.
  • Spend time on educating and training your employees about the safe use of mobile payment options. Set parameters and guidelines and make sure you’re monitoring credit card accounts and business accounts for inconsistencies.

 

2. Malware

In the past, malware mostly only infected computers. However, the threat to mobile users is growing quickly. In fact, mobile cyber incidents are becoming more common than those aimed at desktops. 

Here are a few ways to help prevent your device from being affected by malware:

  • Be careful when clicking on suspicious links on your phone (again, ensure you have employee training in place to help employees spot phishing and malware)
  • Install an antivirus on your phone. 
  • Keep your apps fully up to date to avoid being a target for hackers. Outdated app versions aren’t as well protected against attacks.
  • Look out for app clones when you’re downloading your apps, especially when it comes to banking apps or apps that require a purchase with a credit card number.

 

3. Stolen Card Numbers

This is the last point here because it’s actually fairly rare. E-wallets on smartphones are typically designed to encrypt your data. For example, Apple doesn’t store or have access to your credit card information just because you uploaded it to your iPhone. 

However, one tiny exception to this can happen when you use a public Wi-Fi connection to upload your cards. In this instance, hackers can intercept and decode the information if they’re nearby and on the same network. 

Although it’s a very small chance that your financial details will be stolen this way, be sure to use your own network (a virtual private network is best) to upload credit card information into a mobile wallet.

Get Mobile Smart & Stay Protected

If you’re nervous about mobile payment methods or want to know more about how to use the technology safely, get in touch with an expert managed service provider in Edmonton. Our IT specialists can help you design a simple safety plan for all your mobile devices. 

 

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14 May 2019

Is it Safe to Use Public WiFi?

Using public WiFi is like having a conversation in public. You never really know who is listening in. Having someone eavesdrop on your conversation probably isn’t a big deal. Having someone gain access to all your computer files, however, is a real security issue.

If you’re on a public network, someone may be able to access your personal information, passwords, and more. We do our best to protect our work and home networks with WiFi protected setups, passwords, and even hiding our networks. But, many of us don’t worry about WiFi security on public networks in the same way.

While you can’t guarantee public WiFi security, there are a few ways you can help keep your information secure on public networks.

Know Which Networks to Trust

The best way to stay safe when using free Internet is to know the network. You’re going to have to use your best judgement for this one, but usually the best networks are the ones that seem the most trustworthy.

Familiar networks are probably safer than ones you’ve never heard of or used. Some WiFi networks are much more secure than others. For example, you probably shouldn’t trust the network named “FREE WIFI HERE”. The WiFi at a well-known coffee shop, like Starbucks, however, is probably fairly secure.

Only Use Secure Networks

Unsecure WiFi networks are ones that have no security protocols in place to stop people from accessing them. If you don’t need to enter a password to join a network, it probably isn’t very secure. Using unsecure networks can leave you vulnerable to “man in the middle” attacks. Of course no WiFi network is completely secure, but using networks with more security (like logins or passwords) are generally safer.

Don’t Connect Automatically

Many of us have our mobile devices configured to automatically connect to different WiFi networks. The problem is you have no way of controlling which wireless networks your device connects to. There are two options to mitigate this:

  1. Set your device to never automatically connect to WiFi networks
  2. Set your device up to ask you before it connects to unknown networks

Turn Off File Sharing

File sharing and AirDrop are incredibly convenient. You don’t want your computer to be automatically sharing things with strangers. Fortunately, you can avoid this by turning your file sharing off before you connect to a public network. Once your file sharing has been shut off, cyber criminals can’t just reach out and take your files.

Keep Your Computer’s Antivirus Updated

This may seem obvious, but it’s always best for your computer and antivirus software to be up to date. If you can take ten minutes and update your computer or install antivirus software, your system will be much more secure. Working on public networks without any protection increases your risk of cyber attack. If you plan on using public WiFi frequently, it’s best to have antivirus or antimalware on your computer.

Use a VPN

The best way to ensure public WiFi safety is to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. VPN services encrypt your data and mask your IP address, keeping your information hidden. Installing a VPN hides your personal information from other people using the same network.

It always feels good to know you’re staying safe online. These easy tips will help you keep your data secure the next time you’re using a public WiFi network. Remember, if a network isn’t up to your security standards, don’t use it! You can always improve your online safety by investing in your own portable WiFi router or using your own hotspot.

Want to learn more about cyber security? Check out our recent post on the 5 Best Practices to Improve Cyber Security. Or get in touch with our team at Alt Tech to learn more about cyber security and get IT service you can count on!

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22 Feb 2019

The Biggest Cyber Attacks of 2018

There are over a million people online, and every day there are people and companies that fall prey to cyber attacks. While security researchers are always working to keep our information safe, hackers are always looking for new ways to steal it. That means there’s always a major risk for cyber attack for companies operating online. 

2018 was a big year for security breaches in Canada, the United States, and abroad. A lot of companies experienced breaches that affected millions of people. We like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the IT world, so we’ve created a list of some of the biggest cyber attacks 2018 saw, as well as some advice to help businesses avoid breaches in 2019.

Quora

The popular question and answer website was hacked this year, affecting as many as 100 million users. A malicious third party hacked into the website, gaining access to users’ names, email addresses, profile information, and passwords. Very little has been said about this attack outside what information was compromised.

British Airways

The British airline had to deal with a massive online attack when criminals hacked into the airline’s booking records. This affected records on both the website and the app. Hackers gained full access to traveller’s personal information. This included about 380,000 people’s credit card information. The airline made sure to notify people about the breach as soon as possible.

Marriott

This year Marriott was informed of an information breach that had been occurring since 2014. In this case, thieves had access to the payment cards, personal information, passport numbers, and travel information of over 500 million people. Because of this, authorities believe it could have been the work of nation state hackers.

Facebook

This well-publicized hack affected over 87 million users of the popular social network. Stolen information included people’s personal information such as relationship status, birthdate, and employer. While this breach actually occurred a couple of years ago, the information just surfaced in 2018. Due to that delay, many users are upset about Facebook’s lack of transparency.

Protect Your Company

You probably won’t experience a data breach as large as these companies, but having your information hacked could cost you thousands of dollars and significantly damage your company’s reputation. So, how can you prevent these attacks from happening in your company this year? There are a few quick and easy ways to protect your company:

  1. Protect your usernames and passwords. Making sure employees regularly update their passwords for computer logins and accounts. Changing your password protects makes it more difficult to hack into a computer, protecting you from a security breach.
  2. Update and secure your computer networks. The online environment is constantly changing and so are the risks. Have your IT team keep your security systems up to date with the latest online security.
  3. Be prepared for ransomware attacks. These attacks can happen at any time. They could come in an innocent-looking email or appear on a website. To avoid accidentally installing malware, make sure you can recognize attacks and respond appropriately.
  4. Promote cyber security training. The best way to avoid data breaches is to keep your employees informed. Educate them about cyber risks, how to recognize them, and what to do in case of an attack. 

At Alt-Tech, we can help protect your business from online attacks. We offer around the clock monitoring, system security and access services, virtual IT manager services, and more. If you’re ready to begin protecting your business online, contact us today.

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