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A Card Reader In Every Home? 25 March 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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As anyone who's ever used a credit card online will know, security is a big issue.

Until recently, just about the only concession to protecting your credit card information when it hits the Net has been the use of SSL encryption in the browser.

As a result of this, the use of stolen credit cards has been rife on the Net -- to the extent that many online vendors have been badly stung and now refuse to accept such orders from some parts of the world (including New Zealand).

Aardvark's Web-site Survey Service
If you're launching a new website, upgrading an existing one, or just frustrated that your web-presence isn't performing as it should then maybe you need an Aardvark Site Survey. Read more...

Most people will have noticed that the ANZ has been pushing their new ZED "smarter" card as a solution to the problem.

This card has an inbuilt processor which allows it to not only do some more clever tracking of your buying activities but also deter would-be fraudsters.

According to the ZED website, "ANZ and Verified by Visa merchants require a password to be used with your Zed Card when you shop online, thereby providing you with more protection against misuse of your card."

Wow!... that's hi-tech isn't it?

We all know how secure passwords are when in the hands of Joe public. In many cases, passwords are little more than a minor irritation to the dedicated hacker.

When a suitably cryptic password is used, people often have to write them down to remember them (usually a violation of the card's terms) -- and when a more easily remembered one is chosen it's often a birthdate, child's name, care rego or other easily guessed information.

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  • ZED Card Readers... - Sam
  • Zed card... - Mike
  • Have Your Say

    Besides which, an increasing number of online merchants are now asking people to key in the last four digits of the number printed on the signature strip of the card -- as a method of further verification. This number can only be obtained by a fraudster who has direct physical access to the card so it goes a long way towards upping the safety margin.

    So, if the ZED card is simply adding a password to the transaction it's not really such a big deal is it?

    Ah.. but wait -- there's more!

    The ANZ have decided to give away a free USB or serial-port card reader to ZED card holders.

    This little device allows your PC to electronically verify that the card is present, thus providing the vendor with a far, far greater level of safety and offering, at least in theory, the chance to all but eliminate card fraud.

    What a great idea... but...

    I wonder if the ANZ realise just how much of a support burden they're creating?

    Imagine a couple of hundred thousand computer neophytes trying to install these things on their Windows PCs -- how many support calls will that create?

    Imagine these things operating in a domestic environment where kids will likely try stuffing the SkyTV card, bits of toast and even small furry animals into the slot!

    And what's to protect you from the arrival of special ZED-specific trojans that might either read, alter or destroy the information being held in your card?

    ANZ's smart idea could just become a major nightmare and has the potential to cost them a small fortune in support overheads.

    The crazy thing is that they're pitching all this additional security as a benefit to the cardholder -- but it's not.

    When a stolen card is used to fraudulently purchase stuff on the Net it's not the card-holder who gets stung. Aside from a small amount (usually $50 or so), it's the vendor who ends up out of pocket because the card company normally indemnifies the holder against such fraud.

    ZED is a good idea and the extra security features are welcomed -- but are they being oversold and do they perhaps create an even greater risk for cardholders than currently exists?

    Have your say.

    Aardvark's Garage Sale
    It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.

    First up -- I'm selling my pulsejet manufacturing business. This would be perfect for either a semi-retired engineer/machinist who wants to earn some pretty good money building these things and exporting them to the world -- or an established engineering shop who want to break into a new (very export oriented) market. I can provide an ongoing stream of orders through my website and since I've run out of time to meet the demand, the sale will include a growing "waiting list" of new customers ready to place their orders.

    Second up -- I've still got 30,000 7am.com shares (representing about 30% of the company) that I'm looking to unload. I'm afraid I can't offer much information on the state of the company -- they haven't spoken with me for ages so it's a bit of a pig in a poke. However, they survived the most critical part of the dot-com crash and are now claiming to have nearly 250,000 websites in their ticker network so that's got to be worth something. Any sale would be subject to other shareholders exercising their preferential rights -- but all offers will be considered.

    Thirdly -- I have an RC model helicopter here that I have built but never flown. It's a Robbe Mosquito Basic with a JR X-3810 radio, JR piezo gyro, OS46FSH engine and a Dave Brown flight simulator. Everything was purchased brand-new a couple of years ago and is in pristine condition (having spent all that time in a box in the storeroom). Since I haven't had any time to fly it in the past two years I figure there's little chance I'll find time to fly it in the next two years, so out it goes.

    Anyone interested in any of these things should drop me a line.

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