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  1. Mastercard Introduces Quantum-Resistant Specs to Enhance Contactless Security Credit card firm Mastercard has unveiled new quantum-resistant standards that are designed to enhance the security and privacy of contactless payments. As a result of the move, Mastercard will become the first payments network to bring quantum-era security and privacy to contactless payments. The Enhanced Contactless (Ecos) specifications have been introduced following a surge in contactless payments over the past year, fuelled by the desire for more hygienic payment methods in-store as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mastercard revealed that contactless penetration made up 41% of in-person purchase transactions globally in the third quarter of 2020, a year-on-year rise of 30%. Ecos will enable the utilization of new quantum-resistant technology in order to deliver advances in algorithms and cryptography. Convenience will be maintained as contactless interactions will remain under half a second, and Mastercard said that, in time, any device can become a payment device without the need for a backup swipe or dip of a card. The specifications also aim to enhance privacy by offering advanced protection when account information is shared between the card or digital wallet and checkout terminal. The firm added that the Ecos specifications will enable merchants, financial institutions and customers to make such security transitions seamlessly over the coming years, with digital wallets, mobile payments, contactless cards and point-of-sale terminals continuing to work as they do today. This is because Ecos is implemented via a software upgrade without the need for new hardware of terminals. Ajay Bhalla, president, cyber and intelligence at Mastercard, commented: “Contactless is the present and future of in-person payments. 2020 brought with it a rapid acceleration of digitization and reinforced the importance of digital solutions – like contactless – to help meet our everyday needs. As the ecosystem continues to evolve, more connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are going to create more user demand and an even greater need for constant innovation to build next-generation capability, helping to ensure that technology never outpaces trust.” Source: Mastercard Introduces Quantum-Resistant Specs to Enhance Contactless Security
  2. Yes, yes, we can hear you screaming 'dystopia' at the back 'And then I took all the identities and rolled them into a ball like this' PICTURE THE SCENE: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is sitting quaffing Belgium beer with MasterCard boss Ajaypal Singh Banga, and they're having some larks. Banga turns to Nadella: "What if we could track people with but one digital identity?". Nadella rubs his scalp: "We must have a soooolllllution for that." At least that how we think it came about that Microsoft and MasterCard are working together to create a "universally-regionalised digital identity". The premise behind such a partnership is to make proving one's identity online a less arduous task of tapping in addresses and digging up passport numbers, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead, Microsoft and MasterCard want to have a way to provide people with a single, secure and instant way of identifying themselves online for whatever they want, whenever they want it. "Today's digital identity landscape is patchy, inconsistent and what works in one country often won't work in another. We have an opportunity to establish a system that puts people first, giving them control of their identity data and where it is used," says Ajay Bhalla, president, cyber and intelligence solutions, MasterCard. "Working with Microsoft brings us one step closer to making a globally interoperable digital identity service a reality, and we look forward to sharing more very soon." Sounds good in practice, but as we're fans of Black Mirror here, our imaginations immediately jump to the dark side of tech, whereby Microsoft and MasterCard become a superpower by controlling people's access to online things by the simple virtue of holding their identity in a vice-like digital grip. Now that might seem like an extreme and fanciful case of tech dystopia, and of course, it is. But there's arguably a risk that if a database of secured identities gets compromised, suddenly people could find themselves without a digital identity and thereby locked out of their favourite online services or getting defrauded by cyber crooks. Imagine you've been enjoying signing into stuff willy-nilly using a single digital ID, only to have it compromised or simply borked by a service outage leaving you unable to log into to Netflix and thus get stick with....*shudder*....terrestrial TV. That being said many of us probably use the same password for online services or have tools to carry out easy sign-ins to online services, so a more high-tech take on digital identity protected by a firm that knows a lot about delivering services at scale and another that has facilitated robust and secure transactions, is probably no bad thing. Also, stuff like tokenisation can obfuscate compromising details and data while still acting as a means to securely log in and authorise stuff, so our knee-jerk reaction could be a load of bollocks. And the whole thing is under development, so we don't have to worry about a Microsoft-MasterCard data-sucking powerhouse coming for our privacy, personal info, and freedom.; at least not yet. Source
  3. Mastercard Will Let Merchants Accept Payments in Crypto This Year The payments giant plans to support digital currency transactions directly on network. Mastercard is planning to give merchants the option to receive payments in cryptocurrency later this year. According to a source familiar with the matter, the functionality will see Mastercard customers’ digital currency payments settled in crypto at participating merchants, a first for the financial giant. The company has not yet disclosed which digital currencies it intends to support, or where. The details shed new light on CEO Michael Miebach’s Q4 pledge to integrate digital currency payments “directly on our network” in a move the new chief, helming his first earnings call on Jan. 28, said will provide maximal flexibility to customers and merchants alike. Previously, Mastercard supported limited cryptocurrency transactions through its cryptocard partners Wirex and Uphold. But those programs only cover payment, not settlement; the coins are converted to fiat currency well before reaching the merchant. The new initiative promises to upend that dynamic among the store owners and businesses who opt in. They will be able to conduct their business beyond the bounds of the fiat ecosystem, assuming, of course, their customers have crypto they’re willing to spend. That’s hardly a safe bet given the buy-and-hold mantra pervading the world’s largest cryptocurrency. The source pointed out most bitcoin (BTC, +7.39%) buyers primarily treat their coins as investment vehicles, not payment tools. And the source underscored there’s no guarantee Mastercard’s crypto settlement initiative will support bitcoin. Instead, cryptos will be evaluated against Mastercard’s 2019 “Principles for Blockchain Partnerships” framework, the source said. Released in the wake of Mastercard’s Libra exit, the document placed emphasis on stability, consumer protection and regulatory compliance in vetting potential partners. “Many of today’s 2,600 digital currencies today fail to do this,” Mastercard said at the time. Relatively few merchants currently accept crypto, bitcoin or no. Tesla’s stated plans to sell cars for bitcoin remains a hypothetical. A widespread crypto economy is still far from reality. But Mastercard has been laying the groundwork for that future through years of patents around the digital currency space. The company said it holds 89 blockchain patents and is waiting for approval on an additional 285 around the world. In the U.S. those filings have included: methods to keep crypto transactions private, on-chain credit card payment verification, instant blockchain payment processing and how to handle crypto refunds, among others. Mastercard first filed a patent for handling bitcoin payments in 2013 but abandoned that effort in 2015. It began hiring a team of wallet developers and crypto veterans in 2019. The company now hosts a platform through which central banks can test digital currencies. The payments space is rushing to support blockchain-based currencies at a pace not seen since Bitcoin pioneered the concept of stateless, peer-to-peer immutable transactions in 2009. PayPal intends to roll out bitcoin payment functionality later this year. Visa’s CEO said the rival company may add crypto payments in the future. Source: Mastercard Will Let Merchants Accept Payments in Crypto This Year
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