New tool makes online shopping safer

August 26, 2009 7:15:57 PM PDT
Millions of us shop online. But do you ever feel that moment of anxiety when you type in your credit card information and send it off into cyberspace? A new product aims to give you a little reassurance.

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This is a cool looking device and even kind of fun to use. But what it's really supposed to do is protect you from hackers who are out to get your personal information. so we decided to see if it really works.

Buying with a credit card is simple at the store -- you just swipe and go. But shopping on your home computer is not so simple. You are typing in all the numbers and hoping you did it right.

"You swipe your card at the bank, you swipe your card at the store those are all secure so how come nobody's come up with a swipe device for the home computer?" said Daniel McCann.

McCann of Net Secure in Canada came up with a little gadget called SmartSwipe. You plug it into your computer, go shop online and at the checkout, it will let you swipe instead of type.

But SmartSwipe's main purpose isn't to let you whip your card through a slot.

It's to protect your credit card information from hackers and cyber-spies. How? When you swipe, it instantly scrambles your credit card information even before it hits your computer.

"So that means the information never really exists inside your computer so hackers and spyware and people like that who can get into your computer can never see it," said

After you swipe, your information pops up with a bunch of XXXs.

At checkout, the credit card box says protected. Your actual credit card number is revealed only after it reaches the merchant. So is this a good idea? 7 On Your Side asked C-Net technology expert Molly Wood.

"It's definitely the most secure thing to do but it's kind of the equivalent of installing the highest most top of the line security system in your house. Most people don't need it," said Wood.

She says this will protect you if malicious software has invaded your home computer and is logging your keystrokes, but she says that's rare. In most cases, credit card numbers are stolen from huge databases controlled by banks and retailers.

SmartSwipe won't help you there.

"What you really have to worry about its the security of people storing your credit card information and not so much the process of you typing in that number," said Wood.

Wood says it's more important to make sure you don't have spyware lurking in your home computer in the first place. But SmartSwipe does add a layer of protection just in case.

"It's definitely like getting a guard dog and a really great camera system and perimeter alarms at your house. That kind of person will love this device," said Wood.

One side benefit of SmartSwipe? It makes it quick and easy to buy stuff online.

Wood says that could be a good thing, or a bad thing.

"It's pretty dangerous actually. This thing would make it completely impulse buying on the Internet all the time and that's nothing but trouble -- at least for me," said Wood.

SmartSwipe costs about $90 and it's just coming on the market in the United States. You may find it at retail stores in the near future but for now you can only buy it online.

Related links:

  • SmartSwipe
  • Hammacher Schlemmer
  • SmartSwipe on Amazon.com

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