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Credit card security on the net.

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Unit 2 Individual Project 1

Submitted by:

Robert C. St. Jean

April 3, 2004

Just a few years ago I would have never dreamed of purchasing anything online.  I was extremely leery of using my credit card and transmitting my precious 16 digit number through the internet.  Now I buy everything online.  I have purchased software, CDs, peripheral computer devices, books, Christmas gifts, and memberships for a variety of services.  I live on the computer; at work, at home, at school.  I purchased so many things online that I know my credit card number by heart.

I began to get odd looks from my fiancé when I rattled off my number to the pizza place over the phone.  I don’t even carry cash on me now that McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King are taking Credit Cards.  I do it so often that I rarely stopped to think, “how do they know its really me?”  

I made it a point to poll 20 friends and family members about their online purchases.

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Visa and MasterCard have implemented technically different but functionally similar authentication methods.  Visa introduced 3-D Secure followed by MasterCard with Secure Payment Application or SPA.  Both methods require the customer to accompany his or her credit card information with a digital pin number.  Without the pin, the credit card number itself is rendered useless.  

Visa: Three Domain Secure (3D Secure)

Visa’s 3-D or Three Domain Secure model attempts to verify the legitimacy of three echelons involved in the transaction.  They are:

  • Issuer Domain (Cardholders and Issuing Banks)
  • Acquirer Domain (Merchants and their Banks)
  • Interoperability Domain (Link between Issuer and Acquirer)

The Cardholder simply needs an internet connection and a browser to use the system.  Every effort was made to ensure that the responsibility to the card holder was minimal.  The card issuer must maintain cardholder information using hardware and software integrated with their backend card systems.  Acquirers are required to install payment gateway and 3D Secure Merchant Plug-ins.

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Visa’s view was that the end user SPA applets implemented by MasterCard lengthen the registration process and may encounter compatibility issues with older browsers and operating systems.  The folly to this logic is that most internet users with older hardware and software do not heavily participate in online purchases.  

Internet users are much more informed and proficient on the web than they were just a few years ago.  Downloading the applets happens almost instantaneously on broadband connections and shortens the transaction by automatically filling required fields from previous purchases.  The advantages far outweigh the possible disadvantages.  In the end, the MasterCard system is not only more secure, but it’s faster and more efficient.

Works Cited

Clara Centeno: Building Security and Consumer Trust in Internet Payments: The Potential of Soft Measures, April 2002


Mark E. Peters: Emerging e-Commerce, Debit and Credit Card Protocols, March 2002


Gpayments: Visa 3D Secure Vs. MasterCard Secure Payment Application: A Comparison of Online Authentication Standards, March 2002


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