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(Jon sez:)

Your Writer: Jon Kilgannon Credit cards - oddly enough, I know credit cards. A couple of years ago I worked on programming a POS (point of sale) system for a big multinational retailer. Believe it or not, the information taken from the magnetic scrip on your credit card is considered so vital that it is encrypted for the fifteen-inch-long trip from the scanner pad to the POS system's serial port. Credit card data is carefully secured at all points on its travels. It would take a mad scientist - or a very determined Hollywood Evil Hacker - to take over a credit card network.

Unless the credit card information is stored on a badly secured server. In that case, any script kiddie with a 2400 baud modem can get it.
(Mark sez:)

Your Artist: Mark Sachs Ew. JPEG compression really did a number on all those gradients. Oh well.

I'm racking my brains to think what someone could accomplish by taking over the credit card network. You couldn't buy anything, because the police would track the deliveries to your Evil Mad Science Lair. I guess the answer I like best is that you would use the computer chips inside these "smart cards" as a gigantic networked computer to solve some astonishingly difficult problem. Lest you think that's absurd, it has already happened in the real world.

Well, just because it's actually happened doesn't mean it isn't still absurd, I guess.

Oh yes, I don't remember if we've ever mentioned this in the past, but in case we haven't: mad props to Aric Hooley of Reckless Blue for linking to MoS. Thanks, Aric! I checked like, five times to make sure I was spelling your name right.