NEW METHOD OF SKIMMING DEMONSTRATED
OPINION: At a conference called Schmoocon in November, a hacker named Kirsten Paget demonstrated a way to "skim" credit cards that uses wireless payment systems, while several metres away from the victim.
"Skimming" takes a copy of the credit card details, which can then be used on a dummy card to steal money from the victim's bank account. Last year, several skimming operations were being used around New Zealand, primarily using faked eftpos terminals, or cameras that record PINs while a machine over the card slot copies the card details.
Credit card wireless payment systems are known as PayWave (Visa), PayPass (Mastercard), ExpressPay (American Express) and other names. They work using the credit card's 16-digit code, its expiry date and a one-time code called a CVV, which the card generates fresh for each new wireless payment. When you wave your card over a wireless payment terminal, the money is deducted from your account without you needing to enter a PIN.
The new skimming method requires the hacker to have a portable RFID (radio frequency ID) reader, which can read the card and CVV. The hacker can copy the card details. In the demonstration, the hacker also had a card scanner called Square that slots into an iPhone, which she then used to deduct $15 from the victim.
While this sounds scary, this type of hack can only be used to authorise a single payment. They also have to be quick, because each CVV is only used once. Card manufacturers say that this type of hack has been known about theoretically since 2006, and can be prevented by the latest wireless payment systems.
Should you be worried? There have been no reported uses of this method of skimming to date, despite more than 100 million wireless payments. But it pays to be aware and have the latest type of wireless-enabled card.
MEDIA PLAYERS V SMART TVS
Over the past few years, we've seen TVs go high definition, add 3D capability and now come with "smart" functions. What is a smart TV? It's a TV that can access the internet and smart TVs usually come with apps built in that are designed for internet over your TV, such as a web browser, YouTube viewer and Skype client. You have to connect the TV to your internet modem/router, via an Ethernet cable or wirelessly, to get access to any smart components.
But you can often get those functions from a media player that plugs into your TV.
We recently tested four media players and five smart TVs to get an idea of how advanced (and how consumer-ready) the technology is, and weigh up smart TVs compared to media players.
If you already have a big-screen TV, we think buying a media player is a simpler option to get internet content and playback of any media you have on your PC or stored on USB sticks. Our pick is the Western Digital WD TV Live, which costs $189. It supports a variety of media formats, comes with regular software updates that add new smart features and apps, and it has a good remote control.
If you don't currently have a big-screen TV, and a smart TV appeals, we'd recommend the Samsung E8000 plasma TV. Prices range from $2500 for the 51-inch to $5500 for the 64-inch model. In the past we've found that some smart TVs are quite hard to find your way around, while entering text can be downright annoying. The Samsung E8000 not only has two remote controls, but also offers gesture and voice commands to maximise the ways in which you can access the content you're after.
We found hand gestures made entering passwords, usernames and web addresses much less annoying than usual, while the variety of navigation methods meant we could usually find one that was intuitive for each of the smart functions we accessed.
Zara Baxter edits New Zealand PC World and has been reviewing gadgets for more than 15 years.