The ability to pay for goods and services with a credit card or smart phone has without a doubt made life more convenient for consumers and retailers. But with that innovation and convenience comes opportunities to use vulnerabilities in the system to commit fraud.
Consumer hacking now costs $110 billion a year, computer security company Symantec found, and the number of malware attacks on smart phones has grown 18 percent since 2011, according to mobile security vendor NQ Mobile. While companies that make systems to transfer confidential data try hard to stay a step ahead of hackers, UL is working to give them and consumers confidence that devices have the protection they need to keep information confidential.
UL provides consulting and testing expertise in wireless mobile communications, payment approval services and wireless security evaluations, the three primary areas involved in secure mobile payments.
UL works with customers across the industry, conducting state-of-the-art experiments; analyzing and assessing the security, functionality and interoperability of new and existing technologies; and enhancing implementation processes to help disparate systems work together in a secure way.
One of the specific areas in which UL is working is near field communication (NFC), the technology that allows a mobile device to communicate with another mobile device or an NFC-compatible cash register. NFC allows credit cards, coupons and valued-customer cards to be stored on a smartphone.
The NFC market is still in its infancy, but the possibilities are endless and several hundred NFC initiatives already are under way. The total market value of NFC globally is projected to more than double over five years, reaching $145 billion in 2015. By then, 863 million NFC-enabled mobile phones are expected to be in use, which is more than half the total mobile phone market, according to growth consultants Frost & Sullivan.
Another area in which UL is working is biometrics, which uses fingerprint or eye scans to validate a person’s identity for a paperless transaction. As companies fight identity theft, interest in biometrics is expected to expand by 140 percent in five years — from $5 billion in 2011 to $12 billion by 2015 – according to the Homeland Security News Wire.
Working for three years with a private company called Natural Security, UL helped develop and implement a validation plan that covered every aspect of biometric technology, including the payment device and the biometric terminal. The project included checking for problems with functionality, potential interference from other devices and possibility of risk to human health.