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Google: Wallet safer than cards, but don't root your phone

Google has gone on the defensive with its Wallet payments system, claiming it's safer than cards. Just don't root your phone.

Google Wallet is safer than using a credit card, Google claims. But with one quite major proviso: that you don't root your phone.

The big G is on the defensive after its wireless payments system (which isn't available in the UK yet, but is rumoured to launch before this summer's Olympics) was was hacked this week.

A team of developers at security site zvelo showed how the PIN verification system could easily be overridden on rooted Android phones. Things got worse for Google, as another report claimed thieves could access your Wallet credit by stealing your phone, clearing the data and reinstalling the app.

Now a post on the Google Commerce blog claims Wallet is safer than paying with plastic. "Google Wallet offers advantages over the plastic cards and folded wallets in use today," reads the post, by Osama Bedier, vice president, Google Wallet and Payments.

It strongly discourages tinkering with your device, as Wallet is not supported on rooted phones. "That's why in most cases, rooting your phone will cause your Google Wallet data to be automatically wiped from the device."

On the unauthorised use of prepaid cards from a stolen phone, Google said it has temporarily disabled provisioning of prepaid cards. This is apparently a precaution until it issues a permanent fix "soon." A free-phone number is provided if you need to call for help.

"Mobile payments are going to become more common in the coming years," it concludes, "and we will learn much more as we continue to develop Google Wallet. In the meantime, you can be confident that the digital wallet you carry provides defenses that plastic and leather simply don't."

Google Wallet launched in the US in May last year. The search giant is in talks with UK companies to carry out NFC (Near Field Communications) trials to the UK early this year, hinting it could launch this summer.

Are mobile payments the way forward? Or are you worried for your security? Let us know in the comments, or over on Facebook.