Security Risks of Contactless Payment

Consumers are driving the push towards contactless payment, with credit card companies revealing double-digit increases in its use during the first quarter of 2020. Contactless payment was first used in the 1990s and currently with Covid companies and consumers are looking for ways to conduct business with as little physical interaction as possible.

Organisations have been steadily increasing reliance on digital options and implementing new regulations for all sorts of interactions. For example, event management asks patrons not to bring bags or purses and to empty their pockets at metal detectors in order to streamline traffic flow at gates and ticket booths.

Consumers are also minimising what they carry, which means less cash on hand. The more they can conduct business with their phone, the better, for convenience and efficiency. But given this shift to using our phones for payment, are organisations doing enough to ensure mobile security?

The Rising Popularity of Contactless Payment

Non-contact forms of payment have been put to use mostly by corporations. The move to digital payments has been slow for small and mid-size businesses (SMEs), which often lag behind enterprises when it comes to digital and cyber security enhancements.

Expect this to change as more customers feel that using their phone and contactless mobile payments is the safest way to exchange money.

Further, don’t expect that credit card companies are the only players in this contactless exchange. Apps like Venmo, Zelle and PayPal, as well as company-owned payment options, are more frequently preferred by consumers.

With Convenience Comes Risk

Contactless payment is convenient, but like any technology, it comes with both mobile security and data privacy risks. Because you don’t need a PIN, a lost credit card or stolen device potentially gives a criminal easy access to your account.

  • A phone without the proper security features in place makes it easy for anyone to ring up purchases without detection. Because many of these transactions happen without a receipt, it is difficult for the owner to prove the charges were fraudulent.
  • Contactless credit cards use radio frequency identification (RFID) to transmit the data, and hackers have been successful in making fake scanners or using card skimmers designed to steal data transmitted via RFID.
  • If a hacker gets the information from the card or wallet, they can create cloned cards. Mobile wallets, on the other hand, rely on near-field communication (NFC) that transmits data within a very close range. It remains one of the most secure ways to conduct financial transactions.

Since contactless payments can decrease fraud through more secure methods of transmission and mobile device locks, the biggest threat could be data privacy.

Contactless systems collect immense amounts of data from users and can use that information to track them. Any time you download an app to your smartphone, there is a risk of malware or man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks that can access information stored on the device, bank account numbers, personal information or confidential work files to name a few types, as well as social engineering and phishing scams designed to steal sensitive data.

Mobile Security Decreases Risk

While consumers need to be aware of the risks involved with contactless mobile payments, organisations also need to mitigate potential risks on their side, especially if mobile devices within the corporation are used for both personal and business use.

Tapping Without Checking

Contactless payments are so simple to make that it’s easy to forget to check the amount before tapping. Research from card payments firm PaymentSense in 2017 showed that we’re more likely to be overcharged when we pay using contactless technology than any other way. They set up an experiment in London to check how good we are at spotting being charged the wrong amount.Their pop-up coffee stall accepted contactless payments but deliberately entered the wrong amount into the card machine. 

It found around 53% of shoppers were overcharged when using contactless payments compared to 41% when using cash. The research also found as many as 15% don’t request a receipt so we’re even less likely to notice we’ve been charged incorrectly.

Security Intelligence:       Cyware:           LoveMoney

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