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ACM Opinion

Every Computer System Can Be Compromised

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Computer science researcher and ACM Fellow Peter G. Neumann.

Peter G. Neumann, senior principal scientist at SRI International Computer Science Laboratory, says online banking and debit cards are inadequately secure.


Unfortunately, there are many risks inherent in online banking and debit cards. The computer systems are inadequately secure, and people are always susceptible to being careless about what they click on. The extent of banking vulnerabilities has once again been demonstrated by the attacks on JPMorgan and others.

Credit cards are somewhat less risky to the customer than debit cards, although they can also be compromised. In a credit card breach, the financial losses are primarily covered by the merchant but that's not always the case with debit cards. Identity theft, which can result from lost information from credit and debit cards, can be very burdensome for the customer.

The problem of security is not just limited to financial systems, but extends to all of the critical national infrastructure.

Eventually we are going to see E.M.V. cards (chip-and-PIN has been popular in Europe, and chip cards verified by a signature have been popular elsewhere), which will reduce some of the risks, but they can still be compromised. The truth is, there is no perfect security, especially when people are unaware of the risks, as much of the American public is.

From The New York Times
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