New Year's Resolutions for choosing online retailers

With CardSpace and Higgins being in nascant and almost non-existent market adoption mode, you may wonder what authentication features you want to be looking for when shopping online. Usernames and passwords are a thing of the past: you can safely assume that you will use a computer to log in which has a keylogger or trojan capturing your keystrokes, and with it your username and password.

Savvy customers are increasingly turning towards online retailers and financial institutions which provide at least some form of multi-factor authentication to protect against password theft. The following list gives a compass to consumers and vendors to navigate the misty waters of online transactions.

Smart cards / USB tokens (very costly, high level of security, great user inconvenience)

Hardware based solution that contains applications, PKI certificates used to authenticate to a site. These cards can include a magstripe for physical access management and RFID proximity sensors.

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Cyber espionage – something to worry about?

McAfee released their “Virtual Criminology Report” earlier this year and warned that  there is a growing threat to national security, as cyber espionage becomes increasingly sophisticated, moving from simple network probes to well-funded, well-organized, and possibly government backed operations. The intent is not only financial gain, but also political or competitive gain.

Some other interesting news items have appeared in the recent past.

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Misconceptions about outsourcing security

As I talk to CISOs and CIOs I find that there are many misconceptions about outsourcing security. Here are the most common ones that I come across:

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Do you trust the merchants to protect your credit cards?

On 4 October 2007,  The National Retail Federation (NRF) Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President, David Hogan wrote a letter to the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Standards Council requesting that the card industry to stop requiring merchants to store complete card numbers. Currently, some merchants are required to keep credit card numbers for up to 18 months to satisfy card retrieval and dispute requests. The letter said, “"Instead of making the industry jump through hoops to create an impenetrable fortress, retailers want to eliminate the incentive for hackers to break into their systems in the first place." NRF proposes that credit card companies and their banks should provide merchants with the option of keeping nothing more than the authorization code provided at the time of sale and a truncated receipt, rather than requiring merchants to keep the data for an extended amount of time.

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