China Steps Up Mobile Device Security as Mobile Payments Gain

October 5, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

China is rapidly becoming one of the biggest names in mobile payments worldwide, and with good reason: Chinese people are increasingly into this new technology as a way to pay those everyday expenses without carrying a lot of cash around. With that, and with the growing numbers of mobile device users overall, that makes China a pretty fat plum for hackers. That in turn is prompting a lot of new security measures in the mobile field as China works to shore up the security aspect of mobile payments.

A quick look at the numbers via the China Internet Network Information Center shows just what’s at stake for mobile payments in the region. Chinese internet users rose 1.1 percent from levels in 2016, bringing the total to a new and staggering 751 million users. That’s better than twice the population of the United States.

What’s more, most of those users are also mobile device users, with around 96.3 percent of the internet population also mobile. These users are also dumping massive quantities of cash into the field; third-party mobile payment systems transacted fully 58.8 trillion yuan—about $8.846 trillion US—in payments just last year.

A combination of massive numbers of users and increased amounts of cash flowing through the system—even if it is only cash of the electronic variety—means that hackers could have a field day if the proper security measures aren’t taken now, and then some. Worse, with 97 percent of apps having access to some element of privacy controls, as found in a study from Tencent Holdings and the Data Center of China Internet, it’s clear there are a lot of potential failure points.

Security has long been an issue for mobile payments systems, though it’s almost looking like China didn’t have near the fight that was seen in the United States before mobile payments were widespread. That’s entirely possible; the two countries have fairly different cultures and Chinese users might well have gone in in a more trusting fashion.

Still, it’s almost looking like the “standard” caveats about leaving too much personal information and monitoring accounts that are so widely-heard in the US are comparatively new in China. With so much at stake, however, it’s clear that the cliches of the United States are about to become China’s new watchwords.