Fear or fact? #GoogleWallet Security Breach brings NFC paranoia to light

Fear or fact? #GoogleWallet Security Breach brings NFC paranoia to light NFC payments faced a familiar adversary this week when flaws were discovered in Google Wallet that potentially exposes customer PINs to hackers – sensationalistic journalism.

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What's surprising about the article is not the imperfections found in Google Wallet, as a new system there are bound to be some kinks to still sort out, but rather the frantic paranoia that seems to have immediately set in against NFC technology.

The article cites how hackers can reprogram a PIN and password on a stolen phone to gain access to a user's account – how is this any different than someone using a stolen credit card from a pilfered purse?  The author also seems incensed that Google's current solution is recommending users to call their phone companies and cancel their accounts if stolen – how is this any different than credit card companies' policies on stolen cards?

Additionally, zVelo, an independent security outfit, discovered that if the PIN is stored outside of the secure element of the phone, it becomes susceptible to attack. Please note the "if." When reading further, it becomes clear that the only way for a phone to become at risk for an attach is if they "Root" their phone, a term that, when researched, refers to modifying your phone to overpass traditional safety settings in order to have greater administrative access, an action most, if not all phone companies discourage users from doing.

It becomes apparent that while these security breaches in Google Wallet warrant caution and review, they also do NOT warrant such a surge in panic, paranoia and loss of faith in the NFC system.

Carl D. Howe, Data Research Vice President for Yankee Group stated "I think these types of vulnerabilities threaten to kill the adoption of NFC [technology used in Google Wallet] before it is even fully born." I would argue that the media hype, rather than the vulnerabilities is the real threat to NFC adoption. Rather than feeding into this sensationalized material, maybe we should step back and really look at these "failings" for what they truly are.

To learn more about NFC payment systems and how to safely incorporate them into your business, join us at Cards & Payments USA, October 18-19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


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