Columnists

How secure are e-transactions?

CLEMENT SINYANGWE

Analysis: CLEMENT SINYANGWE
IN MY past few analyses, I have tried to discuss and encourage people to appreciate technology, especially when it comes to online and electronic services. My last discussion was on how we are moving towards a cash-light economy through technology. In today’s discussion, I am looking at another important aspect of online or electronic transaction, which is security.
Many people today in Zambia have second thoughts about transacting online or any form of electronic business. This includes basic swiping, buying and selling of goods online and other related services. But the big question is why this resistance? Does it mean little is being done on sensitising people on the benefits of taking up such transactions? Or maybe we are lacking proper infrastructure that guarantees people maximum security and protection of their hard-earned money?
A lot of people I have discussed with this issue have confessed about how insecure they are in as far as dealing with this form of business is concerned. The most common reasons I get are them not having much trust in e-transactions. Most of them say they lose money through e-transactions.
The biggest question or concern I have is, how do other countries manage to convince their citizens on the use of this kind of technology? And how do they secure such transactions?
For starters, let me try to talk about one common technology being used in Zambia today, and try to assure those colleagues who are extremely discouraged or rather afraid to use electronic cards. We have quite a number of electronic cards, though most people prefer using them just to withdraw money from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
But when you come to think of which process is safer between using a card at an ATM and walking into a shop and using the card to swipe over the counter? It is obviously the latter. We have heard of many people being mugged, abducted, attacked or even lose their money at gun point whilst using ATMs, but not inside shops.
I want to believe that it is easy for one to claim their money from a financial institution if you lose it through e-transactions by simply producing proof that you actually transacted.
And when it comes to card security, the banking sector has for the past few years been improving, and recently introduced some chip-based security technology.
Chip technology is an evolution in our payment system that has helped increase security, reduce card-present fraud and enable the use of future value-added applications.
Chip technology enabled cards are bank cards that are implanted with a micro-computer chip. When transacting using this type of card, it is not a must that you complete your transaction by entering a PIN. Some might actually require you to use your signature as a verification means to complete the transaction process.
From this, one can tell that the only way a person would steal your money is through knowing your PIN or forging your signature. Otherwise, chip technology has really proved to be secure. The most used chip technology world over is EMV chip technology, sometimes called “Chip and PIN” or “chip and signature.”
This technology was named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard and Visa). It is commonly used for credit and debit card payments. This technology features payment instruments (cards, mobile phones, etc) with implanted microprocessor chips that keep and safeguard cardholder information.
I know one might ask me how this chip and pin or signature protects their money, it is simply because these EMV-enabled devices used when transacting communicate with the chip embedded into your card to determine whether or not the card is authentic before any fund transfer is permitted.
It is at this point when the device will prompt you to sign or enter a PIN to validate your identity. This process enhances the authentication of both the card and yourself.
In information and communication technologies, we obviously say you can never completely stop fraud, but this technology reduces the possibility of businesses accepting some cloned, fake or counterfeit cards.
Always remember that e-transactions are also cheaper because there are no costs involved when one swipes unlike ATM withdrawals, which attract charges, and in some cases, you only get small Kwacha notes, as was the case with me when I got K10 notes during a transaction of K3,000 at an ATM because one did not want to be issued with a cheque or bank transfer.
Please let us save ourselves from this and go electronic.
Zambia is slowly undergoing some drastic technological improvement and I am confident that with the right information, people will appreciate it. Kudos to Government on their restless efforts in trying to link Zambia through technology and the Smart Zambia project.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail ICT specialist.

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