Bharat QR Calls for En­hanced Se­cu­rity

Cy­ber se­cu­rity and pri­vacy be­come crit­i­cal

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

The launch of Bharat Quick Re­sponse (QR) code to en­able peo­ple to pay for things they buy with­out swip­ing plas­tic cards is wel­come. It makes dig­i­tal pay­ments seam­less, con­ve­nient for cus­tomers, and helps the gov­ern­ment’s push to­wards mov­ing to a less-cash econ­omy. Mer­chants will be able to gen­er­ate their own code that will be in­ter­op­er­a­ble with banks, do­ing away with swipe card ter­mi­nals. This will lead to some cost sav­ings, and mer­chants will also re­ceive money in­stan­ta­neously. Sen­si­bly, ri­val pay­ment ser­vice net­works — the Na­tional Pay­ments Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia, Visa, Master­Card and Amer­i­can Ex­press — have come to­gether to sup­port Bharat QR. All banks must come on board to al­low cus­tomers to use the QR code, given that more in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and lower mer­chant dis­count rates will drive dig­i­tal pay­ment adop­tion.

The QR code is in­no­va­tive and con­cep­tu­ally sim­ple: a cus­tomer only needs a smart­phone and an in­ter­net con­nec­tion to use the code. But it also makes the pay­ment sys­tem de­pen­dent on tech­nol­ogy more than ever be­fore, rais­ing the pres­sure on cy­ber­se­cu­rity. If some­body wants to sab­o­tage the econ­omy, all that he needs to do is to mess up the data on as­sets held in bank ac­counts. The dan­gers of a con­nected world be­came ev­i­dent in In­dia, for ex­am­ple, af­ter last year’s mal­ware at­tack via a card-read­ing and money-dis­pens­ing and point-of-sale equip­ment that com­pro­mised over three mil­lion debit cards of at least five banks. Can mal­ware cap­ture debit or credit card de­tails and repli­cate them as well? Are In­dia’s tele­com net­works sus­cep­ti­ble to snoop­ing? Do banks have fool­proof sys­tems and pro­to­cols to pro­tect data, say, of ac­counts linked to Aad­haar? Banks must in­vest in ac­quir­ing the needed hard­ware and soft­ware, train staff to ad­here to strict pro­to­cols and ed­u­cate cus­tomers. The coun­try must have a ro­bust le­gal frame­work for pri­vacy and data pro­tec­tion. That is not the case now.

Every­one does not have a smart­phone. Nor is spec­trum plen­ti­fully avail­able to make data net­works ubiq­ui­tous. These prob­lems will need to be ad­dressed as well.

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