Google Wallet Likely Hacker Target

First rule of our digital age: If there's a popular way to exchange money over the Internet, someone will figure out a way to use it for less-than-honest purposes.

And so, with that in mind, we come to Google Wallet. As you might guess, when the search and mobile OS giant says it wants to turn your Android phone into your wallet, it's not talking about storing photos of your kids. The app will, in theory, relieve you of the need to carry physical credit cards in your physical wallet for making purchases in brick and mortar stores. Your purchases will be made wirelessly between your phone and a gadget near the cash register.

For the present, Google Wallet has a long way to go before it's big enough to attract major hacking activity. Only one phone, the Nexus S 4G, supports the app.

But Trend Micro Senior Threat Researcher David Sancho believes that if Google Wallet takes off, it could turn your money into honey that will inevitably attract flies. "I’ve been to a hacker conference or two," he states in a Malware Blog post. "…I can tell you that this thing *will* be a hacker’s target."

Sancho points out that Google Wallet uses NFC technology to broadcast information from your phone to a receiver at the stores' checkout counters. "It’s a technology that, while extremely useful, provides a very juicy target for the bad guys." A large antenna can pick up the signal.

Although he guesses, "that the good guys have properly done their job and that Google will patch things up if they fail," he realizes that that failure will cost someone money or time. Sancho recommends you use it only with a prepaid credit card. That way, you'll have less to lose.

To that, I'll add one more recommendation: Install Trend Micro Mobile Security onto your Android phone. This extremely useful app, recently named one of PC World's 100 Best Products of 2011, will start protecting you from Google Wallet hacks soon after they turn up. You can buy Mobile Security as an individual program or as part of Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security.

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