Don't Forget Your Digital Wallet

Digital cash wallets seems to be a long time coming. It must have been about fifteen years ago when I saw Bob Fletcher of NatWest Bank presenting the concept of the Mondex electronic money card to a highly amused I-4 audience of CISOs. (It was the corny cowboy music on the video that had them rolling in the aisles.) Unfortunately Mondex sank with little trace. But now the concept is being trialled again in London using Nokia phones modified to make travel payments through Oyster travel card technology. These mobile phones will double as a travel pass and a wallet for making small value payments.

From a security perspective it’s interesting to speculate on the opportunities and threats presented by portable digital wallets. What else can they be used for? Are they as reliable or as safer as cash? I have to admire the optimism of the O2 marketing people who claim that the mobile wallet is an idea whose time had come because mobile phones are already seen as many people’s most valuable possession. They point to research showing that more people are likely to go back home and get their phone if they leave it behind rather than return for their wallet. Perhaps so, but research also shows that a staggering 885,000 mobiles, worth around £342 million, are accidentally flushed down the lavatory each year.