Budget tracking apps have been around for a while now, so the question of whether they’re safe or not would seem to have been answered.
“Of course, budget tracking apps are safe,” you may be thinking. “If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many of them.”
In fact, many budget tracking apps are practically household names. You’ve likely heard of Mint.com and Quicken. You Need a Budget, sometimes called YNAB, is another popular one. Others include EveryDollar, PocketGuard, Clarity Money, Goodbudget, Mvelopes, CountAbout and Personal Capital.
In general, budget tracking apps are safe, but you can’t be blamed for wondering, especially if you start remembering the various department store chains that have been hacked over the years, and how city governments have been the victims of ransomware attacks.
So if you’re fretting and wondering if that budgeting tracking app you’re using is safe, read on.
How Safe Are Budget Tracking Apps?
Pretty safe, according to Pieter VanIperen, the managing partner of PWV Consultants, a group of experts in the tech, security and design industries. VanIperen is also an adjunct professor of code security at New York University.
“The main thing to remember is that people are easier to hack than machines,” VanIperen says. “As long as you are practicing good cyber-hygiene – like not reusing passwords and not clicking on random links that are texted or emailed to you – then budget tracking apps that have been vetted are just as safe as the app of your financial institution.”
So the budget tracking app you are using is probably fine. But could a hacker, say, invade your computer or device and find out your password to your budget tracking app and steal your financial information? Yes.
Which means it’s important to follow some safety measures.
Tips for Using Budget Tracking Apps Safely
If you’re worried about using a budget tracking app safely, we have a few suggestions.
Go with the trusted, reputable brands.
“Although nothing is 100% hack-proof, reputable budget tracking apps offer a reasonable level of security. I recommend choosing a popular budget tracking app with no history of data breaches or other security incidents. More popular apps tend to be more heavily scrutinized, so security vulnerabilities are spotted more quickly and patched,” says Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate with Comparitech.com, a consumer website offering information about tech services.
Make sure your budget tracking app is up to date.
Along those lines, Bischoff says that if your app wants to do a system update, let it. It’s probably trying to make the app safer.
Be wary of scammers.
As noted, if somebody’s going to get into your budget tracking app, they aren’t likely to do it by hacking the computer systems of the company that runs the app – but by way of your own computer.
As you have been told a million times, you want to have your own computer protected with antivirus and anti-malware software – and don’t click on links sent to you from strangers, a practice known as phishing.
“Cybercriminals are more likely to compromise your budget app through phishing than by breaking the app’s security,” Bischoff says. “Phishing leverages human vulnerabilities rather than software vulnerabilities.”
Sure, a lot of scam emails are pretty obvious, but maybe because of that we can fall into complacency and start to think we’re impervious to falling prey to con artists. Bischoff points out that some will come from scammers acting like they’re from your budget app. So even something that seems perfectly trustworthy will probably warrant a once-over before you blindly click on the link.
Have a unique password.
You’ve likely heard this before, but it’s a classic piece of advice that never seems to go out of style.
“Always protect yourself with a unique password or passcode at every level. Whether it’s the password for the budget tracking app or website, a password for your computer or a passcode for your smartphone or tablet, make sure all passwords and passcodes are secure and unique,” says Chris Hauk, founder of PixelPrivacy.com, a consumer website related to keeping your online information private.
If the app has two-factor authentication – that is, two types of identification you need to offer – all the better, according to Hauk. He also suggests never clicking the “remember me” box on websites.
That’s because some hackers have managed to use that feature to trick websites into thinking the actual user is on the website – when it’s actually the criminal.
Don’t use budget tracking apps when you’re using public Wi-Fi.
Of course, some of you may be thinking, “But I love to sit in a coffeehouse – well, I did before the pandemic – and work and do a little banking. Now you’re telling me I can’t manage my money with the coffeehouse’s Wi-Fi or during some downtime at the airport?”
If that’s your stance, Hauk suggests paying for a virtual private network.
There are many VPNs out there – a few big names include NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, CyberGhost VPN, Surfshark VPN, but there are a lot of good VPN companies out there. Generally, you can expect to pay around $10 a month, although you can definitely find cheaper and pricier options.
“A VPN encrypts your connection, preventing third parties from monitoring your online activities,” Hauk says.
Obviously, nothing is guaranteed, but in general, budget tracking apps are considered very safe from cybercriminals. So knowing that, hopefully you can stop fretting. Don’t be afraid of what might happen if you use a website to help you budget better. Be afraid of what might happen if you don’t.