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MWC12: Mobile payments - are we ready yet?

It will come as no surprise that Mobile World Congress this year has been dominated by smartphones and how they impact our day-to-day lives.  Figures vary, but there is general agreement that the industry has reached a tipping point; soon enough, mobile internet use will surpass that of PC use.  The age of the mobile is clearly upon us. 

In this mobile age, one major focus is mobile payments.  Whether it’s mobile banking, apps or NFC, it is clear that as smartphone use increases, so too will interest in mobile payments. 

However, as we look to use the mobile as a payment device, the issue of security raises its head.  With the explosion of mobile, where billions of people, especially in the developing markets, are using vast amounts of data, it appears that the current security frameworks are not fit for purpose.

In today’s seminar ‘Cyber security in a mobile world’, hosted by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the conclusion was clear; mobile security is an issue with the potential to cause problems if we don’t address it now. 

The problems with mobile security identified at MWC are numerous.  Firstly, most mobile users do not apply the same caution to phone transactions as they do on the internet.  For example, only half of mobile users have a password or PIN and 59% have never changed their security settings. 

Secondly, mobile capabilities are endless and so too is the range of security threats.  This is why mobile operators need to be ahead of the game, offering a range of bespoke security measures to tackle these challenges.  In the Mobile World Congress daily conference paper, Gareth Maclachlan, CEO and Founder of Adaptive Mobile, wrote that mobile users in pretty much all cases of security problems would hold their mobile network responsible.  Mobile payments have the potential to cause a complex and difficult situation for MNOs, and now is the time to prepare against this.

The underlying message of the day for me was that there is no one silver bullet to sort out all the facets of mobile security.  Collaboration, long overdue, between financial institutions and MNOs, is needed in order to guarantee security as well as high quality mobile payments services.

In tomorrow’s blog, I look forward to discussing the other hot topic of MWC 2012 – NFC and contactless payments.


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