Apple Pay lands on the web

By Michael Lloyd

Shopping online just got quicker and safer for Apple Mac owners. The release of the company's macOS Sierra desktop operating system, along with updates in iOS 10, gives Apple users the ability to swiftly and securely authenticate payments in the firm's Safari browser using Apple Pay.

Analysts have suggested that adding Apple Pay functionality to Safari could help the company's mobile payment platform -- which has been slow to take off -- gain popularity, allowing it to compete with established online payment processors such as PayPal. The new Safari functionality should also cut checkout times substantially for those who are able to use the technology.

Here's what you need to know about Apple Pay on the web: apple-pay-desktop

How it works
To use Apple Pay for a purchase via Safari on your MacBook or Mac desktop computer, shop on sites that offer Apple Pay. The Apple Pay button will appear automatically if the retailer offers it.

At checkout, select Apple Pay as your method of payment, then complete your purchase using your iPhone's Touch ID or by double-clicking the side button on your Apple Watch. No more entering all your personal details and credit or debit card numbers when placing an order.

Apple Pay on the Safari browser is even simpler to set up and use than it is for in-store purchases. You don't have to tap your phone to an NFC terminal, or worry whether the store is equipped to accept Apple Pay.

"Apple Pay will be integrated in Apple's Safari browser, where the browser will detect if a web store supports the Apple Pay function," Filip Chytry, threat intelligence manager at internet security firm Avast, said in response to emailed questions.

However, you will need to make sure that both your computer and your Apple Pay device are synced to the same iCloud account, and that both are connected via Bluetooth.

"In order to use Apple Pay for Mac, you need to have an iPhone 6 or later that is running on iOS 10, or an authenticated Apple Watch," Chytry said.

More secure than entering your card details
Not having to enter credit card information makes shopping a lot quicker, but experts say more importantly, it makes shopping more secure.

First, since your credit card information is never actually sent to retailers when using Apple Pay, you're  also shielded from any major store data breaches. 

Second, because you never enter your card details, a potential thief would have to hack your Apple Pay account to get your payment information.

"Two-factor authentication is a big step forward and makes Apple Pay via Mac much more secure than paying with a credit card, for example," Chytry said.

The web version of Apple Pay will use tokenisation, just as the in-store version does. Tokenisation means that a single-use "token" is created (a one-time, unique number) each time you make a payment. That token is what is sent -- not your card number -- to the retailer.

"Apple does not actually have users' full credit card information. They only have part of the number and the authorisation token that banks need," Chytry said. "Banks have the most information and evaluate the authorisation token from Apple's Cloud to confirm the validity of the payment."

The retailer's website is the most vulnerable, Chytry said, because if the web shop is not secured properly, a hacker could tap into the payment information and re-direct the payment.

"That being said, this version of Apple Pay is a step ahead of other payment systems in terms of security. And sites that want to use Apple Pay are required to use HTTPS and must verify their domains each time Apple Pay is offered as a payment method," he said.

Which sites offer Apple Pay on Safari?
Apple has yet to publish a list of UK firms that plan to offer Apple Pay for Safari, but at its World Wide Developers Conference in June 2016, Apple announced that companies such as Burberry and British Airways were among the 200,000 firms it expects to roll out Apple Pay on their websites in autumn 2016.

Adding a new use for mobile wallets that makes online purchases safer and faster could help UK consumers begin to view them more favourably, analysts say. Apple Pay on websites also raises the stakes other online payment processors that don't offer an in-store payment option.

See related: What's holding back mobile payments, 'Internet of Things' expands payment options

Published: 4 October 2016