Security 'greatest focus' as mobile tech prevalence grows

Uptake in mobile-based transactions and interactions will spur more focus on security, as phones become intrinsic in everyday life, industry exec says.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--As mobile technology becomes increasingly prevalent in everyday life, security will be the "greatest focus" in all its applications, such as the mobile wallet and near-field communications (NFC), says one industry executive.

"If your wallet is moving to your phone, you're going to need to trust it and want that security level. [The same thing applies] if you want to put your identity card or license on your mobile" said Bill Field, director and founder of M2Cash. "The phone will be like a safe and the only person who can [access] it is you."

Field was speaking to ZDNet Asia on event sidelines of the press conference at Cards & Payments Asia 2012 held here Wednesday. The Sydney-based executive was one of the event speakers.

He observed that there was increasing convergence between mobile and people today in both developed and developing economies, as "the right device at the right price [gets owned] by the right person". In other words, as mobile traction grows, security, which may have started as a barrier to mobile transactions uptake among users, will become the "greatest focus", Field explained.

Shift in security focus
Asked if the increasing prevalence of mobile-based transactions could mean criminal activity will shift to mobile from traditional banking ATMs, Field replied by describing security on a mobile platform as "a hole in the wall", and called for a layering process as one way to address the issue.

For instance, M2Cash's mobile remittance service requires both sender and receiver to key in their virtual identity (VID) number on top of the PIN code before the money is transferred between the two validated entities. "We increased the security rather than decreased it," he explained.

Field also noted that the importance of security is not just concerned with securing mobile transactions. Referring to the rise of mobile applications used in daily life and interactions, he noted that since Apple released the iPhone in 2007, developers have "flooded the way with great ideas".

This means that security must be at the core of every app created, he emphasized.

A food-related mobile app that a user downloads to his phone has nothing to do with mobile payments, but it could be potentially malicious and steal personal data of the user or infect a user's phone. Hence, it is really important that "interactive apps on your phone behave nicely with each other", Field said.

Another speaker at the conference, Koichi Tagawa, chairman of NFC Forum, concurred with Field. He noted that with over the last year, the number of NFC-enabled phones had gone from one or two models to "uncountable" figures. As more phones have NFC as a baseline feature, it creates an infrastructure for NFC security applications and standards to be created, he said.

Editorial standards