Pragmatic 54: Stop Rubbing Your Reader Against My Butt

24 January, 2015


The Apple Watch promises to make Apple Pay even easier and safer than traditional credit card transactions. We look at the history of Credit Card data transactions and consider the practicalities. Of course.

Transcript available
I am not the sound effects man. Welcome to Pragmatic. Pragmatic is a weekly discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. Exploring the real world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is sponsored by is the easy and affordable way to learn where you can instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in their fields of business, software, web development, graphic design, and lots and lots more. Kickstart your new year and challenge yourself to learn something new. Visit to get a free 10 day trial. There's something for everyone. So if you've ever wanted to learn something new, what are you waiting for? This episode is also sponsored by ManyTricks, makers of helpful apps for the Mac. Visit ManyTricks or one word dot com slash pragmatic for more information about their apps, Butler, Chemo, Leech, Desktop Curtain, TimeSync, Usher, Moom, NameMangler and Witch. If you visit that URL, you can use the code pragmatic25. That's pragmatic, the word and 25, the numbers in the shopping cart to save 25% on any ManyTricks product. We'll talk more about them during the show. I'm your host, John Chidjy, and today I'm joined by my co-host, Vic Hudson. How are you doing, Vic? I'm good, John. How are you today? I'm doing very well, thank you, sir. Before we begin, it's going to be well, first of all, it's going to be a short show this week. I've been on training, actually. I've been learning all about a brand new, well, I say it's not a brand new DCS. It's actually been around for quite some time, but it's I'm learning about Centum CS this week, which is a DCS by Yokogawa, which has been really fun. It's been nice actually getting stuck in and learning more about this specific DCS. It's got a lot of interesting features that some of which are not available on others, which is really interesting. And it's always good to see different ways of tackling the same kind of problems in control. So it's been fun, but it's also been very, I have been very time poor, unfortunately, because between that and the site redesign, I just haven't had much time to put much together. So I'm afraid that this week will be a short show, but that's okay. Before we get stuck into that, I have two big announcements. And the first one I just alluded to, which is the website redesign. So for those of you that don't just listen to the podcast, you do also visit Tech Distortion, which is my site upon which this is hosted. I've gone through and done a complete redesign and relay out and I've stripped out a lot of stuff that isn't being used. and I don't mean that as in people aren't using it, I mean that I'm not using it, it's dead code as it were. I'm trying to clean up some things that had become a bit bloated along the way. Statomic itself is an evolving product and they recently added a whole bunch of extra features that I would like to integrate back into the site and do it properly. I'd hacked a lot of things to make it work and do what I wanted to do, particularly around membership, particularly around the voting. So on that topic, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who had signed up and shone an interest in the newsletter idea that I was kicking around as well, and also for submitting and voting on topics. Already, I've covered a whole bunch of those topics that have been suggested by listeners, and I've got plenty more to go on with. In fact, essentially it's for that reason primarily that I've decided to temporarily pull that functionality from the site just for the time being. The truth is I actually have enough topics for me to get to episode 100, no trouble at all. So again, a big thank you for all of those ideas. I will be covering them off gradually through the course of the year. So don't worry, yours will come up. So you can of course still submit ideas if there's something that burning stuff you would like me to talk about, or you'd like to think that I should cover better through the feedback form, of course, it's still there. It'll always be there. So feedback form is still there. So feel free to make suggestions via that as well or via Twitter, it's all good. Now, the rationalization that I'm doing also trialing a new VPS provider, a place called Cloud Shards. So I'll let you know how that works out for me. I've also removed the Google Analytics tracking from the site. To be honest, I was prompted to do this by something that Marco did when he saw them when Marco posted about this recently, how after his functional high ground article, he actually-- - Yeah, I think I got some traffic on that. - It's possible that he got a little bit of traffic here and there, and he said afterwards that he's removed the Google Analytics from his site. So I sat down, had a bit of a think about it, about why I had it, and I just decided I didn't need it. So it's now gone as well. So the site is now running lean and mean, leaner and meaner than it's ever leaned meanly before. Anyway, it's now two to three times faster in terms of page load times than it used to be. And the server itself that it's on is a quarter of the memory of the last one and a third of the storage space. And it's not on an SSD, it's on a standard spinning platter. So there you go, despite all of those limitations, it's still two to three times