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How Safe is NFC Really?

Man Holding iPhone

Near Field Communications (NFC) is commonly found around the world and it is the technology that powers tap-and-go services such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and contactless credit cards. It works by transferring wireless data between technologies that are in close proximity to each other without the need for an internet connection. Not only is NFC fast but it is also simple to use and its facility to work automatically makes it extremely popular with consumers, banks and retailers.

However, as with many new technologies it doesn’t come without its risks. Many individuals have had issues that have seen multiple payments taken from their account and this is just one of the security downfalls that NFC unfortunately succumbs to.

Card Fraud

When using contactless cards in a supermarket or a shop to pay for a purchase, there is no need to type in a PIN or sign for anything, leaving card holders open to the possibility of someone else using their card. Data can easily be taken from a contactless card through a nearby scanner, meaning there are potentially tens of millions of people at risk of having their data stolen when then make a simple payment at a checkout till.

With at least 58 million cards in circulation and total spending reaching a whopping £2.32 billion in 2014; it’s easy to see why the use of contactless cards poses such a security that both through stolen data and card thieves.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones also use NFC and as no identity confirmation needs to be given for anything other than payments where fingerprints and passwords are demanded, this leaves mobile phone users open to security risks.

Cyber security specialist Douglas Crawford from BestVPN.com recently spoke out about the threat of NFC: “The main problem with cashless payments, however, is that they erode privacy. With cashless payments every purchase you make can and will be logged and tracked. Your bank and anyone else looking (such your government or criminal hackers) can build up a very detailed and intimate picture of what you like to eat, your hobbies, where you like to spend your leisure time, and much, much more.”.

While many people are unfazed at the prospect of losing their anonymity as they are not breaking any laws, the mass collection of such important data always holds potential dangers. For the government, the use of NFC has even been compared to that of a surveillance jackpot, proving just how much personal information could potentially reach the wrong hands just from doing a simple swipe at the checkout.

However, NFC is just like any other computer-based technology in that if it is on a computer, then it can always be hacked but if you are careful, then you can certainly dramatically reduce this risk. Metal cases have just been released that could protect contactless cards from being hijacked and some experts even claim that lining a wallet or purse in tin foil can also offer the same protection. Always take the card out of a wallet or purse when making a payment to avoid making multiple payments from different cards and being careful with your card will reduce the chances of thieves being able to steal it and use it themselves, ensuring that safety can be enhanced with a few simple manoeuvres.