This is page 2 of:

Google’s PIN Pains: Will Citi Make This Wallet Safer?

February 16th, 2012

But with Google Wallet, there’s a phone maker, an issuing bank, a mobile operator and Google, all of which have a say in how the phone works (including any mobile payment scheme it supports). Users get to chime in, too: For convenience, users can set the Google Wallet PIN to last for as long as 30 minutesbefore it has to be keyed in again. That’s a long way from the security level of that plastic contactless PIN card.

It’s because the Google Wallet PIN isn’t validated inside the phone’s Secure Element that attacks like the ones published last week are possible. The easiest way to make Google Wallet almost as secure as a contactless card is to move PIN validation inside the Secure Element.

But that requires the cooperation of the issuing bank, as the Zvelo researchers pointed out. Although Google won’t confirm Zvelo’s description of the situation, there’s no real reason to doubt it: “The fear is that Google might no longer be responsible for the security of the PIN, but rather the banks themselves. If this is in fact the case, then the banks may need to follow their own policies and regulations regarding ATM PIN security which obviously, and rightly, receive a great deal of scrutiny.”

Zvelo’s post continues: “At present, the decision is in the banks’ hands. They may actually choose to accept the risk imposed by this vulnerability rather than incur the financial and administrative overhead of allowing Google to release a proper fix” and thereby potentially put the banks on the hook for the PIN security.

“The banks” is a generous way of putting it. Right now, Citi is the only bank whose payment cards can be installed in Google Wallet. And it’s presumably Citi that is preventing Google from moving PIN verification to inside the Secure Element, so the phone version would be much closer to the plastic version in its security approach. (In fairness, Google may be negotiating with other issuing banks, just as it recently started allowing NFC-equipped Android phones from AT&T to install Google Wallet.)

Naturally, it’s not just Citi’s apparent reticence that would be a problem if the PIN goes into the phone’s Secure Element. That would also make it harder for Google Wallet to control other payment card numbers—if, say, the phone also contains a SIM with an additional Secure Element, and maybe an SD card with yet another Secure Element.

How would that work?


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.