Archive for the ‘SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY’ Category

CREDIT CARD NEW TECHNOLOGY BRINGS WITH IT A SET OF PROBLEMS

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Millions of Americans are getting new credit and debit cards with more secure chip technology, and that’s already leading to headaches for companies that rely on working cards to charge their customers every month.

Video and music streaming companies, dating websites, gyms and other subscription-based companies can take a hit when customers don’t update their accounts after receiving a new card. It’s always been a hassle, but with millions of cards carrying the new being mailed out all at once it’s creating bigger problems.

Netflix this week said large numbers of cards that weren’t updated were partly to blame for slower subscriber growth in their most recent quarter.

The video steaming site said Wednesday that an unusual number of accounts were cancelled during the three months that ended in September. Netflix Inc., which has 69 million members around the world, expects the issue to continue into the next quarter as more new chip cards roll out.

With subscription services gaining in popularity, where customers have funds automatically withdrawn from checking accounts every month for a service, it has become increasingly noticeable when people don’t update the cards that they use for those services, or are unaware that they need to.

Often, the number on the card is still the same, but the expiration date has changed, said Matt Schulz, a senior analyst at credit card comparison site CreditCards.com. Typically, payments won’t go through if the expiration date is different.

Recurly, a San Francisco company that manages bill payments for more than 1,900 subscription businesses, said it has seen a slight increase in card declines. Recurly uses a service for its clients that automatically updates when new card numbers are issued, so the customer doesn’t have to do it themselves, said CEO Dan Burkhart, though not every bank participates in the service. Burkhart said subscription companies will face some “turbulence” as customers get new cards, but those issues typically resolve within a few months.

The problem has hurt Netflix before.

A year ago, the Los Gatos, California, company said a number of customer’s accounts were put on hold due to The Home Depot data breach, which forced many customers who shopped at the home improvements store to get new credit cards.

Similarly, IAC/InterActiveCorp, a New York company which owns dating websites such as Match.com and OkCupid, said last year that credit that were not updated after major security breaches at Target and Home Depot cost it about $5 million in earnings for the year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

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Henry Sapiecha

Fraud-proof credit cards now possible with quantum physics

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2014–Credit card fraud and identify theft are serious problems for consumers and industries. Though corporations and individuals work to improve safeguards, it has become increasingly difficult to protect financial data and personal information from criminal activity. Fortunately, new insights into quantum physics may soon offer a solution.

As reported in The Optical Society’s (OSA) new high-impact journal Optica, a team of researchers from the Netherlands has harnessed the power of quantum mechanics to create a fraud-proof method for authenticating a physical “key” that is virtually impossible to thwart.

This innovative security measure, known as Quantum-Secure Authentication, can confirm the identity of any person or object, including debit and credit cards, even if essential information (like the complete structure of the card) has been stolen. It uses the unique quantum properties of light to create a secure question-and-answer (Q&A) exchange that cannot be “spoofed” or copied.

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A team of researchers from the Netherlands has harnessed the power of quantum mechanics to create a fraud-proof method for authenticating a physical ‘key’ that is virtually impossible to thwart. Credit: The Optical Society (OSA) and MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, Complex Photonic Systems Department of the University of Twente

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The “Question-and-Answer” Security Game

Traditional magnetic-stripe-only cards are relatively simple to use but also simple to copy. Recently, banks have begun issuing so-called “smart cards” that include a microprocessor chip to authenticate, identify and enhance security. But regardless of how complex the code or how many layers of security, the problem remains that an attacker who obtains the information stored inside the card can copy or emulate it.

The new approach outlined in this paper avoids this risk entirely by using the peculiar quantum properties of photons that allow them to be in multiple locations at the same time to convey the authentication questions and answers. Though difficult to reconcile with our everyday experiences, this strange property of light can create a fraud-proof Q&A exchange, like those used to authorize credit card transactions.

“Single photons of light have very special properties that seem to defy normal behavior,” said Pepijn Pinkse, a researcher from the University of Twente and lead author on the paper. “When properly harnessed, they can encode information in such a way that prevents attackers from determining what the information is.”

The process works by transmitting a small, specific number of photons onto a specially prepared surface on a credit card and then observing the tell-tale pattern they make. Since — in the quantum world — a single photon can exist in multiple locations, it becomes possible to create a complex pattern with a few photons, or even just one.

Due to the quantum properties of light, any attempt by a hacker to observe the Q&A exchange would, as physicists say, collapse the quantum nature of the light and destroy the information being transmitted. This makes Quantum-Secure Authentication unbreakable regardless of any future developments in technology.

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Making Cards Quantum Secure

To provide security in the real world, a credit card — for example — would be equipped with a paper-thin section of white paint containing millions of nanoparticles. Using a laser, individual photons of light are projected into the paint where they bounce around the nanoparticles like metal balls in a pinball machine until they escape back to the surface, creating the pattern used to authenticate the card.

If “normal” light is projected onto the area, an attacker could measure the entering pattern and return the correct response pattern. A bank would therefore not be able to see a difference between the real card and the counterfeit signal projected by the attacker.

However, if a bank sends a pattern of single “quantum” photons into the paint, the reflected pattern would appear to have more information – or points of light – than the number of photons projected. An attacker attempting to intercept the “question” would destroy the quantum properties of the light and capture only a fraction of the information needed to authenticate the transaction.

“It would be like dropping 10 bowling balls onto the ground and creating 200 separate impacts,” said Pinkse. “It’s impossible to know precisely what information was sent (what pattern was created on the floor) just by collecting the 10 bowling balls. If you tried to observe them falling, it would disrupt the entire system.”

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Quantum, But Not Difficult

According to Pinkse, this unique way of providing security is suitable for protecting government buildings, bank cards, credit cards, identification cards, and even cars. “The best thing about our method is that secrets aren’t necessary. So they can’t be filched either,” he said.

Quantum-Secure Authentication could be employed in numerous situations relatively easily, since it uses simple and cheap technology — such as lasers and projectors — that is already available.

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Henry Sapiecha