faster. So I told you when I stripped it bare, actually did mean that I did. So hopefully you like it and I'll be tweaking it of course in coming weeks but anyway what you see is what you get it's up. Okay second big announcement is I have been I've had a bunch of fans of the show for quite some time have asked for everything from mugs to stubby holders to t-shirts for from you know probably early 2014 and I've sort of been putting it off and putting it off and say I'll get to it I'll get to it I'll get to it but I decided you know what it's January 2015 why not let's just do a run of shirts and see how we go so I like so many other podcasters out there I've decided to go with Teespring there's a whole bunch of reasons for that. The shirts that I've chosen I think are some of the more popular shirts. They're not the entry entry levels. There are a few steps above that, sort of I guess you'd call them mid-range or that's how I like to think about it anyway. So I didn't go for the absolutely el cheapo cheapo ones. I decided to go for ones that were slightly nicer and they are black because I think black is a good choice in terms of, you know, it doesn't show stains very well. It's you know, it's yeah. And frankly, I think that the the logo looks very nice on the black. So there's a link, there'll be a link in the show notes. If you've ever wanted a pragmatic t shirt, now is your chance. I'm not sure I'm ever going to do this again. I'm not planning on doing it again. So it's one of those things that if you want if you've ever wanted to get one, now's your chance grab one while they're up. I've got them up for three weeks, which is the maximum time allowed. And I've set a pretty low goal. So I'm hoping that there's enough people that because I know some people have been really, really wanting this for a long time. And so hopefully those people will, will hear the episode and grab a shirt while they can. And I don't need to sell a lot of them in order for them to make them otherwise, if obviously if we don't meet that sales, that that minimum number, then they won't make any. So it's a bit like a Kickstarter in that way. So hopefully, enough people are interested that the people that really want them can get them. And that's really the goal I'm trying to satisfy there. So if you've ever wanted a pragmatic shirt, then this is your chance. I apologize to my international fans of the show. I do realize that because Teespring are US based and they don't have distributors here in Australia, the shipping costs, you know, I think it's $12.50 US for anything outside US and Canada. Canada is slightly more expensive than US, but the postage around North America is relatively cheap. But for the international listeners, there's not much I can do about that, unfortunately. It's a non-ideal situation, and I acknowledge that. But in any case, if there's others in other countries that you're aware of, please let me know, and I'll consider them. But for the moment, we're gonna run with this and see how we go. So as I said, if you ever want a shirt, now's your chance, grab them now while you can on Teespring and there's a link in the show notes and also on Tech Distortion. So check it out if you're interested. Okay, I think that's enough pre blurb, don't you think? I believe so. You believe so? You want more because I could do more. Sure, why not? No, I'm not doing any more. That's it. Get them while they're hot people. Get off. That's the spirit. Okay. Right here. So I... Okay. Sometimes when I do a topic on the show, it's because something happens to me in the real world and I'm like, that is going to be annoying or that is annoying or I have been annoyed. So some topics you could call annoyance topics. But the one I want to talk about today has to do with NFC. And we've talked a bit about NFC already on episode 47, interrogation signal. We talked about RFIDs, but I wanted to talk about NFC as it relates to Apple Watch. And of course, Apple Pay. And let's wind the clock back, of course, to Google Wallets, to just NFC and credit card payments using NFC technology. And go back to the magnetic stripes and go back to the original credit card. So, I'm starting with something that's going to annoy me and I'm going to work my way back to the beginning. But here's what I just want to draw some- The beginning of all the rage? Yeah, credit cards have made me angry. But irrespective of the financial stress and difficulties that they cause, I'm not talking about that, OK? Because that's not interesting to me. I mean, it sucks, but it's not what's interesting. What's interesting to me is how do we get to where we are and is where we are a better place than where we were. That's what I want to try and address. So what let's just draw some boundaries around this okay. First of all I'm not going to talk about cash okay much I'm really not because cash is cash is cash whatever. I'm not going to talk about checks of any kind and I say you know like a written check a bank check any kind of checks, wire transfers that's that out of bounds okay and I'm definitely not talking about gold doubloons so that's It's off the table, all off the table. All I wanna talk about is what we think of today as a credit card. In other words, a plastic magnetic stripe card, no NFC, and then we're gonna trace that up to Apple Pay where we're going at the moment. What do you think? - Sounds good. - Cool bananas, okay. Or even hot bananas, although I don't think a hot banana would taste as good as a cold banana come to think of it. And why does anyone say cool bananas anyway? All