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Mobile payments: avoid the pitfalls

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An increasing number of cyberattacks make mobile payments a risky option. But taking simple precautions can help shield you from the danger.

With many people buying goods via mobile devices, the risk of being hacked during the process is often ignored. The issue is of pressing nature, especially around Christmas time where paying on the run is even more likely. “Using portable gadgets offers the most comfort means for completing purchases for sure. However, users are exposed to grave threats unless they take precautionary measures. Our job is to ensure this protection,” says Bárány Zsolt, regional customer officer for Hungary and Romania at Trend Micro.

Lesson No.1 is to avoid public Wi-Fi connections, as hackers can easily set up fake networks. It is recommended to stick with our own providerʼs 3G or 4G network, which are better protected than local free wireless services. Web sites indicating TSL or SSL should be sought out, as those letters are indications of the existence of a secure payment environment.

Apps facilitating purchases should be treated with healthy criticism as well. Should any doubt arise, read user reviews for validation and run a virus scan on the app. This, however, presupposes that your device already has anti-virus software installed, which is a must. In addition, browsers need to be updated regularly, since updates generally also contain security improvements, thus making the hackersʼ lives more complicated. “Opening promotional e-mails on smartphones is not a good idea, either, since criminals like to duplicate big storesʼ images, and thus aim to prey on your confidential data,” warns Bárány. “Bad grammar or sloppy graphics should give cause for suspicion.”

The payment method also makes a difference. It is better to use credit cards, rather than debit cards, as the former are protected by more safeguarding measures by banks. On the other hand, an alternative secure payment channels such as PayPal may be a viable option, because such companies have to pay extra attention to data protection; their business relies on it .

It may be hard to believe, but retailers are exposed to cyber threats just as much. Online stores generate up to 70% of their revenues in the period between Black Friday and Christmas, so an attack in that interval could potentially have fatal consequences for the future of a business. “So-called blackmail viruses are getting so widespread that very soon it will not be if, but rather when you get attacked by hackers,” adds Attila Gömbös, systems engineer of Trend Micro.

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