NFC (Near Field Communication) has been there for a while now, but still, it’s underrated technology. I remember, 2 years back when I first heard about NFC, I was excited to see it in every smartphone.
Sadly, NFC didn’t get the head-start that it needed. One major reason would be, lack of knowledge from our end. There is a lot of misconception about NFC. So in this article, I will clear some air about NFC security.
What is NFC
NFC is similar technology like Bluetooth and WiFi that use radio communication for data transfer. But other than the data transfer, you can also make a payment from your mobile using NFC technology.
And this is why mobile phones are often terms as an electronic wallet. NFC enables you to make a payment from a phone. No need to carry your wallet.
But considering the rise of cybercrime and credit card frauds, the first question that pops up in our mind, Is it really secure to use NFC payment?
The answer to this is,
Yes NFC is secure !! And here are 5 reason to support it.
1. Range of NFC
NFC is unique because for it to work, you have to bring two devices very close to each other. How close? Well, in theory, it’s said to be 10 cm or less but in a practical situation, it’s only 4 cm.
Now isn’t that uncomfortable close? Can you image a someone bringing his hacking tool ( like NFC reader) as close as few cms and still you can’t suspect it! I don’t think so.
2. NFC work only when the device is unlocked
Let’s assume that the hacker manages to come close to you. And you didn’t suspect it. But again, for NFC to work your smartphone has to be unlocked. What are the odds of leaving your smartphone to unlock, when not in use? People don’t do that.
Moreover, it’s unlikely, that hacker manages to unlock your smartphone, without taking it away from you. But let say, they were successful. Now what.
3. NFC payment requires Secure element
To make a mobile payment from NFC enable smartphone, the device should have special hardware called Secure Element. It stores details like account no, expiry date, etc in secure from.
A secure element is a tamper-resistant platform that can securely host applications and their confidential and cryptographic data in accordance with the rules and security requirements set forth by a set of well-identified trusted authorities.
The secure element stays isolated from the main memory, so limited predefined apps have access to it. So even if the hacker gets access to your smartphones. It’s extremely difficult to pull out your financial details as it’s encrypted in that secure element.
4. Two Way authentication using PIN
To make mobile payment using NFC, one needs an app like Google Wallet. An app like these has their own way of authentication. First, you need to unlock it using preset lock code and second to make a transaction over a certain limit (let say 80$), you have to enter a PIN, that was given to you while you install this app.
And the best part is a contactless card or your smartphones don’t store the PIN in them. So even if the hacker is somehow able to pull out your credit card details, he/she won’t have the PIN to complete the bigger transaction. This makes sure that you are safe from a bigger loss.
Moreover, if someone can steal your smartphone/contactless cards, they can also steal cash from your pocket.
5. Smart tags can be made read-only
NFC security is not limited to mobile payment. Another popular use of NFC is in smart tags (or NFC tags). Which brings us to the question of how secure are NFC tags?
By default NFC tags come rewritable. But you can make them read-only. This ensure others can’t tempered it.
For example, if you want your NFC tags to always open a link to your website, you can make it read-only. So that others can’t change the information written on it. Useful when using NFC Tags in public.
Future of mobile payment
This Question reminds me of time when credit/debit cards was first introduced. People were skeptical about its use. People doubt its security and predicted that it won’t work. And here we are now, using plastic card almost everyday. Same goes with NFC, people doubt its security but after seeing its benefits they will adopt this in future.
NFC is as secure as your credit and debit card. However, if someone wants to get something bad, they can go all the way to get it. The only thing that you can do is, make it harder for them. So until it’s personal, they will leave you and move to some easy target.
Update your knowledge and increase the level of security, If you can do that, there is no need to worry when using mobile payment.