The new feature of Facebook’s Messenger app allowing people to transfer money by a single tap of a button is likely to make the social network climb up the cyber-criminals' priority list, researchers have agreed.
Facebook announced the new functionality in a blogpost yesterday, saying it would provide a ‘more convenient and secure way to send or receive money between friends’. The feature will be rolled out to the US market over the coming months with other countries to follow soon after.
The functionality will allow Facebook to gather debit and credit card details of the users, which, analysts have suggested, would simplify its further steps if it decides to move into e-commerce. Facebook may also hope the functionality could make users spend more time on the site.
So far, Facebook has mostly been a communication platform and a vanity site. However, including banking details into the portfolio of data entrusted to the network will increase concerns about the platform’s security.
“This payment system is exciting and useful to everyone, including criminals,” said TK Keanini, CTO at US cyber-security firm Lancope. “Some people treat Facebook as a play account and don't take security seriously, approving friend requests from complete strangers, accepting game invites from anyone; these accounts will be more of a problem now that you can send and receive payments.”
Tim Erlin of software company Tripwire said that while Facebook is far from being the first to enter the mobile payments field, the firm’s size will most likely make it an attractive target for hackers.
“It’s not hard to imagine how this feature might expand from peer-to-peer transfers to compete with the likes of Apple and Google for payments to more traditional vendors,” Erlin said.
“The Facebook platform, including the mobile app, is already a big target for attackers, but adding a financial component to Messenger puts it in a different category. There’s simply no doubt that cyber-criminals will immediately begin looking for ways to use this new feature to get into your wallet.”
Facebook’s rivals including Snapchat and WeChat already offer a payment functionality.
Last year, Facebook hired the former head of PayPal, prompting speculation that it was readying a move into e-commerce.
Facebook’s payment service won’t charge users for transfers, unlike Apple Pay and Google Wallet. The service will only be accessible online.