ePayments Week: McAfee worries about mobile security

2011 threat predictions, Google's Hotpot trial, and Facebook's stuffed piggy bank.

Here’s what caught my attention in the payment space this week:

Android, iOS, and geolocation services all on McAfee’s endangered list

Urban legend has it that when Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks he replied, “That’s where the money is.” No surprise then that as mobile commerce grows, so does its lure to black-hats. McAfee Labs released its 2011 Threats Predictions, which cites mobile operating systems (Android and iOS) as well as abuses tied to location services like Facebook Places, Gowalla, and Foursquare. The fast growth of smart phones is likely to make 2011 “a turning point” in threats to mobile devices, McAfee’s report says, adding that the loose integration of these devices with business systems makes this threat particularly worrisome. The report also expressed concern about the rise of URL shorteners which, because they hide the code about to be launched, represent a “huge opportunity for abuse.”

Stirring the Hotpot in Portland

Google Places recommendationGoogle takes another step toward deployment of near-field communications (NFC) transactions with its current Hotpot promotion in Portland, Ore. Hotpot is Google’s entry in the local-recommendation and review space, designed to integrate with Google Places and compete with services like Yelp and Foursquare (which have a bit of a lead here). Google says it’s working with hundreds of vendors in the Portland area to whip up interest in the program. While we expect that Android phones will soon be capable of using NFC technology to handle payment transactions with a tap or wave of the phone, the Hotpot trial uses an NFC chip embedded in stickers that merchants can place in their windows to show they’re fans of Google Places. Anyone with a newer Android phone (like the Nexus S) can tap the sticker to learn more and get reviews of the business.

How will Facebook spend it?

While the business press analyzed the financial implications of Goldman Sachs’ $450 million investment in Facebook this week (including some scrutiny over which investors were offered in and why), the rest of us wondered how Zuckerberg and company would spend that money, along with the $50 million it raked in from Russia’s largest Internet company, Digital Sky Technologies. VC Circle, which focuses on investment news from an Indian perspective, wondered if, in addition to beefing up its international footprint (hiring in more countries, improving its local language capabilities), Facebook might invest its new funds to improve its mobile platform. VC Circle noted that roughly one third of Facebook’s 600 million members access the site from mobile devices at least part of the time and that Facebook could do more to allow them to tailor their interface to suit whatever device they prefer to use. That optimization is likely to become more important as Facebook pushes its Places program and any commercial tie-ins (like discounts or coupons) that may accompany it.

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