[LINK] RFI: Contactless Credit Cards in Oz

Fred Pilcher fpilcher at netspeed.com.au
Sat Jan 9 08:24:19 AEDT 2010

 From today's SMH 

Banks slip scan card into wallets

Amy Corderoy

MILLIONS of Australians have access to new technology that will make 
paying for small items quick and easy but may have no idea it is sitting 
in their pocket.

''Contactless credit cards'' have been given to more than 3 million 
Commonwealth Bank customers and were sent to National Australia Bank 
customers from November as well.

The cards work by using radio frequency technology, similar to that used 
in e-toll passes, to exchange payment instructions between credit or 
debit cards and card terminals.

The credit card companies Visa - in partnerships with the National 
Australia Bank, ANZ and Macquarie Bank - and MasterCard - with the 
Commonwealth Bank - have been introducing the cards but have not 
undertaken heavy promotion until more retailers have the ability to 
accept them.

"This has meant that a lot of people are not aware that they have the 
technology sitting in their wallets today," said Albert Naffah, the 
vice-president for strategy at MasterCard Australia.

Several thousand merchants accept the cards, including Sumo Salad and 
7-Eleven outlets.

The Visa card can be used for purchases under $100 and the MasterCard 
can be used for purchases under $35.

"They are aimed at replacing cash [which] still accounts for 70 per cent 
of transactions in Australia,'' a Visa spokeswoman, Judy Shaw, said.

The companies have denied that the cards are more vulnerable to fraud 
than traditional credit cards, but in the United States there have been 
fears about their security.

A 2006 study by American scientists found that contactless cards were 
vulnerable to so-called ''skimming'' attacks.

"An attacker with [a card] reader can harvest information from a card, 
create an inexpensive clone device, and make charges against the 
legitimate card," the report found.

But Mr Naffah said MasterCard's ''PayPass'' card must physically tap the 
scanner in order to be activated.

A spokeswoman for Commonwealth Bank said its technology could only be 
activated within four centimetres of a reader.

"You would probably notice someone coming that close to you with a 
reader," she said.

However, a privacy expert, Roger Clarke, said he was concerned about the 

The banks and credit card companies had not consulted with appropriate 
security and privacy experts before providing the cards to customers, Dr 
Clarke said.

"People who should have been aware that this was going on did not know 
it was happening," he said.

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