Since Nokia’s creation of the first NFC phone in 2006, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has become more and more standard in smartphones. This year the Windows 8 Phone included its file sharing Tap+Send app using NFC technology, and most Apple fans are anxiously awaiting the incorporation of NFC in the iWallet. In fact, many people were surprised that the fifth generation iPhone doesn’t include NFC technology for making cellular electronic payments, a highly anticipated function of NFC.
While it may be still two to three years out, the continuing development of NFC technology will definitely change the way we live our lives. However, as with most technological advances, these conveniences will come with their own set of risks.
How NFC will be used in the future
- Interactive Gaming is already a reality and will probably become even more popular. The first NFC-powered game, Skylanders, was released in late 2011. It includes an NFC chip that allows players to manipulate real-world figurines which are transposed into digital data in the virtual world.
- Online shopping with an NFC reader would allow you to place a credit card on the reader in order to automatically enter your payment information into the computer. Instead of a pin or password, the NFC reader would request a gestural password which you would do with your hand to accept the payment.
- File sharing will be fast, simple and thorough with NFC technology. For example, you might tap your phone on the sign at the bus stop and have a PDF file of the bus schedule sent to your phone. You could also tap a movie poster with your phone and be sent to a website where you can buy your e-tickets. Businesses can also have customers tap signs and it can take them to web forms to give the business feedback.
- NFC technology in cars will allow you to unlock and start your car with your phone as well as access information about your vehicle such as battery levels or mechanical issues via text message.
- Perhaps the most anticipated use of NFC technology is for electronic payments. Imagine touching your phone to a reader any time you need to make payment to a store, movie theater or restaurant. This technology is already being used in Japan and much of Europe but is yet to be adopted fully in the United States.
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Possible risks of using NFC technology
While it seems a bit risky to carry all your financial and credit card information on a singular device, in some ways NFC technology is actually more secure. Your personal information would, of course, be jeopardized if you lost your phone, but then again, you run the same risk by losing your wallet now. In the same way you would handle a lost wallet, a stolen phone carrying your personal information would need to be reported to your financial institution to protect your accounts and identity.
The security risks are somewhat resolved by the fact that the NFC card and reader have to be very close, nearly touching, to perform a transaction. This means that data can’t be stolen from afar. Additionally, encryption would still be used to keep data confidential on a wireless connection as well as identity verification such as passwords or pins.
Despite these safeguards, there are some inherent risks in cellular electronic payments and other NFC transactions
- Eavesdropping, or “listening in,” does not require that a criminal pick up every signal in order to gather private information. This can be deterred by using secure channels and encrypted data.
- Data corruption or manipulation might be another criminal tactic. This can be avoided using secure channels for communication.
- Theft is probably the greatest risk because the information is right there available to any person holding the phone or other device. The best defense against this risk is first keeping track of the NFC device itself, and second, setting strict security settings including strong passwords and pin numbers or use a face recognition software such as FastAccess.
As with most technology, diligent safeguarding of your personal information will allow you to reap the benefits of these modern conveniences with minimal risk. NFC will be an exciting step in the digital world.
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