On May 8, 2009, at 3:39 PM, Ian G wrote:
The difficulty with client certs is that I need them to also work on my
laptop. And my other laptop. And my phone.

So, how do I get hold of them when I'm on the road?

Good point. The difficulty with my passwords is that I have so many that are so long that I can only manage them on my laptop, and have to carry my laptop with me ...

We can imagine all sorts of techie solutions to this, but it does appear that we are in a bit of a grey zone with auth at the moment, and the full solution might take a while to emerge. Try them all?
This is part of a broader UI issue.

I had a discussion with a guy at a company that was proposing to create secure credit cards by embedding a chip in the card and replacing some number of digits with an LCD display. The card would generate a unique card number for you when needed. They actually had the technology working - the card was pretty much indistinguishable from any other. (Of course, how rugged it would be in typical environments is another question - but they claimed they had a solution.)

I pointed out that my wife knows one of her CC numbers by heart. The regularly quotes it, both on phone calls and to web forms. The card itself is buried in a thick wallet, which is buried in her pocketbook, which is somewhere in the house - likely not near the phone or the computer.

Hell, one of the nice things about on-line shopping is that I can do it in my bathrobe - except that I *don't* know my CC by heart, so in fact I tend to put off buying until later when I have my wallet with me. (This does save me money....)

When I'm in a store, I'm used to having to have my CC with me, because I always had to have the wallet with money anyway. At home, it's a whole different story. In any case, merchants are trying to make the in-store experience as simple as possible, pushing for things like RFID credit cards and even fingerprint recognition.

So many people would see these "safer" cards as a big step backwards in usability. Why would they want such a thing? The card companies are trying to sell "safety", but in the US, where your liability is at most $50 if your CC number is stolen (and where in practice it's $0), the only cost you as an individual bear is the inconvenience of replacing a card. Because replacements for security problems have gotten so common, the CC companies have streamlined the process. It's really no big deal. I've had CC numbers stolen a couple of times (by means unknown); recently, two of my CC's were replaced by the companies based on some information known only to them. In every case, the process was very quick and painless. Hell, these days even on-line continuing charges often update to the new number automatically (though I've learned to keep track of those and check).

The person arguing for this claimed that CC companies could offer a discount for users of the "secure" cards. But if you look at actual loss rates - how much could you offer? (I'd guess it's about the same as Discover offers: About a 1.5% rebate on most purchases. Not enough to let Discover steal customers from Visa and MC. Given all the other charges - and the absurdly high interest rates - on cards, anything like this gets lost in the noise.)

Security that depends on people changing their habits in a way that is inconvenient to them ... won't happen (unless you're in an environment where you can *force* such changes).
                                                        -- Jerry

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