Here at Consult Hyperion, we are often involved in design implementation and testing of secure systems on devices such as smart cards and mobile phones for payments, banking and other applications where security is critical.
The biggest news in payments security in the last month concerns allegations that point of sale terminals supplied by PAX Technology have been subverted to have the capability of launching cyberattacks. Details of the allegations can be found at Krebs and Bloomberg; in response, PAX Technology has published a rebuttal.
EMV is at the heart of global payment card processing. As a specification it governs the processing of billions of transactions globally, with the vast majority of those flowing through the international payment schemes. As a technology it has been incredibly successful, reducing fraud levels everywhere it’s been introduced and its extension into contactless payments is now the fastest growing area of face-to-face payments. The idea that EMV might soon be obsolescent seems far-fetched, to put it mildly, but there are reasons to believe that its hegemony is under threat.
Card issuing seems to be hot right now. Despite the rise of alternatives to card payments, many Fintech’s appear intent on adding payment cards to their product portfolios. And it is not just the “me too” start-up banks.
For example, some international remittance services are adding payment cards to their offerings. This allows customers to spend the money they receive directly but also means that customers do not withdraw funds immediately upon receipt. This extends the customer relationship adding value to both the customer and the Fintech.
We were delighted to get a lot of good feedback on Neil’s previous blog on Mondex Memories and CBDCs and its relevance to CBDCs and thought it would be interesting to respond to some of the more interesting – and difficult – points raised in a follow-up blog. Before addressing those I wanted to put the Mondex program into some historical context. They were very different days – we didn’t have an intranet until 1996, let alone internet access. There were no SDKs – although actually we did build a precursor to one of those – or APIs and the idea of remote payments was still in its infancy (although we did that too).
Deep in the mists of time (that is to say, the early-1990s), I led the team from Consult Hyperion responsible for Mondex specification, design and development. For those not familiar with paleo-payments, it was one of a clutch of (contact) smart card based electronic cash systems, none of which survived beyond, let’s say, early adolescence. There were two main reasons for their demise, one technological and one business. The concept was ahead of the capabilities of the underlying technology. Transactions took about the same amount of time as cash plus change, which wasn’t a compelling reason for anyone to leave their wallet behind. The promoters of the schemes (retail banks and payment brands) did not target particular niches where there may have been a business case (I always thought car parking might work) but instead blanketed retail outlets in particular cities or small countries. So, mostly unused devices were put under the counter, and people forgot about the schemes after an initial blaze of publicity.