It began in the ‘80s, when an American cryptographer began toying around with the idea of cryptocurrency. In 1994, the first-ever online purchase was made: a pepperoni pizza. Later in the ‘90s, PayPal formed, and mobile phone users could use their devices to buy movie tickets.

In 2011, Google Wallet, the first mobile payment platform, was released, and a few years later, Apple and Samsung developed their own mobile payment systems. This year, experts predict more than $60 billion in mobile payment sales.

Though it was slow-going at first, these days, nearly everyone uses some form of mobile payment, be it mobile banking apps or peer-to-peer sharing tools. Yet, amidst a world increasingly plagued by data breaches and devastating malware, is mobile payment tech trustworthy? Read on for the lowdown on this topic.

The Answer Is: It Depends

Unfortunately, while it would be nice to be able to give a definitive yes or no answer here, the truth is that at this stage it’s impossible to say that mobile payments are always going to be secure, as it depends on a number of factors, especially as different models of phones undergo hardware changes.

For instance, the make and model of the phone used can have quite an impact on security and the way that transactions operate. The more recent use of “tokenization” is making mobile payments more secure for many people. Tokenization is a method of protecting card information that works by substituting a card’s numbers with a unique alphanumeric identifier (a random string of numbers and letters). This “token” is what is sent during a transaction to the card’s payment network. From here, the numbers are decrypted and the transaction authorized.

This means that the actual numbers on a credit or debit card don’t need to reside on a phone’s or merchant’s system, which can reduce the security risks involved in transferring data wirelessly. The other main benefit is that, even if this token does happen to get accessed by someone else, because it is single-use and indecipherable, they will not get easy access to your payment details.

It is also important to note that many of the newer, more secure smartphones have added layers of protection for consumers. These includes things such as biometric scans of fingerprints or irises; remote locking and wiping functionality (handy if your cell gets lost or stolen); and device encryption. Apple’s iPhones also have an “Activation Lock” system, which can prevent the use of a phone for unauthorized purchases.

Smartphones can also assist in the security of mobile transactions when they have numerous features (such as GPS data, 3G location, and multiple applications) on them, because this builds a unique profile for each phone. As such, the authentication barriers can be lowered if a consumer if the approved user, but erected if the purchasing event seems suspicious.

Another factor that affects how secure your mobile payment is when you finalize a transaction is the app that is being used. Downloading third-party applications from sites outside the Apple or Google app stores can be riskier than choosing native solutions which are verified and reviewed.

Something else to keep in mind is that human error can play a part in mobile payment security too. For example, disgruntled employees or uninformed family members or friends can lead to security concerns. The Wi-Fi you use can also play a part. While you might like using free, public Wi-Fi when you’re out and about, doing so can put your unsecured data more at risk of being hacked.

Some More Secure Ways to Use Mobile Pay

mobile pay

To start with, it is important to use a phone that allows you to lock it with a password, and biometric technology too if possible. This ensures that, if your phone gets into the wrong hands, a thief will have to find a way to crack the code first. Don’t forget to change the password you use on a regular basis too.

It is also important to be wary of using public Wi-Fi to shop on your smartphone. You can protect yourself through a VPN and SSL connection, and by turning off sharing and Wi-Fi when you’re not using the services. It is also helpful to have security software on your device – just don’t forget to keep this updated.

When it comes to apps, as mentioned above, it pays to download them from an app store rather than from somewhere else. Check out the reviews and ratings of applications before you make your choice though, so you can determine which are the most trusted options and ensure that you’re locating an app that was truly created by a company, rather than by a developer that may not be affiliated with them at all.

In addition, while many stores have mobile versions of their websites you can shop from, it is worth seeing if they actually have a specific app you can download instead. These tend to be more secure than mobile websites. As well, when it comes to selecting a mobile wallet to save your card information to, always opt for one created by a credible company that has a focus on security, good reviews, and that has been around for a while.

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