Black Friday, Cyber Christmas, and a Contact-Free New Year

paper bags near wall

For most of us 2020 isn’t going to be a year to linger fondly in the memory. It’s been a monumental slog in the face of grim news and little cheer but from a payments perspective we’ve seen an unsurprising surge in interest in all things payment related.

People have moved from cash to electronic payments – contactless transaction numbers have soared. People moved from face to face purchases to online. And, there’s been a ton of stress on payment systems as people have demanded refunds for holidays and flights they couldn’t take due to various travel restrictions. It’s been a year like never before.

We can expect this to be exacerbated over what will likely be an extended Black Friday and Christmas holiday shopping period. Online payments are expected to grow even though economies are in recession. For us in Europe it’s the last hurrah before PSD2 requirements on strong customer authentication come into force on January 1st. Merchants and payment companies will be well staffed on News Year Eve as they wait and see how the systems will hold up, and what sort of abandonment figures they’ll see as puzzled customers are presented with confusing authentication screens. We can probably expect a flood of concerned calls about phishing which are actually Strong Customer Authentication requests.

Yet another dumb headline about contactless card security

[Dave Birch] I had a few e-mails from people about the story in Engadget that was titled “RFID cards hacked easily with $8 reader”…

the crew at BoingBoing TV has posted up a little demo of how easy cracking the RFID encryption on an American Express card can be. All it takes is an $8 dollar reader easily available on eBay

[From RFID credit cards easily hacked with $8 reader – Engadget]

The actual title should have been “Well-designed American Express contactless cards work exactly according to specification and non-hacking non-exploit does not actually result in losses to either cardholder, retailers or American Express themselves”. Anyway, the reason I got a few e-mails was because people wanted to know where to get these $8 readers. I just checked on eBay (US) and the cheapest pre-owned contactless terminal I could find was over $60. The video actually shows him using a Vivotech Vivopay 5000 (which is a couple of hundred quid in the UK), so if this guy really can get them for $8 he’ll make far more money from reselling the terminals than he will from “hacking” ExpressPay cards.


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