Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 11 News List

Google smartphone wallet users warned of threats

AFP, San Francisco

Users of Google smartphone wallets were being warned on Friday that there is a way to crack pass codes intended to thwart thieves from going on illicit shopping sprees.

Zvelo Labs researcher Joshua Rubin was featured in a video on the company’s Web site demonstrating software that quickly figures out a Google Wallet personal identification number (PIN), provided the crook has the smartphone.

Rubin said that Google has been alerted to the vulnerability and is moving swiftly to fix it. He has not made his wallet “cracker” application public.

“Google Wallet allows only five invalid PIN entry attempts before locking the user out,” Rubin said in a blog post. “With this attack, the PIN can be revealed without even a single invalid attempt. This completely negates all of the security of this mobile phone payment system.”

Google declined a request for comment.

“Once attackers get your PIN, they have full access to any credit card information stored in the app and they can use your phone to make purchases,” McAfee security firm researcher Jimmy Shah said in a blog post.

“As a user of Google Wallet, the main security you see is the PIN,” McAfee added. “What makes Wallet easy for you to use now makes it easy for attackers to use; they can now spend your money and credit just as if your phone were an ATM card.”

Rubin dismissed the threat of hackers picking Google Wallets remotely, saying that physical access is needed to get priority access to controls in a process called “rooting.”

Security specialists advise Google Wallet users not to “root” smartphones, and to enable security features such as full-disk encryption and screen locks.

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