First off, let’s establish what NFC means. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and is a form of technology that wirelessly sends payment information. Think virtual wallets. By installing an NFC chip within your smartphone, you can store your credit card info and pay by swiping your phone over the credit card reader. Pretty nifty!
NFC relies on radio frequency and generates an electromagnetic field when in use. Near field communication security risks do exist – just as with any other form of technology. However, the fact that it facilitates contactless transfer of information is its biggest vulnerability. Let’s discuss potential mobile security risks around payment via the mobile phone.
5 Potential mobile security risks posed by mobile payments:
- 1. Eavesdropping
Eavesdropping has evolved well beyond the types you’ll find at school, and is now about a third-party intercepting a transmission of data and gaining access to it. This may not always be problematic, but certainly becomes a mobile security risk when the data is sensitive, such as when you’re making a payment with your mobile phone.
- 2. Corruption
Cybercriminals will often try to disrupt communications by causing service to be disrupted by a massive data block. This type of attack is harder to protect yourself against. It’s often hard to tell whether the service is having issues or on overload, or whether the data corruption is blocking the communication channel.
- 3. Man-in-the-middle
Here, an attacker will do exactly that – play man-in-the-middle and intercept the data. It’s hard to avoid these, but a good way is to ensure you’re always on a secure channel – you can do this by using payment channels sponsored by reputable banks.
- 4. Malware
Of course malware made the cut! It’s one of the biggest attackers in mobile security land. Should you accidentally install a malicious app, that mobile malware will identify sensitive information such as credit card data stored within your NFC device.
- 5. Android Beam
This is a new risk that just recently emerged. Android Beams are used to transfer information between devices. All different types of information are good game, everything contacts to apps, but you should be most concerned when it’s used to pass your personal, sensitive information to cyber criminals.
Mobile NFC usage is a new development, and while it may not be a cybercriminal’s number one target right now, as it becomes increasingly popular, we fully expect to see cybercriminals sit and up take note. It’s important to mention that all of the risks addressed today are only possible when the NFC device is in range. Fortunately, the range is typically only a few centimetres, but it is possible for cybercriminals to retrieve passive signals from 1-10 metres away.
Given the fact it’s hard to control who is around you when you use mobile NFC, we’d recommend not shoving suspicious-looking characters out of the way before you swipe, and instead consider getting BullGuard Mobile Security installed on your smartphone. It’s much more effective, and definitely won’t result in any awkward altercations.
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