​Can ScramCard make payment security sexy? This ex-bank CSO thinks so

A brand name built on trust and a network of well-known partners will spearhead a push by payments-card innovator ScramCard to offer security-based competition early in 2016, and the company's Australian founder says it's ready to ramp up manufacturing if demand takes off as anticipated.

The brainchild of former Westpac Bank and ANZ Bank CSO Simon Hewitt, ScramCard is a programmable payment card that can be linked to a range of third-party payment accounts and features a 10-digit user interface and small screen on the back. Its use of one-time passwords is designed to improve payment security, particularly for online shopping, and its design has been intentionally bundled into a card that is both familiar and innovative for consumers.

Both factors will play a role in helping ScramCard win loyal customers, Hewitt told CSO Australia, with security piggybacking on the usability and style of the device.

"It has multiple modalities to solve various problems," he explained. "It does what it says in terms of mitigating the threat, but the more important thing is that it puts something into the hands of the consumer that they're prepared to use. As any security strategist knows, that's half the battle."

Early feedback has been strongly positive not only from partners – with whom Hewitt originally envisaged launching branded ScramCards as consumer products – but also from banks, which he said have also recognised the value of a more consumer-friendly, high-assurance card solution that would particularly be relevant in an era of surging mobile-transaction security issues.

Recent consumer surveys suggest that those issues have been impacting consumer security: a recent Kaspersky Labs survey found that just 23 percent of consumers feel safe using their mobile devices for Web browsing, with fears over security widespread and concerns about mobile malware continuing to grow as Android in particular is exposed as a target for malware.

"We avoid the mobile as a strategy," Hewitt said. "From a platform perspective, anything that's networked or connected really isn't going to be secure. There will be potential issues with respect to malware. The intent around the card was to embed the technology with something that can never be connected."

Businesses face a risk from poor consumer mobile-security habits, with one recent survey finding that 58 percent of mobiles were not secured with software to force users to use strong passwords. Crossover between business and personal apps had created new concerns as online-shopping apps potentially Hoover up personal information that may potentially be business confidential.

As well as giving users something with a bit of technological cachet, Hewitt said the ScramCard will address security issues and support better information for analytics-based loyalty programs. And, if it takes off as he hopes it does, Hewitt says the company is ready to keep up with surging demand, with manufacturing capacity of around 20 million cards per year by the time it launches in early 2016. That kind of volume would, he said, help the company keep prices down and make the card cost-competitive for issuers compared with conventional contactless cards.

"We're looking to solve this problem in a product that the consumer would desire," Hewitt said. "A lot of other solutions are based on absolute convenience, and in so doing they increase the risk profile. We are specifically coming at it from the point of view of security."


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