Apple Pay: How does it Work and is it Secure?
What is Apple Pay?
Coming in October after a software update is released for the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch (available early 2015) Apple Pay will make its debut. Apple’s latest service is allowing their users the ability to make everyday purchases through their phone with a single touch to their fingerprint scanner. Apple Pay will allow you to sync credit and debit cards into their Application, Passbook, which already allows you to store tickets, coupons, boarding passes, and all sorts of information that you may need readily available.
While Mobile Payments are nothing new in the world of technology, Apple has a knack for taking an existing technology, perfecting it, and making it go viral — just like the smartphone or the tablet. They have aimed their service at making the process as simplistic as possible for end users, allowing for this trend to really gain traction.
To make a payment, all you will have to do is press the fingerprint scanner; there’s no application that you have to open, and you don’t even have to wake up your display. Once your payment is processed you will be promptly notified by a vibration and a beep from your device. To make the process even easier, with Apple’s iSight, you will have the option to take a picture of your credit/debit card and all of your information will be imported (you can also manually enter this information).
Apple Pay Security Features
If you’re anything like me though, after you get past the initial exciting possibilities that Apple Pay could offer me (whether it’s a novel idea or the next credit card) my mind immediately jumps to how secure is this?
Apple is touting that there are a variety of unique security features that they have added to their devices as well as for this service. On the new devices (iPhone 6, 6+, Apple Watch), your credit and debit card information will be assigned a unique device account number, high level encryption, and will be saved on a special chip within the device that only stores you sensitive data. This information is never stored on an Apple server nor shared with the cashier at the time of your purchase. In fact, when you do make a purchase, a special transaction specific code is created to process your payment. What this really means is that even if a hacker were able to access the special chip on your device, the numbers that they would gather would have only worked for a specific transaction, and would essentially be useless.
They’ve also accounted for a lost or stolen device (which is bound to happen to many users over time) with a feature inside the “Find My iPhone” App to quickly put your phone into lost mode where nothing is accessible. Or if the situation is more permanent, you can completely wipe your device, the same as you could with previous models.
Another, and perhaps more of an intangible benefit to Apple Pay from a security standpoint comes from never having to visibly display any of your credit or debit cards. Let’s face it, we live in an age where Identity Theft is not only happening, but it seems like it is an ever-present threat that can turn your finances upside down. Apple has also mentioned in their press releases and conferences that the technology on the back of your cards (the magnetic strip of information) is 5 decades old. So while perhaps this is more of an added benefit, it definitely is worth noting in the conversation surrounding this new service.
Where Can I Use Apple Pay?
Before it has even gone live, Apple has secured over 220,000 stores and “counting”. Upon its release, Apple Pay will only be available in the states, but they say they are working hard to bring the availability to more countries.
Currently Apple Pay is compatible with the following Cards and Banks:
Cards: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express
Banks: American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo.
Coming Soon: Barclaycard, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, USAA, and US Bank
Apple Pay Uses ‘Near Field Communication’
Near Field Communication (NFC) establishes radio communication with mobile devices and smartphones by touching them or bringing into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimeters. When using NFC, which requires such close proximity, combined with the fingerprint scanning technology built into Apple Pay, a secure connection is created and your transactions can be completed safely.