Security fears biggest barrier to mobile payments

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In an era of Wikileaks, high profile hacking, information crime, and the advancement of NFC, nearly 50% of consumers polled claimed they were unlikely to use their mobile to pay for over-the-counter goods – KPMG has revealed.

While attitudes are on a positive adoption cycle, in a poll of over 2000 consumers, nearly 40% cited security as the main reason why they were reluctant to take the near field plunge. Not surprisingly 20% of 18 – 34 year olds were likely to take this next technological step, as opposed to 11% of over 35’s.

Feelings of insecurity over their personal details were highest amongst 35 – 54 year olds, with 43% citing this as one of their reasons for not considering this – compared to 41% of 18 – 35 year olds, and only 30% of those over 55.

Malcolm Marshall, UK head of information security, KPMG, comments: ‘The UK is behind other countries, such as Korea, who utilise near field communications habitually. The question is how long until the UK follows suit? How long before the mobile becomes synonymous with our precious plastic? Convenience and the ability to house all information and lifestyle behaviours on one device will drive the near field revolution over time.’

Mobiles now on the criminal radar

Mobiles, up to this point, have evaded the full attention of criminals and cyber attackers. However modern devices are fully in the category of true mobile computers, which means they store and access large amounts of valuable data. In fact, underground viruses are being developed that sit on the phone, are undetectable to non-experts and extract personal details, which are then sent through to a central point, i.e. the hacker.

Malcolm explains: ‘Mobiles are now squarely on the radar screens of cyber attackers. Standardisation of mobile device platforms also allows attackers to produce attacks en masse. This combined with the huge volume of smart phones and mobile devices (estimated to be just over 20% of all mobile phones worldwide, and rapidly rising) means we are now well beyond the point which attacking mobile devices becomes profitable for criminals and cyber attackers.’

‘As users begin migrating their lives and data to mobile devices, the threat will continue to rapidly increase. ‘Denial of service’ attacks will also become more common. Although the criminals main incentive will be to breach the data on devices rather than disabling them, ‘denial of service’ attacks will remain the last ditch option for attackers who can’t get what they want and get frustrated.’

Mobile payments a natural progression

However, there are basic safety steps which can be taken by both consumers and manufacturers / operators. ‘Consumers must remember that smart phones now hold so much of your personal data that leaving your phone unprotected is almost like leaving your front door open. Utilise the functionality of devices, but be cautious and wary of the threats. Especially be wary of installing unknown applications from untrustworthy sources.’

‘Some mobile operating platforms have been using secure operating architecture and coding practices – this needs to continue and improve, and become intrinsic to all mobile development. Operators must utilise the vastly increased processing power of mobile devices to implement more robust inbuilt security mechanisms (such as better encryption). Finally they should provide consumers with more secure ‘out of the box’ mobile configurations, and offer clear information and easy-to-use interfaces for security functions.’

The other major reluctance delaying take up was education. 36% of those unlikely to use this payment method felt they needed to find out more.’Mobile devices should be used for payments – but in a secure and safe manner. The efficiency and ease of use they provide is a natural progression in technological development. However, mobile companies need to aid awareness in order to drive take up of near field communications,’ Malcolm concludes.