Google is putting a hold on the provisioning of prepaid cards to their mobile wallet app, Google Wallet. While some sites are reporting this only applies to new cards, that information is incorrect, Google has said that it applies to existing cards as well.
The announcement was made on the Google Commerce blog in response to recent reports that the Google Wallet PIN could be reset by an unauthorized user who gains access to the phone through it being lost or stolen, if the screen lock option is disabled. Basically, whoever has the phone has access to the funds – if screen lock is turned off.
Addressing this issue, Osama Bedier, VP of Google Wallet and Payments, wrote:
Over the last few days we’ve received questions and concerns about issues related to the security of Google Wallet. People are asking if Google Wallet is safe enough for mobile phone payments. The simple answer to this question is yes. In fact, Google Wallet offers advantages over the plastic cards and folded wallets in use today.
First, Google Wallet is protected by a PIN — as well as the phone’s lock screen, if a user sets that option. But sometimes users choose to disable important security mechanisms in order to gain system-level “root” access to their phone; we strongly discourage doing so if you plan to use Google Wallet because the product is not supported on rooted phones. That’s why in most cases, rooting your phone will cause your Google Wallet data to be automatically wiped from the device.
Second, we also take concrete actions to help protect our users. For example, to address an issue that could have allowed unauthorized use of an existing prepaid card balance if someone recovered a lost phone without a screen lock, tonight we temporarily disabled provisioning of prepaid cards. We took this step as a precaution until we issue a permanent fix soon.
And just like with any other credit card, you can get support when you need it. We provide toll-free assistance in case you lose your phone or someone manages to make an unauthorized transaction.
Mobile payments are going to become more common in the coming years, and we will learn much more as we continue to develop Google Wallet. In the meantime, you can be confident that the digital wallet you carry provides defenses that plastic and leather simply don’t.
A Google spokesperson told NFCWorld today that by not provisioning cards (old or new), Google is protecting existing users, as the means of accessing funds in an unauthorized manner is interrupted.