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How much is too much?

Jared Heng | July 21, 2008
Is there a trade-off between security for mobile phone transactions and user convenience?

Is there a trade-off between security for mobile phone transactions and user convenience? With industry participants expecting mobile transactions to pick up over the next few years, data security on devices has received greater scrutiny.

Of course, its widely understood that the data security risk of conducting mobile commerce is greater than traditional internet transactions on PC. But the fact that devices are usually less secure than PCs should not deter users like us who wish to easily do banking or shopping on the go.

We all want to live in a world without fears of security threats, or at least pretend that the probability of us getting hit is a mere one in 6 billion. In a sense, I envy Canadians who live without their doors locked, because the desire to avoid feeling hemmed-in has outweighed fear of crime.

The same may be said of mobile security. Australia-based mobile transaction service provider, Qpay, claims to offer a three- to five-factor authentication system. While possibly a very attractive offer to mobile banking users, will desire for user convenience outweigh transaction security concerns?

If I frequently do mobile banking and shopping, going through five-factor authentication every time a transaction is initiated sounds daunting indeed.

Currently, the security-convenience trade-off question remains open given that even three-factor authentication on mobile phones is uncommon in Europe and the US. Humans are also controversial creatures. What appears as an insufficiently secure mobile transaction platform to one may be a pleasure to another who strongly favours user convenience.

Having said that, data security is something we ignore at our own peril. Perhaps the knowledge that my mobile transaction risk could be reduced to one in 10 billion would help me sleep better tonight.

Jared Heng is staff writer for Fairfax Business Media, where he covers hot topics in the IT industry such as green computing, unified communications and software as a service. As very wide topics worthy of further exploration, virtualisation and open source issues currently capture his interest. Based in Singapore, he also seeks to keep himself updated on pertinent IT issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.



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