CurrentC, a merchant-backed mobile payment system in development to rival Google Wallet and Apple Pay, has been hacked during its pilot phase.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) — developers of the CurrentC system — said the intrusion compromised the email addresses of some participants in the pilot program. In addition, some users who expressed interest in the NFC-based system may also have been affected.
MCX spokeswoman Linda Walsh said the CurrentC application itself was not impacted, and many of the email addresses were for dummy accounts. An investigation is underway and merchants in the consortium with compromised email addresses have been notified.
However, the security breach comes at potentially the worst time for the consortium — especially considering the fact that some members of the retail group have disabled near-field communication technology (NFC) terminals potentially in favor of the home-grown payment system, rather than alternatives such as Apple Pay.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that suggested two major US pharmaceutical chains, CVS and Rite Aid — part of the MCX — disabled NFC terminals over the weekend, which prevented customers from using Apple's new payment system. A spokeswoman for Rite Aid confirmed that the company "does not currently accept Apple Pay." Other members of MCX may have to follow suit and refrain from providing support for other NFC payment systems if CurrentC takes off when it is released to the public next year.
Following Rite Aid's and CVS's decision, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the withdrawal of support was nothing more than a "skirmish," and "merchants have different objectives sometimes."
CurrentC is a free application that allows users to pull up scannable codes when a purchase is made. These transform into deals, discounts and loyalty points, which brings merchant and consumer closer together — as well as provides members with a treasure trove of consumer purchase data.
Apple Pay was revealed in September. The mobile payment service launched with over 500 partners, including major US banks and retailers. Rite Aid and CVS are not among these partnerships.