MasterCard to use quantum-resistant technology to protect contactless payments

Security tool will work on the background and will be integrated through a software upgrade

Two thirds of UAE residents expect the country to become fully cashless by 2030. Courtesy Mastercard

Payments company MasterCard has begun to apply the latest quantum-resistant technology to protect contactless payments from cyber threats linked to quantum computing.

Experts worry that the quantum computers, a new type of technology, could compromise the encryption present in payment channels and cards used online.

Quantum-resistant technology is designed to defend businesses and confidential user data from such attacks.

Although current quantum computers are limited in their capabilities and cannot be used for such breaches, things could be different in future.

Called Enhanced Contactless, or Ecos, MasterCard said the new technology is an “industry first”.

“2020 brought with it a rapid acceleration of digitisation and reinforced the importance of digital solutions such as contactless to help meet our everyday needs,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber security and intelligence at Mastercard.

“As the ecosystem continues to evolve, more connected devices and the Internet of Things are going to create more user demand and an even greater need for constant innovation to build next-generation capability, helping to ensure that technology never outpaces trust.”

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A growing number of consumers prefer contactless payments as they are ten times faster than chip-based transactions.

More than 80 per cent go through without the need for a personal identification number. However, this also exposes the system to cyber attacks.

Ecos will work in the background and will be integrated through a software upgrade, meaning no new hardware or terminals will be required.

Consumers, merchants and financial institutions will benefit from enhanced convenience, trust and privacy.

“As the new specifications are activated over the coming years, consumers and merchants can expect a seamless transition,” said Mastercard.

Digital wallets, mobile payments, contactless cards and point-of-sale terminals will continue to work as they do today.

The adoption of contactless payments is on the rise, with more than 34 per cent of mobile devices expected to use contactless payments by 2025, up from 11 per cent in 2020, according to UK-based Juniper Research.

The UAE is among the countries leading this trend. Two thirds of people expect the country to become fully cashless by 2030, a poll by Standard Chartered showed in September.