Developers say they have come up with a way to add Google Wallet functionality, including a Google Prepaid Card carrying a free US$10 credit, to the original Nexus S NFC phone.
Google Wallet is currently only officially available in the US to Sprint subscribers with a Nexus S 4G phone. The new hack is said to offer a way for any Nexus S owner to add Google Wallet to their phones — and to receive a Google Prepaid Card which, like the one offered to Sprint subscribers, comes with a US$10 credit that can be used to make purchases in stores that accept MasterCard PayPass payments.
As Engadget puts it, however, “it’s not an operation for the faint-hearted. If the words Cyanogen, full wipe, flash and kernel resemble white noise, it’s probably worth waiting for an official release.”
It’s not clear at this stage what, if any, security implications arise from the developers’ apparent ability to create Google Prepaid Cards. It’s most likely that this relates to a provisioning issue rather than an NFC security issue — it could be, for instance, that Google simply provisions a $10 credit to any phone that requests one, on the basis that only Sprint Nexus S 4G’s should be asking. NFC World has asked Google for information and we’ll provide an update as soon as we have more to report.
In the meantime, if any NFC World reader successfully gets the hack working or can provide any insight, please leave a comment below or send us an email.
Update NFC World pointed out to Google that “Security is, of course, a paramount concern to banks and other businesses thinking of using NFC services like Google Wallet so this will be a serious worry to many of our readers.” We then asked:
“Can you provide a statement or comment about the hack? Ideally, this would set out how/if this compromises overall Google Wallet security, explain what plans Google has to prevent further fraudulent Google Prepaid Cards being created and assure readers that it won’t be possible for this to happen with other issuers’ cards, coupons and other apps that will potentially come preloaded on Google Wallet in the future.”
We’ve now had a response, but it isn’t one that sheds any real light on the situation:
“For security reasons, Google doesn’t support Google Wallet on modded phones and we strongly advise against entering your payment information on any modded device.”
While that’s sensible advice, it doesn’t address any of the concerns we raised — especially since this hack doesn’t require anyone to enter their own payment information in order to start charging their morning coffee to Google. We’ve asked Google for further clarification and will provide a further update as soon as we have more details.
Update An NFC World reader reports (see comments below) that they successfully used the hack to buy a coffee with their Nexus S NFC phone in an Australian branch of Starbucks today.