Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/09/review_gadgets_netsecure_smartswipe_card_reader/

NetSecure SmartSwipe credit card reader

Because you can never be too safe on-line

By Cliff Joseph

Posted in Hardware, 9th June 2010 07:02 GMT

Review We’re constantly hearing stories about credit card fraud and identity theft on the Internet, so the Canadian company NetSecure has come up with a gadget called the SmartSwipe that aims to provide people with a little extra peace of mind when using their credit card online.

NetSecure SmartSwipe

Card sharp: NetSecure's SmartSwipe

The SmartSwipe is a small egg-shaped scanning device, with a slot for swiping your credit card through. It can scan the magnetic strip on the card and then automatically enter the card number onto a web page without you having to type the number yourself – thereby foiling malware such as keyloggers that might record the card number as you type it in.

Once you’ve installed the SmartSwipe software and downloaded the latest updates you simply plug the SmartSwipe into a USB port on your PC and get ready to go shopping. It’s PC-only though, with no support for Macs – and even on a PC it will only work when you’re shopping online with Internet Explorer. Rival browsers such as Firefox aren’t supported.

Each time you subsequently launch Internet Explorer, you’ll see the SmartSwipe ‘welcome’ screen appear, reminding you that it’s safe to start shopping. You can turn this welcome screen off if it gets annoying, but people who are still a bit nervous about shopping online might find this reminder reassuring.

NetSecure SmartSwipe

Card details protected from keylogging and criminal gaze
Click for a full-size image

You’ll also notice a new SmartSwipe button appear on the Internet Explorer toolbar. When you’re ready to make a purchase and enter your credit card details onto a web page you simply click on the SmartSwipe button and then slide the credit card through the SmartSwipe scanner.

NetSecure SmartSwipe

The credit card number and its additional three-digit security code are automatically scanned and entered onto the web page for you. These numbers are encrypted as they’re scanned and are not displayed on the web page. So, as well as bypassing keyloggers, the SmartSwipe also keeps the card number safe from prying eyes.

There is one loophole, though. You do still need to type in other details, such as your name, address and telephone number, so there’s still potential for keyloggers to get hold of some of your personal details there.

NetSecure SmartSwipe

Cards are secure, but personal information still has to be entered
Click for a full-size image

I tested the SmartSwipe by making a number of small purchases online and it did work perfectly well. The only real question is how badly you need that extra level of protection.

The main places where I tend to spend money online are the iTunes Store and Amazon, both of which keep your card details permanently on record – as many other online retailers tend to do as well – so you don’t actually need to re-type your credit card number each time you make a new purchase anyway. And, of course, there are options such as PayPal that can also be used to protect credit card numbers online.

Verdict

Tech-savvy readers of the Register may well feel that they simply don’t need a device like the SmartSwipe, especially at £70 a pop. Even so, the SmartSwipe might be worth purchasing as a gift for elderly relatives or others who don’t feel comfortable using their credit card online – if only because it provides peace of mind rather than water-tight security. Now, where did I put that credit card..? ®

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