The Internet is a scary place, when you open your browser you can [if you are not careful] expose yourself to numerous viruses and malware applications in a very short span of time. But even if you are careful there are dangers. As we buy more and more items from online retailers we increase our exposure to theft. This is not just identity theft but actual theft. Every time you enter your credit or debit card into an online checkout or bill pay page you are at risk of having those important numbers skimmed right off the top of those pages.  Of course malware protection and other safety applications can limit your exposure as well. One of these is called SMARTSWIPE. This is a device that can read the information off of your credit and debit cards and enter it into an online retailer?s [or bill pay site] securely and without you needing to manually type it in. So let?s take a look at the SMARTSWIPE from NetSecure Technologies and see how it holds up.

Package -
The box the SMARTSWIPE comes in is small. It is not much bigger than the average box for an phone case. It is also interestingly non-descript. I was surprised that they chose to place the words ?Safe Online Shopping? in bold letters that even seem to obscure the name of the product.

However, once you do pick the box up [maybe to chuckle at it] you will notice there is a flap on the front. Opening this flap gives you a better idea of the product you are getting.  Unfortunately other than the glimpse of the actual SMARTSWIPE, all you really get is ?the HardSell?

The back of the box actually has the most information about the product and explains what you would want to buy the SMARTSWIPE for.

Once you pull the SMARTSWIPE out of the box you will notice that there is no CD-ROM or anything else that would have drivers or software on them. All you get is the SMARTSWIPE and a small booklet.

The SMARTSWIPE  -
The SMARTSWIPE card reader is a small device with a rather long USB cord on it. It looks a little like a flying saucer.

It is actually two parts. The first is the egg shaped reader and the 2nd is a conical stand.

The egg portion contains the magnetic reader and the other hardware that transfers the digital information off of your card and through the software to the web page you are using.

The lights along the opening indicate that the SMARTSWIPE is ready for use and when it is ready for you to swipe your card these will blink in the direction you need to swipe.

Installation and Setup
Now, remember how we told you that there was no installation CD-ROM? Well that is actually a benefit for you as a consumer. When the majority of people buy something they use the disk that comes in the box without thought of seeing if there is a newer and/or more secure version of that same software.

The SMARTSWIPE requires that you download the latest version of the drivers and software before you can use it.

You have options for both 32 and 64-bit installers. However, even if you install the 64-bit version you will need to use the 32-bit version of the browser you use.  More than likely this is a simple plug-in issue and is something that will probably be corrected in future versions.

After you get the software down the installation is quick and straight forward. You will need to restart after the install to begin using the SMARTSWIPE.

After your system restarts you will get some additional direction on using your SMARTSWIPE.

As soon as you open Internet Explorer [or other browser] you will be shown how use your SMARTSWIPE. And once you close this window out you will have to continue through a short configuration test to make sure your device is working properly.

 
Confirming the SMARTSWIPE Works
Click to Enlarge – Opens New Window

After this you are all set to start using your SMARTSWIPE.

Performance and Use
Testing the performance of a device like the SMARTSWIPE is always going to be more about ease of use and simplicity. To show this we chose a commonly used online retail site Newegg.com and ran through a purchase.

The first thing we noted when we went o checkout was a warning reminding us not to type in our card information but to use the SMARTSWIPE.

Once you click on the SMARTSWIPE icon on the toolbar you are asked to swipe your card. The software can even convey to you which cards the website you are using accepts. The SMARTSWIPE encrypts the information that it sends to webpage. This prevents the skimming of your data by a keylogger or other malware designed the read data entered on a webpage.

If you have never used the current card before [or if you chose not to save card information] you will be asked to verify the card by entering its CCV [Credit Card Verification] number for the card.

After you enter this little bit of information you get the chance to review your card. It will show the type, card number [with only the first and last four digits visible] and expiration date.

After you complete the verification step you will be greeted by a window letting you know that the site is now secure. All of the normally visible credit card information will be blanked out and not accessible.


SafeCheckout – Protecting Your Purchases
Click to Enlarge – Opens new Window

The last step after reading and accepting the warning is to checkout. At the top of the site window you will see information letting you know that the site is secured by SafeCheckout. You can also change the card number if needed.

In practice the SMARTSWIPE is very simple to use and even someone that is not computer savvy would have an easy time getting this setup and running.  

Value
The SMARTSWIPE is not an inexpensive method of securing your credit card information. It retails for $99.95 Canadian [about $94 US] on the SMARTSWIPE site. But can be found for around $60 on Newegg.com. However, if you consider the potential loss from someone stealing your card numbers it is not that large of a price to pay. This is even truer if you routinely use the internet for your shopping.

Conclusion
We found the SMARTSWIPE to be a very easy to use device. The installer and even the post installation directions and prompts make sure that everything is working properly and that you know when, where and how to use the software to best effect. The cost of $60 is small compared to the potential loss if someone does get your card and billing information. The size makes it easy to stick into a laptop bag and use in areas where you are even less secure [like a Starbucks] while the requirement to get the newest version of the software shows a commitment to NetSecure Technologies? customers.  If you are a frequent online shopper then this is a product you will want to pick up. After all you can never be too careful with your money or identity.