Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Business Report

Your Mobile Phone Is More Secure Than Your Visa Card

As mobile payments become more common, thieves will be more likely to target them.

Is waving your smartphone over a store-counter gadget really a secure way to buy something?

Right now, such mobile payments—via Apple Pay and similar systems—are extremely safe and secure, thanks to layers of protections including PINs, fingerprint identification, cryptography, and the logging of transaction data.

Mobile payment systems use near-field communication, or NFC, to transfer payment information from the phone to a store terminal within a few centimeters. Whereas information stored on magnetic-stripe credit cards can be read by anyone with access to the card, mobile payment systems generally store the data in encrypted form on a special NFC chip and require the user to enter a PIN or even a fingerprint.

This story is part of our March/April 2015 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

While newer credit cards also include a chip and require users to enter a PIN, mobile phones could still hold an advantage because they can log location and other data that could be used later to help prove whether a transaction was fraudulent or not.

To avoid major damage if retailers’ databases are hacked, Apple Pay and some others also give stores “tokens,” or encrypted strings of data about the purchase, without passing along the actual credit card numbers.

For now, attackers have easier targets than mobile payments, including magnetic-­swipe systems and department store servers housing millions of card numbers. However, as credit cards become harder to hack and more payments are made on smartphone, mobile payments will increasingly attract thieves.

One route in might be malicious software that steals your phone’s payment credentials by getting beyond barriers imposed by Android and Apple’s IOS. An essential defense: partitioning off payment functions with software or, better yet, more secure chips. Chipmakers are already broadening their products to emphasize “walling-off” functions, with one example being ARM’s TrustZone.

Keep up with the latest in security at Business of Blockchain 2019.

May 2, 2019
Cambridge, MA

Register now
Next in this Business Report
The Future of Money: 2015

From Apple Pay to Bitcoin, payment technology is changing. Some of the big winners in this “revolution” may be the old guard.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Print + All Access Digital.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.