Apple Pay’s security pros and cons

Taking credit card numbers out of transactions is a helpful step that could alleviate the risk of giant data breaches, but that doesn’t mean the bad guys are going to give up and become accountants

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Apple Pay Martyn Williams/IDG News Service

An iPhone 6 being used to make an NFC payment via Apple Pay

Apple Pay is up and running. I’m excited about that as a consumer but, naturally, wary about it as someone who works in the security field. So let’s consider Apple Pay from both perspectives — the consumer’s, and the security professional’s.

When I was deciding whether to get an iPhone 6, Apple Pay was the most persuasive feature. Apple Pay works (remarkably seamlessly) on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It’s available to the iPhone 5 range of devices, but only in conjunction with the upcoming Apple Watch. And it can be used for in-app purchases on some iPads. But right now, the only way to get the full experience of Apple Pay in stores is with one of the newest generation of iPhones. Here’s how it works. You register your supported credit cards in the device’s Passbook app. When you want to buy something from a retailer that supports Apple Pay, you just point your device at the near field communication (NFC) payment terminal, and your payment information is delivered from your iPhone to the payment terminal over a radio frequency connection. Then you just do a fingerprint scan on your phone’s TouchID sensor to verify your identity. If all is OK, your phone vibrates and tells you the transaction was approved. It all can be done in a single motion. Note that you may still need to sign a receipt as well, depending on the merchant and the amount of the purchase.

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