You’re Gonna Swipe My Card Where?

Forbes.com reported that “mobile retail is now a $5.5 Billion business worldwide. By 2016, over 3.6 million tablets will have been shipped for use in North American Retail. Other small format handhelds (phones) will increase by 380% over the next five years.”

We all know what this means; a new platform for hackers to capture bank account information and credit card numbers.

A dream come true for, especially small businesses, the convenience of accepting mobile payments raises so many questions for both consumers and business owners. How secure is it for a business to hook up a device to their cell phone and start capturing credit card numbers?

To the non-techie nerds of the world (myself included) the idea of all that information being stored in and passed through such a small, seemingly low-tech piece of equipment (in comparison to a full point of sale system) is hard to process.

This raises an important question; can Smartphones be scanned for viruses or malware?

The answer depends entirely on the type of Smartphone. The Apple Gods have undoubtedly mastered this universe with the iPhone’s closed system. Any app compatible with an iPhone has no choice but to be blessed by Apple before it has any chance of being installed on the iPhone. This ensures that anything that gets downloaded is free of viruses and stamped with the Apple seal of approval. To maintain this protection it is important to keep up with those pesky updates.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course. For example, if you get the bright idea to have your phone “jailbroken” at your local corner store, so you can download non-Apple approved apps, you are basically stripping it of the protection Apple ensures. Processing payments on an iPhone that has been stripped of its protection is not a very bright idea. I’m just sayin…

As for the rest of the world, Blackberry’s, Droids etc… there are plenty of options to protect yourself and ultimately, your customers. The knight and shining armor of Smartphone protection, Lookout Mobile Security, has owned the market with its Android app (currently at 12 million users). “We’re prioritizing the problems on each platform,” said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer and co-founder of Lookout in an interview with The New York Times. In his interview, Mahaffey mentions Lookout’s intention to develop apps specifically for businesses with mobile payments on the rise.

With the growing numbers in the trend towards mobile payments and mobile banking, dealing with mobile payment fraud eventually is inevitable. Try to make it as pain free as possible for yourself and your customers by taking safe measures to protect their information.  After all – it’s only your business and your reputation at stake….