Payment security and the development of E-Commerce

Payment security

Various studies suggest that loopholes in the security of Internet payments are slowing the development of electronic commerce. A study, taken up by an information report from the National Assembly, indicates: “Asked about what they consider to be a“ brake ”on the decision to purchase on the Internet, 67% of Internet users mention the security of payment methods, 50% the additional cost linked to delivery, 47% the possible reuse of personal data, 44% after-sales service”. This finding is not specific to France: surveys carried out among English and American Internet users reveal the same fears. Internet users are not the only ones worried. As a recent note from tense, e-merchants are also reluctant to sell online, insofar as some of the transactions are either contested or canceled, or constitute attempted fraud. Thus, according to a Cyber Source study conducted among 341 e-merchants located around the world, fraud amounts to an average of 3% of turnover, with 22% of these e-merchants recording higher fraud rates at 5% of turnover.

In this context of lack of confidence in Internet payment, many electronic payment systems are offered to economic agents in order to secure their transactions. These systems can be grouped into five major classes. A first class consists of protocols for securing payments by bank card whether or not backed by an electronic signature mechanism (Secure Electronic Transaction, Secure Socket Layer). A second class of systems is structured around accounts provisioned by Internet users and opened with non-banking intermediaries.

In these systems called notarial systems, usernames and passwords replace the bank card to authenticate Internet users and authorize the intermediary – the notary – to settle the debit and credit positions of e-merchants and Internet users. A third class of systems, private loyalty systems, allow the transfer of loyalty points constituting real purchasing power between network partners. A fourth class, called a debt collection system , allows subscribers of Internet service providers to consume products and services online that will be paid for with the telephone bill ( W-HA, Password ). Finally, the fifth class of systems relates to new payment instruments belonging to electronic money: the electronic wallet (Avant) and the virtual wallet.

Among all these systems, the first class, consisting of protocols for securing payments by bank card, is the most used on the Internet. Within this class, three major payment security offers characterized by increasing levels of security are in competition: the Secure Socket Layer ( ssl ) system, with or without an intermediary, not backed by an electronic signature mechanism and the Type Secure electronic Transaction or Cyber comm backed an electronic signature mechanism.

The ssl system without intermediary is characterized by a double asymmetry of information between Internet users and e-merchants. It does not make it possible to dispel the ambiguity of a fraud or a possible dispute on the payment, at the initiative of the Internet user or the high risk merchant account. The ssl system with an intermediary makes it possible to resolve the problem of information asymmetry on the Internet user’s side, by involving a banking or non-banking intermediary. This intermediary assumes, for the circumstance, the role of trusted third party in transactions and therefore protects the Internet user from malicious e-merchants. However, the e-merchant is not protected from the risks of dispute or fraud on the part of opportunistic Internet users. Finally, the system with electronic signature of the Secure Electronic Transaction type or Cyber- common responds to this last difficulty by eliminating any asymmetry of information between Internet users and e-merchants and therefore any possibility of fraud at the initiative of either a malicious e-merchant or an opportunistic Internet user.

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About the Author: Wayne Probert

Wayne Probert is a senior reporter at Zobuz, covering state and national politics, and he is a grantee with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Before joining Zobuz, he worked as a freelance journalist in Kentucky, having been published by dozens of outlets including NPR, the Center for Media.