How safe are contactless payments?

With the announcement of Apple Pay earlier this month and the launch of EE’s Cash on Tap users being able to pay for London transport this week, anti-virus software Bitdefender’s Chief Security Strategist has spoken out about his fears of the growth of contactless payment, and questions its security. We know, we know it’s scaremongering at its best, but are there actually valid reasons to be concerned by the growing popularity of contactless payments? Well, maybe.

According to Bitdefender’s Alexandru Catalin Cosoi, over 370 contactless transactions are now made every minute in the UK and monthly spending on contactless cards exceeded £100 million in March 2014, tripling the numbers of the previous year. So common sense would suggest that if we’re all realising the awesome potential of contactless transactions, so will wannabe fraudsters.

Cosoi’s fears are that contactless payments ‘actually have the same level of protection as chip and PIN payment cards, but don’t require the user to enter a PIN number’, as they require radio technology (RF) or near field technology (NFC). For this reason, fraudsters would potentially be able to pickpocket a victim’s financial data using a dedicated amplifier, an antenna and other low-cost electronics that can fit into a rucksack. Yep, it’d take a lot of effort but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Cosoi has warned contactless payment users that there are a number of different ways their security could be compromised, including skimming attacks, eavesdropping and hacked terminals. So what’s the answer? Well, he’s shared a lot of interesting tips, like using wallets to shield your card from unwanted scanning, investing in blocker tags to confuse hackers and watching out for unusual terminals. But really it all boils down to being a little more careful and using your common sense.

Want to read more? Here’s our coverage of the recent Apple announcements, including everything you need to know about Apple’s ‘phablet’, the iPhone 6 Plus, and smartwatches buying guide, or if you’re sick of Apple completely, here’s our rundown of our 14 favourite dating apps, from Tinder to eHarmony.

Hayley Minn