For years, a domineering school of thought suggested that making payments online was a much riskier way to buy things than paying for them via offline methods such as cash, cheques, postal orders, and bank transfers. However, this narrative is no longer true.

Thanks to advances in technology, digital payments, such as those made via Smartpay, are the safest they have ever been. Congruently, the rise of high-profile breaches of security at major retailers has suggested that offline payments are more vulnerable to being compromised than ever.

So, how secure is payment technology now that we are well and truly into 2024?

If you still have your doubts, read on to find out.

Why is online payment technology more secure?

The main reason why many experts suggest that online payment technology is more secure than offline is because the companies that offer these services have built their business models around robust security. After all, even if they are hacked just once, their businesses could be fatally damaged.

By contrast, many retailers do not commit to safeguarding payment security in the same way, as they see it as a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Subsequently, they often choose not to take extra precautionary measures, which can leave them susceptible to attack.

What makes online payment technology so secure?

As mentioned, making online payments is more secure than it has ever been, thanks to several technological innovations. They include the following:

Encryption

Encryption is a vital way to protect financial transactions and sensitive customer data from theft, tampering, or unauthorized access. Overall, two types of encryptions are employed, namely, a symmetric one and an asymmetric one.

The former uses the same key for locking and unlocking the data. By contrast, asymmetric encryption involves two keys – a public one that is used for locking the data and a private one which unlocks it. Typically, asymmetric encryption is the more secure of the two, mainly because the private key is not shared.

Businesses commonly use encryption protocols such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) to secure data transmission between their website or payment gateway and the browser their customers are using on their laptops, smartphones, or any other device.

By combining both symmetric and asymmetric encryption, SSL/TLS encryption is able to facilitate a secure connection that safeguards data during its transmission.

Additionally, to keep these encryption algorithms strong, most companies are embracing secure storage, regular key rotation, and other proper key management practices, along with the regular implementation of up-to-date protocols.

Tokenization

By replacing it with tokens that have no meaningful value if they are compromised, tokenisation is a game-changing development that protects sensitive payment information in a much better way than ever.

The great thing about this innovation is that it significantly lowers the chances of data breaches and unauthorized access taking place. It also ensures companies comply with industry regulations and standards.

Essentially, payment tokenisation replaces credit card numbers and other sensitive data, with tokens that are uniquely generated by a system which is military-grade secure. These tokens reference the data taken from the payment and are stored in a central token vault. They cannot be leveraged to source credit card numbers or other sensitive data or to facilitate fraudulent transactions.

Authentication

Authentication is now widely used as an additional measure of payment security to verify the identity of who is trying to make or gain access to a transaction. It can take several forms including single or two-factor authentication, which typically requires a PIN or password and a unique, one-time code which is sent to a phone or email address.

Additionally, it can include CVV (Card verification value), which is a 3- or 4-digit code that is printed on the back of a debit or credit card. When making a phone or online transaction, customers must reference this number to prove they have possession of the physical card.

Also, biometric authentication is another measure which uses a person’s distinctive physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, scanning of the eyeballs or facial features or voice recognition technology to confirm the identity of the customer.

Detection and prevention of fraudulent activities

Through the monitoring of customer behaviours, buying patterns and several other risk factors, there are no specific systems in place to identify and stop fraudulent transactions from taking place.

They include behavior analysis, risk scoring, and machine-learning algorithms specifically designed to flag anomalies.