Google tightens its Wallet after PIN reset goof
Now only proper hackers can steal punters' dosh
Google has started provisioning electronic wallets again having fixed the more trivial security flaw in its product - though determined hackers will still get in.
Google suspended the supply of Wallets after it emerged that simply clearing the application data resulted in the protecting PIN being reset, so now anyone trying to extract pre-paid credit from a stolen handset will have to root the phone and break the encryption on the PIN instead.
But that process shouldn't take more than a few minutes, and was demonstrated by zvelo last week. However, it does require specialist software and a bit of knowledge including the best way to root the handset, so Google's fix will prevent simple theft and the electronic wallet remains a good deal more secure than its physical counterpart.
Google continues to make the rooting process more complicated, and some handsets automatically factory-reset the device on rooting (allowing developers the freedom to install their own low-level code, while protecting data) but in an extended blog post zvelo discusses how vulnerabilities continue to make Google Wallet accessible, and argues that Android's architecture is fundamentally flawed.
Google reckons no one suffered from the temporary weakness in the PIN protection of the Wallet, but that's probably due to the tiny number of punters actually using the product. A thief asking to bonk a Google Wallet-enabled phone on the till would probably attract more attention than he'd like, and nicking a real wallet is still a lot more profitable.
The trivial flaw shouldn't have existed, but Google deserves credit for doing everything it could to forestall, and fix, the problem. More concerning is the damage done to the already marginal public confidence in the security of wireless NFC payment systems. ®
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