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Google re-enables pre-paid card re-provisioning in Google Wallet, with password-based security

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Google has changed Google Wallet to allow users to set up their existing pre-paid cards directly on the phone without calling into Google.

Google Wallet keys security
Google Wallet keys security

Ever since initial reports about security holes in Google Wallet bloomed into a full-scale problem that gave potential thieves access to pre-paid cards, Google has been scrambling to patch up security holes and ensure users that its mobile payment solution is still more secure than your average credit card. The largest hole involved a simple process of clearing app data and re-initializing the app in order to gain access to a pre-existing pre-paid card. Google first locked down access to new or re-provisioned cards immediately. After a few days, the company opened up the creation of new pre-paid cards while requiring users to call into to Google to re-provision existing cards.

Now three weeks have passed, and the company has gone a step further by allowing users to set up their existing pre-paid cards directly on the phone without calling into Google. In order to make it secure, the Google Wallet app now requires users to re-enter their Google account password on the first launch. We tested the change and, yes, you are made to re-enter your Google account password — but it's a bit of a hack as the dialog only says that "You entered the wrong password or your account has changed." Neither, technically, was the case, but the fact that this is the message we're seeing instead of something that actually describes what's going on (namely, that it's using this password to help verify your identity and protect your money) makes us wonder just how hacked-together this new solution is.

Confusing messages aside, it is a workable way to re-enable re-provisioning without having to speak to a human. Google tells us that this solution will only work if you are re-initializing Google Wallet on the same phone — setting up your same credentials and cards on a new phone will still require a call in to Google to get everything squared away.