UPDATED 10:29 EST / OCTOBER 16 2013

Square Cash Raises Security Questions : Too Simple for the Masses?

Ever looking to simplify the mobile payments arena, Square launched a new feature today allowing users to send money with little more than an email address.  Called Square Cash, the update is targeted at debit card holders in the US, now able to send money using any email service.  While simplicity is at the heart of Square Cash, such easiness raises a slew of security concerns already plaguing the mobile payments industry.  For all its forward-thinking, Square tends to push for a revolution that sometimes requires patience as the rest of us play catch up.

How Square Cash works


Here’s how Square Cash works.  Simply compose an email to the payee, type the amount you want to pay in the subject title, and cc cash@square.com.  First time users are directed to Square’s website to provide debit card information, which is saved for future payment emails.  The service comes with an iOS and Android app, both of which act as “shortcuts” to composing emails for sending money.

Removing the friction of creating a new account, downloading an app or shuffling money between holding accounts, Square Cash very well may be the easiest way to send money.  Taking on PayPal, Venmo, PopMoney and countless others in the mobile payments space, Square Cash requires only one step – compose an email.

Too simple for the masses?


But is that one step too much of a shortcut for the mobile payments industry, still building credibility in the world of online banking?  Unlike many of Square’s other products like Wallet and Register, Cash is making its appeal directly to the consumer, who may not be the most trusting with such a simplistic format for sending money.

“At first glance, you might assume that an SMTP-spoofing program could convince Square that you’re sending money from an email address that isn’t yours,” writes The Verge columnist  Ellis Hamburger, imagining one security-breaching scenario, going on to provide Square’s reply:

“When we built the product we were all thinking of the same thing,” says Square product manager Brian Grassadonia, “but the product is 100 percent secure. Nobody is going to get taken advantage of via spoofing.”

Both buyers & sellers need choices


According to a study published by IE Market Research earlier this year, the mobile payments industry is expected to exceed $998 billion by 2016.  And providing a clear avenue of secure payments, mobile or otherwise, is a burden that rests on Square in its newest consumer push.  But as one of the platforms seeking the most convenient routes between businesses, consumers and every combination therein, Square is maintaining a leadership position in a market that will demand choices on all fronts.

Braintree CEO Bill Ready expects mobile devices to be the primary computing device in the near future, mainly for e-commerce, reiterating the importance of mobile for merchants.  Businesses will need a mobile strategy for their services, especially payments.

“Payment providers will be chosen by both merchants and consumers,” Ready said in a recent interview with theCUBE (full video below).  “The providers that deliver the easiest connection between the two will be the ones to prosper.”

Ready also believes that mobile payments can be more secure than web payments, as an individual’s handset can be used for verification.  The reason for this is linked to the amount of information that a mobile device can tell about its user. The sensitive information associated with a mobile transaction can be stored in a secure location, with the mobile device being used to identify the consumer. The mobile device can be used for 2-way communication, so if verification of the user’s identity is needed, it can be instantly done.

See Ready’s entire commentary below:


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