SmartSwipe Safe Online Shopping Credit Card Reader Review

smartcable-blkPersonally, I buy most of my non-grocery items online, but there are folks out there who haven’t discovered the convenience of  Internet shopping because they fear their credit card details will be compromised.   By using the SmartSwipe reader and application, another layer of security can make the experience more secure.The Company behind the SmartSwipe solution, NetSecureTechnologies  www.smartswipe.ca , provides a hardware device and software application to encrypt your credit card data between the swipe device and the computer.  This supplements the SSL encryption that is provided by the website.  Their feature list:

  • Works on virtually any website that accepts credit card payments
  • Makes online shopping faster and easier than ever
  • Is light, portable and easy to use
  • Immune to  hackers, virus and spy-ware
  • Use at home or on the road
  • Works with Windows XP and Vista Only

When you open the package the here’s what you get.

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Included are the reader, a quick start guide, a USB extension cable and a CD with the software.

Installation of the device was simple, however, after inserting the software disk the first thing you are asked to do is download the latest version from their website.  When prompted you plug the card reader into an available USB port.  This being done, I jumped on the Amazon website to buy something and found that the SmartSwipe application rendered my Vista installation unable to access any SSL protected website.  I had to uninstall the software so that I could get back to normal operation.

I emailed the SmartSwipe people and after a day or two I was contacted by them.  I explained the problem and with the help of their software development team and fours hours of remote access to my system, it was found that there is a software bug that affects certain Vista installations.  There will be an update coming, but as of this writing it is not available.  I went ahead and installed the device on an XP configuration without a problem.

To use the device it’s simply a matter of navigating to the online store using Internet Explorer, which is the only browser supported.

Swipe0 Medium Web view

SmartSwipe will inform you that application is active when you open your browser.  This got annoying after a while, but you can turn it off.
Swipe0.1 Medium Web view

The application adds a toolbar to IE.  At first I didn’t see it, but after reading the FAQs, I found that there is an issue with IE 8 and I had to go to the tools menu and enable the SmartSwipe bar.

I proceeded to purchase an item at Bestbuy.

Swipe Medium Web view

When I got to the payment page, the above window automatically popped up.  The leds on the reader, which up until this point were all on, began to cycle to let me know that the reader was active.  So, I swiped my card.

Swipe1 Medium Web view

You are then presented with a screen asking to confirm your card details in the event it didn’t read correctly.  Of the many times I used the card reader, I never had to swipe my credit card more than once.  I clicked yes and..

swipe2 Medium Web view

the above screen popped up.  The fields for the card information have lock symbols in them indicating the data are secure.  The application has knowledge of many common online purchasing sites.  For those not in the database, it will attempt to place the items in the correct fields or you can assign your credit card data to fields in the online form.  I used the device on dozens of payment sites, from stores to utility payment sites and experienced no problems.  On occasion the application wasn’t sure which field to put the card data into, but it was simple to use the customize function to fill the correct fields.

The premise behind the SmartSwipe is that although your information is protected via SSL between your computer and the merchant site, there is the possibility of a hacker stealing your card information using a ley logger or spyware when you manually key in your card number.  To recap, their solution is something they call dynamic SSL, which encrypts the card information between the card reader and the computer.

I’ve been buying items on the Internet for over 15 years and have never had my card information compromised.  And even if I did, the card Company limits my liability for fraudulent purchases to $50.  To minimize fraudulent card use, I check my card balances daily with Quicken.  I also am a big fan of the single use Virtual Credit Card offered by several companies.  This has the added advantage allowing me to set the maximum amount that can be charged in one transaction and I can set the expiration to as short as one month, so I never get stuck with recurring charges.  Lastly, if the site accepts PayPal, that would be my choice because  there’s no chance of my card number being stolen.

So, for me the SmartSwipe doesn’t offer anything extra.  Perhaps others see the utility in this solution.  It does work as advertised and it is easy to setup and use.  It’s better than using no protection at all.

 

Product Information

Price:99.95 Canadian
Manufacturer:SmartSwipe
Requirements:
  • Windows XP, Vista, Internet Explorer, Internet connection and USB port.
Pros:
  • Easy to use
Cons:
  • Is it necessary?
Posted in: Computer Gear

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Hankk July 29, 2009, 10:56 am

    On OSX, I use 1Password. It’s a well-designed app that does exactly what this product does: prevent you from typing credit card numbers manually. (It does a lot more than that, too, such as keeping all your passwords and entering them automatically, so they can’t be grabbed by a key-logger.) It’s half the price, it does more, the software installs fine, and you don’t have to haul around your cards or a big hunk of plastic.

  • Roger July 29, 2009, 11:10 am

    I’ve checked out their whitepaper and I think this product does more than that. Keyloggers are only one kind of problem. Spyware is much worse. Any application that integrates with a web browser eventually puts in your information in plaintext, which means it can be lifted. 1Password, GuardID, or any of those applications are all vulnerable in the end. This one seems to be the only one that doesn’t expose your information to the browser.

    Of course, if you’re careful about where you shop and frequently run anti-malware, you’re probably fine regardless.

  • Bill July 29, 2009, 3:32 pm

    >Hankk and Roger

    Thank you both for your comments. The bottom line is, if you’re comfortable with the way you’re doing things now so be it. I would recomend this solution to friends or family that aren’t technically savvy.

    Bill

  • Roger July 29, 2009, 5:15 pm

    Agreed – I think this product would be great for those who aren’t savvy enough to run anti-malware (or shouldn’t because they can’t distinguish legitimate anti-malware programs from scareware). Heck, I’d consider using it myself to avoid the hassle of having to go through the dispute/chargeback process in case my card was lifted. It’s probably worth the money, but I’m notoriously cheap and it’d need to be around $50 for me to bite. :)

  • Roger July 30, 2009, 5:11 am

    Agreed – I think this product would be great for those who aren’t savvy enough to run anti-malware (or shouldn’t because they can’t distinguish legitimate anti-malware programs from scareware). Heck, I’d consider using it myself to avoid the hassle of having to go through the dispute/chargeback process in case my card was lifted. It’s probably worth the money, but I’m notoriously cheap and it’d need to be around $50 for me to bite. :)
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  • jake July 30, 2009, 6:55 am

    I’d say one big problem is that it doesn’t support Firefox. the best browser in the world!

  • steve July 30, 2009, 5:12 pm

    I agree with Jake on the Firefox comment. IE is totally worthless, and this is from a guy who overall likes microsoft! When it comes to browsing there are so many better, standards compliants browsers to use…

  • Bill Gotro December 17, 2009, 8:39 pm

    According to the SmartSwipe tech I chatted with today, the software should be enabled for FireFox by end of the year! Good news, as that’s my browser of choice!

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