OS/2 eZine

16 October 2000
Christopher B. Wright is the Editor in Chief of OS/2 eZine, a title he tried to duck for many months with little success. When he's not working on OS/2 eZine (what? he's not supposed to have any other jobs!) he works on his web comic strip, Help Desk.

If you have a comment about the content of this article, please feel free to vent in the OS/2 eZine discussion forums.

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Wright's View

The Dangers of e-Commerce

I don't want anyone to think that I'm afraid of technology, or that I think it's evil, or anything like that. In fact, my view is quite the opposite: technology is good. The Internet is a good thing, a fun thing. However, it's important to keep in mind that technology is a double edged sword, and that it can be used to harm as well as to help and entertain.

That's why I want everyone to take this article as a warning, but also as a sign that things aren't necessarily as bad as people think.

I recently received a call from my bank about my credit card. It appears that someone managed to get ahold of my credit card number and a lot of personal information, and mangaed to make more than a few charges to a few web sites -- an... ahem... "adult" site, an e-commerce site, and a staggeringly high sum to what appeared to MCI's WorldCom site (I'm not sure what for).

The staggeringly high sum ($4200 US) is what clued my bank into the problem. They called me, rejected the charge, and cancelled my credit card account. The e-commerce site had already flagged the charge on their site, and contacted my bank about that. As for the adult site, it managed to sneak through undetected, so some cracker or script kiddie is now enjoying what I assume is a month of service at some porn site at my expense.

All it all, it could have been much, much worse.

The thing that really bugs me is that while this bastard no longer has access to that credit card, this bastard still has my name and address. It's a little frightening, but I have to say that I'm impressed that my bank and the e-commerce site were so on the ball about this.

As OS/2 users, we practically depend on the internet to ensure that we can get the software we need. This means we all probably use credit cards, and in the process we run the risk of our credit cards being picked up by people who like to make purchases at our expense. OS/2 users: be careful out there. OS/2 vendors: make sure you're using and storing our information securely.

Mind you, I'm not saying they got my information from an OS/2 site. It's equally likely, probably even more likely, that the information was picked up from a larger, more well-known site. But the more we rely on e-commerce, the more we need to make sure that we use it safely. Customers depend on the vigilance of vendors to keep their data safe. The business model won't work unless customers feel like they can trust the people they're dealing with.

At any rate, that was an adventure. Have any of you ever experienced this? I'd sure like to know...

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