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Zapp: Don’t Worry, Mobile Payments ‘Safer’ Than Shopping Online

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Payments provider is introducing new behavioural profiling technology to help spot anomalies

As the technology continues to improve, it seems that more and more of us are now using our mobile devices to pay for goods and services.

But how secure are the systems powering this new kind of mobile commerce? A recent TechWeekEurope interview with security specialists Kaspersky found that the company was optimistic regarding the current status of the mobile payments ecosystem, but what do the payment providers themselves think?

TechWeekEurope spoke to David Emsworth, who heads up risk and compliance at Zapp, which has partnered with many leading high-street retailers to bring mobile payments to both physical and online stores, to find out his opinion.

Zapp - App mobile paymentGrowing threat?

Much like Kaspersky, Emsworth says that Zapp is still yet to spot any real trends in the mobile security space, saying that the payments sector is, “still in its infancy to a certain extent”, despite more and more companies wanting to use mobile every day.

“Mobile is, to a certain extent, is probably a bit safer than your average laptop”, Emsworth says despite many people viewing the situation the other way round, thanks to the latter often having more of a visible security presence through anti-virus pop-ups.

“Hackers are still focusing on the online side of things, and maybe not so much on the mobile side at the moment.”

The public’s perception of security has also been swayed as the smartphone becomes a truly integral part of everyday day, Emsworth believes, as many of us would much rather lose a credit or debit card than a mobile device.

“The mobile phone is so much more personal now…if you lose your mobile phone, it’s like the end of the world. Compared to a piece of plastic, losing your card is just a bit of an inconvenience.”

Go digital

Zapp helps secure consumers through digitisation – when making a transaction, all the customer information gets turned into digital tokens which include nothing on the user or the merchant, effectively making it useless for hackers.

This method also keeps customer information away from apps, which all too often are the weak links exploited by cyber criminals. Zapp effectively piggybacks on this, Emsworth says, sitting behind the bank’s mobile app to provide a service, meaning that the pressure is on the banks to provide a secure platform for customers.

This means no need for extra Zapp apps needing additional passwords, which are all to easily targeted, simplifying the process for both customers and merchants.

PayPal-mobile-paymentExtra help

But to boost security even more, Zapp is also boosting its own fraud monitoring system, developed alongside Featurespace, a Cambridge-based company which has helped it implement behavioural profiling.

Set to appear later this year, the system monitors the interactions carried out between consumers and merchants, looking for patterns in behaviour that might help identify errors.

Every time a transaction is completed, the service delivers a ‘risk score’ that combines consumer behaviour and merchant behaviour which gives an indication of the risk of the transaction.

It also provides a ‘confidence score’, a percentage rating whether the ‘risk score’ is accurate based on past transactions. Both scores get delivered to the bank leaving them to decide if they want to validate the transaction.

“Up until now, there has been a concern over mobile payments, and just how secure is mobile,” Emsworth says, “here we are providing the solution.”

Reports suggesting huge potential growth for mobile payments are accurate, he says, adding that so long that companies like Zapp can put consumer’s minds at rest concerning the security of mobile payments, the use of such systems should skyrocket soon.

“Mobile is a safe and secure means of making a payment,” he concludes, “and people always want to use their mobile more.”

All clued up on mobile payments? Try our quiz!