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You Think Your Online Transactions Are Secure, But Here's How Hackers Can Steal Your Credit Card Info

Cash is king, but it might soon be overthrown by credit cards.

Singapore was the third country after the US and UK to implement Android Pay. And given our high smartphone adoption rate at 150% (December 2016), mobile wallets aren’t all that difficult to implement.

The most popular apps in Singapore include Dash, DBS Paylah!, Apple and Android Pay.

1 in 4 Singaporeans have adopted mobile payment, and places like the new vending machine cafes are increasingly welcoming towards it. In 2016 alone, over 30,000 retail points in Singapore enabled cashless payment.

In fact, now you can make online bank transactions simply using an NRIC or mobile number.

DBS Paylah! x *SCAPE 2017 Bazaar / Image Credit: DBS

The benefits they give – slimmer wallets and one-device-pays-all convenience – continue to drive adoption.

By loading multiple cards, we can select the most optimal one to maximise perks from purchases as well.

By referring back to transaction histories, mobile payments also “improve transparency and can work to provide greater control on spending”, Director Gordon Shields of J.D Power (global market research company) shared.

And all this opens new avenues for hackers.

A Goldmine For Data Brokers

A data broker is someone, or a business entity, that collects information about consumers from both public and non-public sources. This information is then sold to others.

Data consist of personal info from birth dates to addresses, to race and social media connections, as well as content shared and interests.

Image Credit: NYTimes

While information can be used in ethical ways, data banks are also a hotspot for illegal activity – and smartphones are not spared the damage.

According to a March 2017 report, 55% of 2,400 survey participants felt their data was being sold to third parties such as advertisers.

And they aren’t wrong.

In Singapore, 90% of mobile apps such as fitness trackers do not adequately declare what data is collected and how it is used, even though this flouts the Personal Data Protection Act.

Even a website we once featured that helps users mass unsubscribe to mailing lists, has been called out for selling customer data… to the very companies people were unsubscribing from.

Meanwhile, RFID protection is also increasingly highlighted as vital.

For those unfamiliar with it, credit cards use radio frequency identification (RFID) to transmit bank details.

RFID theft / Image Credit: yourtravelgear

Someone with a RFID reader can steal that info within seconds just by standing next to you.

After that, a $500 machine can replicate the card info to be used elsewhere.

Protecting Yourself

Firstly, I must admit that I am pretty careless with my information.

My habits of ‘template’ passwords and not checking what I share online can be a veritable security nightmare.

While I do clear my browsing history, cache and ensure that I am on my own 4G before I conduct bank transactions, this extent of protection is barely enough.

Credit cards can be protected using anti-RFID products such as Kisetsu card slots, but mobile phones?

Not so much.

Hire A Security Master For Free

One way Singaporeans can protect themselves is with the Cheetah Mobile Security Master app.

The revamped version of CM Security, the app is an all-in-one app capable of providing real-time protection for any Android device.

The app has 3 main functions – Scan (malware detection and protection), Boost (frees up phone memory and boosts device speed) and AppLock (app protection).

Security Master in action / Image Credit: Samantha Tay / Vulcan Post

Upon set-up, the app was also kind enough to inform me that my phone’s security status was atrocious.

But after a few quick swipes, it also allowed me to enable complete protection.

Security Master in action / Image Credit: Samantha Tay / Vulcan Post

Addressing the issue of how people feel insecure about the Internet, Security Master also offers “SafeConnect”. This function protects and encrypts browsing data, as well as information shared across the net.

Meanwhile, for anyone who has used their phone for long enough will feel the pain of the device slowing down. This problem can be addressed with the Boost function, which clears the phone of junk memory so that the processor can work in optimal conditions.

AppLock secures high-risk apps such as messaging, banking and online shopping apps, including taking ‘Intruder Alert’ selfies.

Once the app has been locked, you would need to unlock it either with a passcode or a fingerprint.

I tried breaking into my own phone and got this terrible selfie / Image Credit: Samantha Tay / Vulcan Post
AppLock / Image Credit: Samantha Tay / Vulcan Post

Stay Safe

These 2 words have never carried as much weight as before we entered the digital era.

As shared by Pan Qi, Vice-President of Cheetah Mobile, “as android systems and mobile internet usage continue to grow, traditional antivirus apps are no longer sufficient.”

“Consumers need a comprehensive product to help tackle internet security threats while catering the basic mobile optimisation needs.”

While we may not always be 100% safe against the ever-evolving threat of cyber-crime, we can at the very least, mitigate the risks we face.

You can download the Android app here for free.

This article was written in collaboration with Cheetah Mobile Inc.

Featured Image Credit: Shaz AG / Vulcan Post