What is Apple Pay?
To understand Apple Pay, it is helpful to understand mobile wallets. In short, a mobile wallet digitally stores credit, debit, ID and gift cards on a mobile smart device. Cards that were in your wallet are now stored on a smart device. In the case of Apple Pay, they are stored on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac. In other words, Apple Pay is only available on devices made and sold by Apple.
Once payment information is entered (such as credit and debit card numbers), Apple Wallet users can pay for purchases simply by placing their phone (or other Apple device) close to a store card reader enough for the reader to receive payment information transmitted using a nearby Field SIM ( NFC). NFC is a contactless device designed to operate over very short distances and has become an industry standard. The transaction will appear on the user’s monthly credit card statement like any other fee.
It’s fast, convenient and allows the user to run errands with nothing but their iPhone or Apple Watch on it. One reason Apple Pay is safe is that you don’t have to worry about losing cash or credit cards.
Is Apple Pay secure?
One of the most exciting things about a mobile wallet is the security features. They include:
Every time a traditional credit card is swiped, the magnetic stripe on the back leaves the same precise identifying information. This information lets the merchant know that you are responsible for the fees. If someone decides to steal the information embedded on the magnetic tape, they can easily use a magnetic scanner to copy it for their use.
The same is not true when using Apple Pay. Every time Apple Pay is used, the transaction is encrypted, and the encryption never changes. Once encryption is used, the same encryption is not used again. For an Apple Pay user, this means that thieves have no way to intercept their financial information, and no way to access identifying information associated with the payment method.
While paying to the store, the merchant is not given any other information. They have no way of tracking the credit card that was used to make the purchase. If a criminal intercepts the data, the encrypted code makes it impossible to use. People ask “Is Apple Pay secure?” You should feel very comfortable with that.
Traditional credit cards include an EMV chip, which is designed to work in the same way as Apple Pay encryption. The problem is not having a chip reader – like many small merchants – EMV chips do not work and cannot provide the same level of protection. The same is true for online purchases.
Apple Pay makes card skimmers irrelevant
Let’s say someone with a traditional credit card is in a gift shop and must swipe their credit card to make a purchase. If a thief places a card scraping device on a card reader, they will have immediate access to the information stored on the card’s magnetic strip. The fact that there is no magnetic stripe from which to steal makes every Apple Pay transaction more secure.
ID is required
To activate Apple Pay, the user must provide a personal identification. This could be a fingerprint, facial recognition, or a unique PIN code. Even if someone else has a user’s iPhone or Apple Watch, they can’t use Apple Pay without proof that they own it.
Even Apple blindfolded
Apple does not have access to the user’s personal information. They do not store entire credit or debit card numbers, nor do they keep copies of transaction information that can be linked to a user. They keep part of the user’s card numbers and part of the device account number – just enough to associate them with the user’s Apple ID. This way, the user can manage the cards across all their devices without anyone else having enough information to access the cards.
One obvious advantage of the blindfold on Apple itself is that it prevents even the most savvy hackers from gaining control of a user’s account if they somehow breach Apple’s security and gain access to the servers.
There is an emergency protocol
Let’s say a user has lost their Apple digital wallet, either by mistake or theft. As long as they have activated their “Find My iPhone” feature on another Apple device, they can instantly put the lost device into Lost Mode. Lost mode prevents the user from having to cancel the credit cards stored on the device. In fact, the user’s actual cards will still work. If the user finds the device in couch cushions (or elsewhere) later, they can easily reactivate it.
Ways to make Apple Pay more secure
If someone other than the user is able to make a purchase with Apple Pay on a device, it’s usually because the user was either careless or trusted the wrong person. As a reminder, here are some simple ways to improve Apple Pay security on any device:
- Do not share the device passcode. Even users using Face ID or Touch ID must have a passcode. They must ensure that the code is unique and is not used for other purposes, such as accessing an ATM or opening a garage door. No matter how much they trust the people in their lives, keeping an Apple Pay code to themselves is the first and best way to protect their accounts.
- Make it difficult to crack the passcode. Even a novice thief will try to put together four easy-to-remember numbers. This means that a passcode like 1111, 1234, or 9876 is pretty straightforward. Instead, the user needs to develop a code that mixes numbers in an unexpected way. And again, it should never be shared with someone else.
- Take advantage of Face ID or Touch ID. The use of biometrics makes it difficult for anyone to break into someone else’s Apple Pay.
- Only user biometrics should be included. While Apple Pay allows another person, such as a romantic partner or family member, to add Face ID or Touch ID to the device, it’s a bad idea. It’s impossible to know what will happen if the relationship goes south or the other person becomes desperate.
- Add cards to your Apple Pay device only when Wi-Fi is secure. Hackers are remarkably smart and have ways of “eavesdropping” on your online activity. The safest place to add cards is a password-protected Wi-Fi network at home.
- Make sure the Find My iPhone feature is activated on another Apple device. This feature will act as a backup in case the most common device is lost or stolen.
- If your device is lost or stolen, don’t wait. Use the Find My iPhone feature on your other Apple device to put it in lost mode until it gets recovered. If the user does not own another Apple device or has never set up Find My iPhone, they can go to their Apple ID account page to disable payment methods, including credit, debit, and prepaid cards.
Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to Apple Pay. In addition to being secure, Apple Pay is easy to use, and allows the user to purchase items in stores, online, and anywhere credit cards are routinely accepted. And just like the traditional American Express or Visa Card, the user can view charges on a monthly statement and object to charges they don’t agree with. Apple Pay also allows US users to send and receive money from family and friends. Finally, because all your purchase information is stored in one place, Apple Pay makes bookkeeping easier at the end of the month.