So you want to bank safely online? Then ditch your computer and make the transaction via your cell phone instead.
Using a mobile handset for this most sensitive online act might sound counterintuitive, given that phones are prone to being lost or stolen, but your cell phone might actually be safer than your computer for paying bills or checking your statement online.
Some phone malware does exist, and examples tend to make headlines due to their novelty. But the main threats to online security, such as keyloggers, Trojan horses, and other data-stealing software, don't exist for phones--yet.
"The risk of being infected on a mobile phone is tiny in comparison [with a PC]," notes the security firm Sophos in its annual threat report.
Security firms have long marketed antimalware products for mobile phones. One such company, Kaspersky, acknowledges the lack of threat from mobile malware (at least in the United States). Recently, as a way to appeal to the market here, it added the ability to remotely wipe out sensitive data on a lost or stolen handset to its mobile security product.
"There's a whole lot of upside and security advantages to mobile devices," says James Van Dyke, president of Javelin Strategy and Research, a financial services research firm.
Financial services for cell phones are plentiful. PayPal lets you send money to another person via your phone. Companies including Obopay, mChek, and KushCash are joining in. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and others also offer services.
Cell phones dodge malware because they run many different operating systems. Security experts agree that crooks stand to steal much more by investing their time in writing a new Windows virus that is capable of infecting millions of PCs than in constructing a Trojan horse that can target only a certain type of phone.