A foundation of personal finance is creating a budget. Many people rely on budget tracking apps to help with this process. These apps are a great way to get objective data on spending and identify patterns that may need to be changed. Recently, some questions have been raised about whether or not these apps are safe to use.
While you may assume the apps are secure, various department store chains have been hacked, not to mention city governments. How can people be sure their data is secure with budget tracking tools? These tools are directly connected to personal financial accounts. It is important to ensure that this information is not at risk by using the app.
According to industry experts, budget tracking apps are quite safe themselves. However, certain actions can put users at risk. In general, people are easier to hack than machines. Users need to make sure they are not engaging in behaviors that could jeopardize their data, like reusing passwords or clicking on random links they receive in email or texts.
Vetted budgeting apps are generally considered every bit as secure as the tools offered by financial institutions to help manage money. Individuals should be more concerned with their own computers and devices to ensure that their data is not accessible through these routes rather than the app itself.
Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to keeping personal financial data safe on budgeting apps include:
1. Keep the app up to date.
One of the easiest ways to maximize security of an app is keeping it up to date. Whenever a new version of an app is released, you should assume that the update improves security. Most of the time, this is true, so it is critical to let the app update whenever a new version is released. Along those same lines, you should keep the operating systems on your computers and devices updated, since new versions of an app may make use of new features to promote security.
2. Pay attention to passcodes.
People often reuse passwords as a matter of convenience, but this is a dangerous approach, since a hacker will have immediate access to all accounts once one is hacked. For each app, you should create a unique password.
Most people will need to enter multiple passwords: one to log in to the device and then another to access the app. Each of these passwords should be different and secure. Passwords that contain special symbols, numbers, and a mixture of upper- and lower-case characters are the most secure.
When accounts include personal financial data, letting the device remember the user is generally a bad idea. It will be easy for someone to access the app if the device gets lost or stolen. Also, hackers can use this feature against users remotely.
Ideally, you should make use of two-factor authentication to sign in to budgeting apps. This makes it much more difficult to hack. The extra step adds some time to the sign-in process, but it can help avoid situations like identity theft that consume much more time.
3. Vet the budgeting app.
Another important step in keeping personal financial data safe is vetting your preferred budgeting tools. Users should understand that nothing is 100 percent safe from hackers. However, reputable apps will offer a high level of security that makes a data breach unlikely.
Before choosing a particular service provider, search for any history of data breaches or other security incidents. Most of the popular apps receive a lot of scrutiny, so the security issues are usually spotted and addressed very quickly. A great option for vetting a budgeting app is Comparitech.com, which focuses specifically on tech services.
4. Be suspicious of scammers.
People who are trying to hack an account on a budget tracking app are more likely to target the consumer than the larger company. You can protect yourself by installing antivirus and anti-malware software on your computers. Also, you should never click on links sent via email or text message. These can install monitoring software or steal other personal details.
These links are a type of scam called phishing, which has become a significant problem in recent years. Most scam emails are rather obvious, but some can be quite sophisticated. You should have a high level of suspicion whenever an email is asking that you follow a link or provide additional information.
5. Avoid using apps on public Wi-Fi.
An important thing to keep in mind when it comes to using budgeting apps is how the information is actually transmitted. In general, people should avoid using these apps while on public Wi-Fi.
If you feel like you need to use these apps on the run without using the device’s data plan can consider a virtual private network (VPN). These networks usually cost around $10 monthly, but they provide optimal security for using apps that deal with sensitive information.