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What is 3D Secure and how does it work?

The 3D Secure protocol can make cardless online payments more secure. A growing number of card providers, including Visa and Mastercard, have now adopted the protocol. In this article, we’ll explain what 3D Secure is and how it works.

What is 3D Secure and how does it work?

What is 3D Secure?

3D Secure is a protocol that allows for two-factor authentication, or 2FA, when making cardless payments. If your card provider uses 3D Secure, then you’ll be prompted to take an extra step to confirm your identity when making payments that don’t involve a physical card.

The extra step might be a special PIN that you input in the payment portal, or it could involve biometric authentication — your thumbprint, for example. The system is designed to make cardless payments dependent on some element that a criminal is unlikely to have access to, even if they’ve stolen your card details.

The name is derived from the fact that, during the secure payment process, three domains are involved — the domain making the payment, the domain receiving it, and the interoperability domain (essentially, all the systems in between).

How 3D Secure works

3D Secure works by prompting users to fulfill an extra authentication process when paying for something online. The specific step required can be different for each card provider, but will usually involve a PIN or password, or some form of biometric authentication.

For example, imagine that you are purchasing some gig tickets from an online vendor. You input your card details and click “Pay.” Without 3D Secure, your payment goes through as long as the details you’ve typed in so far are correct. That would mean that anyone who had access to your card details could potentially spend your money.

If your card is set up with 3D Secure, an additional step is required to complete the transaction. You might have to input a random number generated by your banking app (which will require authentication to open) or engage with the biometric scanners on your device. Whatever the specific system involves, it will depend on something that a bad actor would not easily be able to steal or copy.

3D Secure is set up by your card provider so in most cases there’s nothing you need to do from the consumer side to use it. As long as you’ve gone through all the required steps when acquiring your card, the authentication process will automatically trigger when you make an online payment.

Benefits of 3D Secure

The main benefit of 3D Secure for consumers is that it helps to keep their money safe. It’s a lot harder for criminals to make fraudulent payments from an account that uses 3D Secure than one without.

Businesses on the other side of the transaction also benefit from 3D Secure, thanks to something called liability shifting. This is an important feature of 3D Secure — if a fraudulent payment is made, despite the 3D Secure system, the card provider is responsible for the chargeback (returning the lost money to the card owner) rather than the vendor.

The 3D Secure protocol also minimizes cybersecurity risks for consumers, because the vendor in a transaction doesn’t get access to the authentication data. A consumer’s unique PIN or biometric data can’t be viewed or logged by the domain they’re sending money to. If the vendor suffers a data breach later, that information doesn’t leak.

In short, 3D Secure protects users from the threats of data leakage, identity theft, and financial losses, and shields vendors from costly chargebacks.

How to know if you have 3D Secure

If you research your card provider or contact them directly, you’ll be able to find out whether or not their cards come with 3D Secure enabled.

Another way to find out if you have 3D Secure is to just make an online transaction. If after inputting your card details you are directed to a page that prompts you to engage in some form of 2FA, with your card provider’s logo on the screen, you have 3D Secure.

Remember, this system is set up and run by your card provider automatically. You don’t need to take any steps to turn it on.

How important is 3D Secure technology?

3D Secure technology is now more important than ever because society is rapidly shifting towards a digital economy. Billions of dollars are being spent every year through internet payments, so protecting credit card details in the online space is essential.

Where once security concerns might have focused on stolen cash or credit card skimming, a much bigger threat now stems from stolen card data. If you want to secure your payments online and prevent stolen card information from being used to empty your accounts, using a card with 3D Secure is a great place to start.

Of course, this protocol alone can’t guarantee your card’s protection, but it works well as part of a larger security strategy.

Does 3D Secure prevent fraud?

3D Secure does help to prevent fraud, because people who steal your card or access your card details will be prevented from spending your money. That being said, it’s not the only line of defense you need.

User authentication can lower the risks of fraudulent payments, but you could still fall victim to social engineering attacks like phishing emails and smishing scams. You should use a 3D Secure card in conjunction with other online security measures, like antivirus software, password managers, and a VPN.

The 3D Secure protocol only protects your card data during the payment. A VPN, or virtual private network, keeps your data encrypted at all times, and some even provide extra malware protection.

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