You’ve probably heard of Venmo, the quick and convenient peer-to-peer mobile payments app. From splitting the check when eating out with friends to dividing the cost of bills, Venmo is an incredibly easy way to share money. However, users’ comfort with the app can sometimes result in a few negligent security practices. In fact, computer science student Dan Salmon recently scraped seven million Venmo transactions to prove that users’ public activity can be easily obtained if they don’t have the right security settings flipped on. Let’s explore his findings.
By scraping the company’s developer API, Salmon was able to download millions of transactions across a six-month span. That means he was able to see who sent money to who, when they sent it, and why – just as long as the transaction was set to “public.” Mind you, Salmon’s download comes just a year after that of a German researcher, who downloaded over 200 million transactions from the public-by-default app last year.
These data scrapes, if anything, act as a demonstration. They prove to users just how crucial it is to set up online mobile payment apps with caution and care. Therefore, if you’re a Venmo or other mobile payment app user, make sure to follow these tips in order to keep your information secure:
- Set your settings to “private” immediately. Only the sender and receiver should know about a monetary transaction in the works. So, whenever you go to send money on Venmo or any other mobile payment app, make sure the transaction is set to “private.” For Venmo users specifically, you can flip from “public” to “private” by just toggling the setting at the bottom right corner of main “Pay or Request” page.
- Limit the amount of data you share. Just because something is designed to be social doesn’t mean it should become a treasure trove of personal data. No matter the type of transaction you’re making, always try to limit the amount of personal information you include in the corresponding message. That way, any potential cybercriminals out there won’t be able to learn about your spending habits.
- Add on extra layers of security. Beyond flipping on the right in-app security settings, it’s important to take any extra precautions you can when it comes to protecting your financial data. Create complex logins to your mobile payment apps, participate in biometric options if available, and ensure your mobile device itself has a passcode as well. This will all help ensure no one has access to your money but you.