FutureTech Friday: Mastercard Approves Quantum Resistant Contactless Cards


Although not getting as much attention these days as the metaverse or Web3, the potential impact of quantum computing in financial services certainly has the attention of the industry’s biggest players. This week, Mastercard approved the first cards for issuers that meet EMVCo contactless specifications to protect cardholders from attacks from quantum computers as well as traditional computers.

“Technology has the potential to open new opportunities for both consumers and fraudsters,” President of Cyber & Intelligence at Mastercard Ajay Bhalla said. “That’s why future-proofing security is critical.”

Quantum computing involves leveraging the capacities of quantum physics to solve certain computational problems faster than traditional computers. Much of the buzz over quantum computing is related to the purported ability of quantum computing to defy even the most rigorous encryption protocols. And while some of these concerns may have been overblown, at least in the short term, the ability of quantum computers to solve certain complex problems faster than the most advanced supercomputers currently available makes them a potential source of major financial crime if adequate safeguards are not in place.

To this end, Mastercard introduced new, quantum-resistant Enhanced Contactless specifications in January 2021. Referred to as “Ecos” the new specifications are designed to provide greater convenience for merchants and financial institutions, enhanced trust thanks for next-generation algorithms and cryptographic key strengths, and enhanced privacy to deliver protection when account information in shared between the card or digital wallet and checkout.

“As the ecosystem continues to evolve, more connected devices and the Internet of Things 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,” Bhalla said when the Ecos specifications were unveiled. In the months since then, Mastercard has teamed up with EMVCo to continue to develop the Ecos-compliant technology with the goal of making it an industry standard for contactless acceptance. In a statement, Mastercard cited a Juniper report that indicated that contactless payment devices will top 12.5 billion by 2027. The value of contactless transactions is similarly expected to grow, reaching $10 trillion worldwide by 2027.

“By bringing quantum-era technology to contactless payments, we are taking steps to future-proof security and privacy protection as much as possible,” Bhalla said this week. “These new cards will deliver that greater peace of mind, while also providing consumers and merchants a seamless transition from today’s contactless experience.”

Mastercard’s embrace of quantum computing has been marked in 2022. In July, the company announced a multi-year strategic alliance with D-Wave Systems, the world’s first commercial supplier of quantum computers. In February, Mastercard’s Foundry Live Series presented The Quantum Advantage, a look at the potential impact of quantum computing in financial services.

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