Search engine giant, Google, launched its digital wallet in South Africa on Tuesday to join others like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Huawei Pay in the eWallet industry.
Digital wallets are a tokenization of traditional wallets and allows users to save funds, store debit and credit cards in one digital compact. So, instead of carrying a wallet with credit or debit cards which can be stolen, Google stores it and encrypts it.
The company says it is on a mission to include everyone in what it calls “a dynamic ecosystem of manufacturers, developers and users”.
“We want to make digital wallets accessible to everyone through fast, secure access to their everyday essentials,” they said.
Mobile Payments Fraud in South Africa.
A study by Research and Markets showed that “the mobile payment industry in South Africa is expected to record a CAGR of 12.9% to reach $ 29,424.3 million by 2025. The mobile wallet payment segment in value terms increased at a CAGR of 12.6% during 2018-2025.”
An enormous potential as this definitely attracts malicious actors. The LexisNexis fraud multiplier saw a 41.5% increase in fraud in South Africa compared to 2019. A PwC report showed that 60% of South African organisations said they’ve been victims of economic crime and fraud. This brings to light the volatile nature of cyberspace and how easily black hat hackers can infiltrate the space.
While the security system of Google is nearly impossible to hack, its users would need to protect themselves. This is because hackers can create counterfeit APIs and UPIs like Google’s.
One vulnerable point is that Google Wallet is not an inbuilt app like Samsung pay or Apple pay. Rather, it is made available on Google play. The apps would need to be updated often, so hackers do not find a weak link.
Google has however stated that “security and privacy are built into every part of Google Wallet, making payments safer and allowing people to transact seamlessly and with confidence throughout the day. This will allow users to make transactions using a virtual card number (a token),”
Google’s Solution to these Problems
Mobile wallets are in more ways safer as they do not display visible pins that can be stolen. However, entry point remains for hackers. One of the major problems is the possible loss or theft of a phone. In that case, Google offers a ”Find my Device” option where users can remotely gain access to the device and lock it. Moreso, Google Wallet stated that it does not store card details on the phone, thus making accessibility to sensitive information blocked.
Another protective measure Google employs is the use of Virtual Account Numbers (VAN). With the VAN, transactions are made without disclosing the actual account number to reduce risk of fraud.
Google Wallet will also enable a unique code for every transaction which is protected by pins and passwords. The wallet will not be installed in phones without a lockscreen. This adds a layer of data protection to guard against frauds.
South Africa is the first African country Google Wallet has launched in.