FBI Issues Warning About Mobile Banking Threats

Mobile banking app usage has surged as access to physical banks has been limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spurred the FBI to issued a warning about the potential for hackers to exploit mobile channels.

“The FBI advises the public to be cautious when downloading apps on smartphones and tablets, as some could be concealing malicious intent,” the nation’s law enforcement agency wrote in the alert. "The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps."

Since the start of 2020, data indicates more than 75 percent of Americans have used mobile banking to cash checks and transfer funds. This is up 50 percent compared to a year ago.

As social distancing orders remain in place and Americans become accustomed to using mobile banking tools, 36 percent of Americans said they plan to use apps to conduct banking activities, while 20 percent said they plan to visit branches less often.

In 2018 alone, U.S. security research firms reported nearly 65,000 fake apps were detected in the nation’s major app stores, making this one of the fastest growing sectors of smartphone-based fraud. App-based banking trojans and fake banking apps remain troubling trends mentioned in he FBI alert. This includes malware that creates a false version of a bank’s login page atop the legitimate app. Once logged into the fake site, customers provide their real banking information and are unaware they have been compromised.

Fraudsters are also known to create fraudulent apps designed to impersonate the real apps of major financial institutions, with the intent of tricking users into entering their login credentials. These apps provide an error message after the attempted login and will use smartphone permission requests to obtain and bypass security codes texted to users. This is why it's recommended to use a two-factor authentication when accessing banking via an app.

Read the full alert from the FBI here.

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