Apple is preparing to roll out a new payment system that enables you to pay for items via near-field communication using your iPhone.
When using this near field communication technology, your iPhone would provide participating stores with payment details so that you don’t have to swipe your credit card and sign a slip for every purchase.
However, this question has to be asked: Will others be able to gain unauthorized access to the payment details?
The unfortunate answer is a resounding yes. Many people will get robbed silly by this concept. I won’t blame Apple for this. Regardless of who implements payment by phone, that security risk will be an issue.
All Apple can do is put their best effort into maintaining the system’s security, which they probably will. So this raises another question:
Is Payment By Phone Worth The Security Risk?
People have survived without it all this time. However, waiting at a cashier is inconvenient, even if you want to buy a measly bag of bread, it will still take long.
This reminds me of the fear of open source software. People used to ask me if open source software was less secure than closed source software because malicious hackers could access the source code.
The answer to that question is no. Open source software is in many cases even more secure because more eyes are on it to spot security flaws before they are even exploited.
Apart from that, hackers simply decode closed source software, so they can still exploit it, and unfortunately, there are not many eyes on the code of closed source software, because most people aren’t allowed to see it.
I see a glimmer of potential in this to keep the volume of robberies/identity thefts down because execution is everything, and good execution has the potential to solve almost any problem.
People have already stolen others’ identities by snatching their bank statements from their rubbish dumpsters, due to improper disposal.
The good side of this is: This system will prompt developers to make mobile phones more secure, as people are likely to start using near field communication at some point.
I also think that near field communication might just become more secure that credit cards (if executed properly) because phones could require a fingerprint to unlock the payment details so that people can’t just swipe credit cards and forge the owner’s signatures.
I only said this could be more secure because cashiers often fail to require photo ID verification for credit card transactions.
This will also motivate developers and governments to enhance their efforts against smartphone theft.
For example: California’s cellphone kill switch mandate which was partly prompted by startling smartphone crime statistics, especially the fact that 1.6 million Americans were victimized for their smartphones in 2012.
It may have also been influenced by the facts that 113 smartphones are stolen or lost every minute in the United States, and more than 50% of all San Francisco robberies in 2012 involved the theft of a mobile device.