“iWallet” Coming 9/9: Apple Partners With Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX

September 1, 2014 10:11 UTC

For months now, the mobile industry has heard rumors about a new Apple mobile payment network colloquially referred to as the “iWallet.” Bloomberg is reporting that Visa, Mastercard, and American Express have worked out an agreement with Apple that will be revealed on 9/9/14 alongside the anticipated launch of the iPhone 6.

All of this information regarding Apple’s landmark deals with the world’s major credit card companies is being leaked by “a person familiar with the situation.” According to “the person,” the iPhone 6’s newly included near-field communication (NFC) chip will, alongside the Touch ID, be used to allow consumers to pay ideally with the touch of a finger.

Didn’t Apple’s Fingerprint Scanner Get Hacked?

Fingerprint scanning has been widely regarded as an ideal second layer for two-factor authentication (2fa) security. Marc Rogers, the guy who “hacked” the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5S, explained the concept more thoroughly in a blogpost about the exploit and why TouchID is still awesome:

If implemented correctly, TouchID enabled two-factor authentication in enterprise applications could be a good defense against phishing attacks by attackers like the Syrian Electronic Army. You can trick a user into giving up any kind of passcode but, it is much harder to trick a user into giving up his or her fingerprints from the other side of the world.

Though, as they say: Where there’s a will there’s a way. Have no doubt that the iPhone 6’s fingerprint security will eventually be broken. The iPhone 5S’s fingerprint scanner lasted just a few days, and even the Samsung Galaxy S5 suffered a similar expedited fate. The iPhone 6 can only strive to hold out longer, not forever.

Bitcoiners Don’t Need The iWallet

The new Apple mobile payments network, or “iWallet,” that is announced alongside the iPhone 6 on 9/9/14 is unlikely to accept Bitcoin alongside Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. At its first release, there won’t be any Bitcoin apps available in the iOS App Store that allow TouchID as a second factor of authentication. However, if there is demand from the community (if the security is strong enough for the demanding Bitcoin community) an app will be built. Until then, Bitcoiners on the iPhone 1-6 can use Bitcoin now that Apple has reversed their stance on full function Bitcoin wallets in the iOS App Store.

I have previously written on Apple’s iBeacon, which uses Low-Energy (LE) Bluetooth and is a piece of Apple’s mobile payments network. Due to the nature of hardware devices, iWallet functionality that requires the fingerprint scanner and/or the LE Bluetooth will only be available to the newest generation devices that have them included (iPhone 4S and beyond). Obviously, Apple will release some version of the iWallet for those using iPads or older versions of the iPhone as well. The Achille’s heel of the iWallet, though no official details have been released, is apparent even now. Both your iPhone itself and whatever records Apple intends to store regarding your identity and payment methods are centralized points of failure that could result in a leak of valuable and private financial information. While it is true that any vulnerabilities in the iPhone could just as easily be used to lift unencrypted Bitcoin private keys, Bitcoin-inspired innovations such as multi-signature transactions can mitigate that risk. To that end, iPhone 6 users interested in trying out security that not even TouchID 2FA can afford should check out Green Address, an open source multi-signature Bitcoin wallet which is currently available in the iOS App Store.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Last modified: September 1, 2014 10:12 UTC

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Caleb is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he studied Economics, East Asian Studies, and Mathematics. He is currently pursuing his MSc in Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia.

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