Contactless payments: what cybersecurity risk should be considered?

Contactless payments: what cybersecurity risk should be considered?
Contactless payments: what cybersecurity risk should be considered?

NFC technology is widely considered secure for a number of reasons.

By Summa Magazine

The technology Near Field Communication (NFC, or near field communication) is revolutionising how we interact with the world, from cashless payments to controlling smart devices. ESET, a leading company in proactive threat detection, shares key points to know how secure you are and how to protect yourself from potential risks.

This technology allows the wireless transmission of information between nearby devices and has a wide range of uses. Based on radio frequency identification (RFID), it originated in the early 2000s.

To understand how communication between devices via NFC works, it is necessary to distinguish between two modes in which they can be linked. One is active, where both devices generate their own electromagnetic field, allowing them to exchange data in turns. On the other hand, the passive mode, where one device generates the magnetic field, while the other responds. In this case, the generating device reads the information from the other. The passive device has a chip that detects the electromagnetic field, uses its energy to turn on and then send the data. For example, tags are small devices that contain a chip with NFC technology that can be read by compatible devices. These can contain and be programmed for different types of data, such as web addresses, contact information, or commands to perform actions on a mobile device.

In addition to payments, the ESET team explains that this technology is being implemented in different areas, including:

· Access control: Using NFC cards or mobile devices to access buildings, hotel rooms, events, etc.

· Exchange of information: Quickly share information between devices, such as contacts, web links, photos, videos, etc.

· Public transportation: Using cards or mobile phones to pay for public transport.

· Smart Tags: NFC tags embedded in products to provide additional information, such as product features and promotions.

· Authentication and security: Using NFC devices to authenticate users in security systems, such as electronic vehicle keys or home security systems.

· Interaction with IoT devices: Control Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as lights, thermostats, cameras, etc., through NFC-enabled mobile devices.

According to the ESET Latin America research team, NFC technology is considered mostly secure for various reasons. On the one hand, the short communication distancesince NFC communication occurs at very short distances, usually a few centimeters, which makes interception difficult. Added to this is the need for authenticationwhere many NFC implementations require the user to authorize communication by actively touching NFC devices, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. In turn, it has safety protocolsfor example authentication protocols such as ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 18092, which ensure that the devices involved in the communication are legitimate. They also include measures to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks, such as the use of two-factor authentication or session tokens.

Also, as with any technology, there are some potential risks associated with NFC. For one, the Malware NFC which can be hosted on NFC tags and transferred to vulnerable devices. The Sniffing NFCwhere attackers can use special devices to intercept NFC communications. Another risk is the data theft, If an NFC device is lost or stolen, the data stored on it could be vulnerable.

To mitigate these risks, ESET Latin America recommends:

  • Download NFC apps from trusted sources.
  • Keep device software up to date.
  • Use strong passwords to protect NFC devices.
  • Be alert for unusual activity on NFC devices.
  • Avoid touching unknown NFC tags.
  • Always have a security solution installed and updated.

“NFC is a versatile and secure technology that offers a wide range of possibilities. By being aware of the potential risks and taking appropriate precautions, the benefits of NFC can be fully exploited,” concludes Fabiana Ramírez, Computer Security Researcher at ESET Latin America.

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