Make mobile banking secure with remote handset block, says minister

As Nokia confirms plans to enter the mobile banking market using technology it acquired with the recent purchase of Obopay, fears have arisen that stolen handsets could enable criminals to access users' bank accounts. In an attempt to reassure consumers, the UK government has issued guidelines detailing how the handset should be disabled when reported lost or stolen.

In association with the mobile payment industry, the government is calling for the SIM card to be blocked to stop mobile banking access, as well as immobilising the contactless payment function for transactions over €12. If a large number of smaller payments are noted in quick succession, these will also require verification, according to the guidelines.

"I am pleased that the mobile and banking industries have worked with us to ensure that the public is protected at the earliest opportunity," said Home Office Minister Alan Campbell. "We have already put in place measures to make it harder for thieves to profit from mobile phone theft - around 90 per cent of handsets reported stolen are now blocked within 24 hours of reporting, reducing their value and the incentive for criminals."

Campbell also called upon cell phone users to sign up to the National Mobile Phone register if they plan to use contactless payments. The register has been established to make it easier to identify when their handsets have fallen into the wrong hands and harder for criminals to abuse the phones' purchasing capabilities.

However, while this initiative might be laudable, making mobile banking or contactless payments more complicated or cumbersome for the consumer to use will dramatically lessen their appeal. But, given the glacial progress of mobile banking and contactless payments, these guidelines could be seen as antiquated when the mobile and financial institutions finally agree on workable partnerships. 

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