Google Wallet Expands Support, Boosts Security

Google beefs up security and includes support for all credit and debit cards in Wallet

Google has launched a cloud version of its mobile wallet application, expanding it to work with a wider range of credit and debit cards.

Google Wallet turns a mobile phone into a payment device, using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

Now with the latest version of the Wallet app, it now supports cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, Google said in a blog post.

It has also added some security features, such as being able to remotely disable the Google Wallet app via users’ accounts on the Web. It has also moved sensitive information away from the phone itself and onto its own servers. Another feature allows the user to track his or her transactions.

“To save a card to Google Wallet, just enter the number into the mobile app, online wallet, or Google Play when making purchases,” Google said. “When you shop in-store, you can use Google Wallet in conjunction with your selected credit or debit card for purchases. Shortly after making a payment, you’ll see a transaction record on the phone with the merchant name and dollar amount. You can now view a history of all your in-store and online purchases from the online wallet.”

Google promised that it stores the user’s payment cards on its “highly secure Google servers” in the cloud, instead of previously being stored in the storage area of a phone.

Security scares

“A wallet ID (virtual card number) is stored in the secure storage area of the phone, and this is used to facilitate transactions at the point of sale,” said Google. “Google instantly charges your selected credit or debit card. This new approach speeds up the integration process for banks so they can add their cards to the Wallet app in just a few weeks.”

Google’s emphasis on the security angle for Google Wallet is much needed, after a number of scares.

Back in December last year, researchers from ViaForensics conducted an examination of Google Wallet and discovered a lot of customer data stored in plain text on mobile devices. It found that sensitive information such as card holders’ names, credit limit and account balance was not encrypted in Google Wallet.

A survey of British users last year discovered that most Britons remain sceptical about the potential security risks with contactless NFC payment systems.

Matters were not helped in February 2012 when two different researchers figured out ways to crack the PIN code used to secure Google Wallet. But Google hit back and said that Wallet was safer than using credit cards to pay for goods. More recently, NFC security flaws have been discovered in Android and Nokia devices.

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