Hackers Target Apple Pay Rival CurrentC

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A mobile payments system that will challenge Apple Pay has been hacked before its launch

CurrentC, the fledgling mobile payment system backed by a number of large US retailers, has admitted it has been hacked already.

The admission even comes before the service’s official launch which was expected sometime next year.

Hack Admission

CurrentC is being backed by a group of retailers in the United States known as the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). The hacking admission came in an email from MCX, after it emailed beta testers of its service to warn them “that unauthorised third parties obtained the email addresses of some of you.”

There was no word on the exact number of emails stolen, but the CurrentC app has apparently not been affected the breach. Also many of the emails stolen were dummy accounts.

“We take the security of our users’ information extremely seriously,” an MCX spokesperson told the Verge. “MCX is continuing to investigate this situation and will provide updates as necessary.”

Mobile payments, money, smartphone © Slavoljub Pantelic Shutterstock 2012The MCX consortium is led by the US retail giant Wal-Mart, and retailers using it are not accepting any other mobile payments, including Apple Pay, the iPad maker’s mobile payment system. A number of retailers including Wal-Mart and Best Buy have reportedly already declined to allow customers to use Apple Pay. Two major US drug store chains, CVS and Rite Aid, have also said that they will not allow customers to use Apple Pay.

CurrentC uses QR codes scanned by the customer for payments, and apparently links directly into the user’s bank account or credit card. It aims to cut the 2 to 3 percent fees retailers have to pay to credit card companies, and it generates a unique paycode for every transaction. It is accessed by a personal 4 digit code, and sensitive information is stored in the cloud, and never on the phone itself.

Apple Opposition

CurrentC is thus going head to head against the alternative mobile payment system from Apple.

Apple’s entry into the mobile payments space was announced last month. Apple Pay uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, and for authentication it uses the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to verify a card user’s identity.

The iPhone is tapped on a compatible reader and a vibration informs the user if the payment has been successful. The service finally went live in the US last week, with Apple saying over 500 banks and 220,000 shops pledging their support.

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