Is shopping on your mobile phone really that dangerous?

Home / Blog / Stories / Is shopping on your mobile phone really that dangerous?
Is shopping on your mobile phone really that dangerous?

Ahh… it’s that wonderful time of the year – holiday time! While some of us want to disconnect from technology, sometimes we need to talk to our colleagues, review urgent documents, and more. It can be easy to let our guards down and forget that cybercriminals are lurking about as they never take holidays. Instead, this is a great opportunity for them to take advantage of!

Aussies are known for travelling around the world – and with Perth on track for the coldest winter this century, the school holidays were a fantastic way to escape the freezing cold and discover somewhere wonderfully warm. I joined my fellow Australians revelling in the sun and flew to Poland. While Poland may not be on many Australians’ radar to go on holidays with us preferring the likes of the USA, UK, France, or Italy – I went to Poland with an event in mind – to join 3 million pilgrims taking part in a pilgrimage called World Youth Day.

Funnily enough, while I work at BankVault, cyber security was not on the top of my mind. In fact, it was my friend who reminded me that it would be the best place to test out whether BankVault really worked since there were bound to be sneaky hackers who would take this great opportunity to ruin potentially thousands or millions of people’s holidays by hacking their computers and mobile devices to steal people’s online identity, steal money from their bank accounts, and more.

Before my pilgrimage, I took the opportunity to travel and discover what Poland had to offer. One of my side trips was to a city called Bydgoczcz. It looks quite tiny on the map and I didn’t really do too much research before I went there. Since I figured it was this tiny town, I would just get my train or bus ticket easily to go to my next destination. However, what I didn’t realise until my mum texted me while I was in town that Bydgoczcz is the 8th largest city in Poland. Whoops! After about half a day of walking around town, I returned back to the train station only to find that the queue for the ticket office was from one end of the hall to the other.

Bydgoczcz glowna train station Poland

“Oh gosh”, I thought as I waited impatiently in line. I waited in the queue for at least 20 minutes and we had not moved an inch… but the line behind me was growing. Looking at the departures board, I saw that there was a train to the place that I wanted to go that was leaving in 30 minutes. There was absolutely no way that I was going to buy a ticket to hop onto the train at that rate and I just didn’t want to wait a few hours just to buy my train ticket.

It was then that I had a brainwave: Intercity, the train company that runs between different Polish cities has a website where you can buy tickets from. So I stepped to one corner to hop online and buy a ticket. It was then that I realised that you had to enter your credit card details in. All of a sudden I had a dilemma – should I buy a ticket online or should I wait?

I decided that I would buy the train ticket online and worried the entire time that someone would try to hack into my phone even though I had antivirus on it. Being a BankVault employee, I knew that antivirus just doesn’t protect you completely and that by entering in my credit card details into my phone I would be at risk of credit card fraud especially if there was overlay malware. Even so, I took the risk anyway because I just didn’t want to queue up for so long. Admittedly, I actually felt terribly guilty – as if I had just broken financial cyber security’s 10 commandments. Then I thought, “Am I being overly sensitive since I know about the dangers since working with BankVault? Or is this what other people think too?”

While I was in the Krakow region with 3 million others plus the residents who may or may not have liked us taking over their city for a little while, one of the fellow pilgrims that I was staying with refused to buy a plane ticket from Krakow to Helsinki on her phone fearing that someone might be trying to hack into her phone. Instead she texted her Finnish friend to buy the ticket for her and she would pay her back as she said she knows about the dangers of online shopping and wasn’t sure if her phone was secure since we were using someone else’s WiFi. So it wasn’t just me being paranoid. My new friend is actually a Policy Consultant for the Police so perhaps it’s more the case of the more you know, the more you realise that you should take more control of your behaviour online – even if you know the risks. On the other hand, the other woman that we were staying with who is not tech savvy didn’t know about the dangers at all.

tin foil hat cyber security paranoia
Are we guilty of wearing a tin foil hat?

Isn’t that interesting? You see, one of the comments that I have received while talking to prospective customers and others who I strike up a conversation with is that where does taking precaution to safeguard your online activity go too far where you end up wearing a tinfoil hat and just don’t do anything online because you’re too afraid of the bad guys? Where do we draw the line and should we be more vigilant while on our holiday’s even if it’s not this major event with millions of people attending? Do people really care about their cyber security if they freely put everything up on Facebook and other social media accounts?

It’s a great reminder that it’s not about what software or hardware we use to safeguard ourselves. It’s a myth that Apple iPhones can’t be hacked and only Android phones can. Similarly, Macintosh computers can have viruses just like Windows. It’s all about how we use it. It’s like a car – it’s great to get from A to B. You shouldn’t do stupid things like steering your car with your feet while playing on your phone down the highway. You take precaution to make sure that you don’t endanger other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. Likewise, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our families, and our businesses to become more educated especially in this increasingly digital environment to ensure that while we are going online, that we don’t do ‘stupid’ things that put ourselves at risk.

If we do, then we only have ourselves to blame for not securing our computing devices and for making ourselves vulnerable to online bank hacking, being victim of malware, and more.

In your opinion, what’s the line between being vigilant about staying safe online or just getting to the point where everybody around you thinks that you are being way too paranoid and wearing a tin foil hat?