Smartcard home banking may be on way
© 1999 ZDNet UK
French company ActiveCard is supplying home-banking
hardware to French banks, and UK talks are underway
British Internet users may soon be turning their computers into highly secure
online banking consoles, according to smartcard manufacturer ActiveCard, which
has just sealed a deal to supply French banks with its smartcard technology.
ActiveCard, itself a French company, has agreed to supply French banking
consortium Cyber-COMM with technology that will allow bank users to plug portable
card readers into any personal computer in order to access their bank accounts
via the Internet and verify online transactions more securely.
ActiveCard technology enables a smartcard to generate its own encrypted password
via a tiny CPU residing within the card's onboard chip. The consoles will
work with existing Visa and MasterCard compliant chip-based banking cards.
According to Fredric Engels, marketing director of ActiveCard, British consumers
could soon be enjoying similar luxuries. "We are in talks with British
banks although I can't reveal the details," he says. "The general
manager of Cyber-COMM is also head of FinRead [a pan European body that researches
the use of financial technology] so hopefully ActiveCard technology will become
a European standard."
Engels also promises that European consumers will soon see dramatic developments
in the area of mobile banking adding, "GSM [Global System for Mobile
Communications] is the next step in this area. ActiveCard technology can already
be used with GSM technology and WAP [Wireless Application Protocol] is also
becoming a very interesting area."
Smart Card specialist with computer security software firm Entegrity Solutions
Andy Clark highlights just how much more secure a smartcard is than a good
old-fashioned password. "If a smart card is implemented properly and
the cryptographic generator on the card itself, then it is considered much
more secure than an encrypted password. On a basic level it is much easier
to subvert a piece of software on your computer that generates an encrypted
message than to manufacture a card that does the same thing."
A spokesperson for the Association for Payment of Credit Services (ASPC)
in Britain says that the introduction of portable bankcard readers for personal
computers would certainly be a step in the right direction as far as British
banking is concerned. "This would certainly
provide peace of mind for users and for retailers. We have been saying for
a long time that we are in favour of technology that makes it easier to verify
that you and your credit card are where you're supposed to be."
D K Matai, director of London based computer security firm mi2g, says
that even though smart cards may significantly enhance the security of online
banking and transactions, the future of this sort area of e-commerce is likely
to be biometrics. "The moment you bring in a
physical authentication tool security is significantly increased,"
"We think biometric [technologies] will be
much more secure and are the future, but in the short term smartcards may
help increase confidence and benefit e-commerce."