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HOUSTON When you re in the checkout line of the future, it may be more common for you to reach for your smartphone instead of your wallet or a credit card. This technology, however, is already the cause for some security concerns.

It s called Near Field Communication, or NFC. NFC is a little chip inside your phone or tablet that allows you to bump it against another electronic device to exchange small bits of information. It might be your contact information, a photo, or you might be in the checkout line paying for your groceries.

Many Android-based and Nokia smartphones are already equipped with this small chip. In most cases, it s turned on by default, even if you don t plan on using it.

Here s the issue: at a recent security conference a researcher and hacker named Charlie Miller was able to hijack popular phones that feature the NFC chip. This means some smartphones can easily be taken over by a hacker, who can then steal your personal data or point your phone to a website to carry out malicious activity. All they need to do is brush up against your pocket or get near your device in a way that is very similar to credit card skimming.

Right now, use of the NFC chip isn t as common in the United States as it is in some countries, but it s catching on. Google is making big investments to make this the future of how you pay for things in hopes that it will replace your credit card and cash.

Phone makers have acknowledged the security flaw brought to light last week and say they are working to fix it.

In the meantime, do some research to find out if your phone contains the NFC chip. If it does, go into your settings and disable it, especially if you don't plan on using it.

Here are some of the popular phones that have this chip: BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve, Samgsung Nexus S, Google Galaxy Nexus and Nokia N9. View more at http://www.nfcworld.com/nfc-phones-list/ .

While it s not likely that someone would target your phone, it s always a good thing to know what the risks are with new technologies.

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