right. Prior to 1970, when American Express adopted IBM's new fandangled technology, the magnetic tape on their credit card. So, prior to then, everything was done, it was not read, it was all done manually. And the materials that they made them out of were varied. In fact, back in the 1920s, the original cards, and if you can call them cards, they're more like a plate, you know, like a small metal plate. And on that plate, they would emboss the numbers and letters for your account information, your bank information, and that would be imprinted using carbon paper sheets by just simply running it back and forth on an imprinting machine. And of course, these are still available and there are still places these days some merchants still use them. When I worked at Dixmuth Electronics, I used these from time to time when the FPOS terminal was down or the bank connection to the bank was down, the phone line was down. Didn't happen often, but when it did, you had to do a manual transaction And it was like, oh, here we go. You could still run into them at small mom and pop type motels here in the States. Yeah, same here. And it's like it's if all is right now, it is the last resort. Everything fails. You go, okay, I'll go get the manual imprint machine and I'll go and see if I can find the damn credit card manuals transaction slips with a carbon paper. So, when you were working in retail, did you ever do a manual transaction at all? I did not. I was fortunate. You were lucky. Man, I did a few and geez, they suck so badly because, you know, you get the card and you put... And this is, of course, the final evolution is what I'm talking about. This is the pinnacle of manual transactions where you have a little... You have a plastic bed. Usually, sometimes it's got some steel or aluminium runners on each side. You place the card in a slight recess so that it sits, the top of the card therefore sits flush, roughly flush, with the bed of this thing. And then you insert a piece of paper over the top and the actual embossed letters that are raised up out of it, they will come into physical contact with the bottom part of the paper. The paper itself is a sandwich, usually of three sheets, sometimes four pens. And what it's basically is you've got the bottom is the one that you're going to imprinted on. The middle is usually a layer of carbon paper and of course the top is the one that you can write on. And what you do is you'll go and there's a there's a how do you put it so I go there's a bar and the bars got a series of attaches to the run as the steel or a mini runners on either side. And you literally run it in one direction. So you it's like screen printing you like you run it across the card in one direction, then you pull it back. And that action of running it backwards and forwards, it presses down and the carbon transfers across to this page. And hey, Presto, you've got yourself a, you know, and it makes that noise. Like, okay, kind of noise. That was great. Oh, you want to do that again? There you go. I think the first one was better. But anyway, I am not the sound effects man. Anyhow, the point is that those manual transactions, and then, of course, you got to pull it out and they have to sign it. and then you got to fill in all the details of the transaction and all that rubbish then you tear off one and you send one off to one mob, you tear one off your own records and you give them a receipt and... And the worst part is, of course, because then you got to mail the receipts into the bank. So you do your banking the other day, the receipt, the actual transaction slips go into the bank, the bank has to manually process them. That can take days or weeks even. You know, so you do a manual transaction. There's no evidence. There's no way of checking that you have available credit on your card. You know, it's like it goes through, that's it. So in recent time, more recent times, some cases where it's large dollar amounts, we had a rule where you would call the bank and there's a number you would call and you would do a test. You would punch in the PIN number, you would punch in the amount and it would just give you a yes or no if they have available credit or not. And it's the sort of thing that I haven't done this for so long. I don't even know if they do that anymore. I just don't know because I've only done a manual transaction. I think the only manual transaction I had as an end customer was about six or seven years ago at a gas station that's since closed and been ripped up and is now covered by a freeway section. That was like 30 bucks on fuel. So, it was not even a big dollar amount. I don't even know if that's still the done thing. But anyway, okay, I'm getting going way too far into manual transactions Okay, they suck, but that's where it all started before those machines were an actual like we would use today back in the 1920s. And these cards that they had or plates, if you want to call them plates, it was more like they were there was no universality to them. There was no convention, there was no standardization. So a bank or a group of merchants or or companies would have these special cards, charge cards for transactions so that people wouldn't have to carry around cash. And it wasn't really until the 50s that a nationwide system in the US at least and credit cards sort of came into being. So these individual banks previously, they sort of they didn't have the reach. So in the 50s, that sort of happened, then it became international and plastic really only became a common material for making credit cards in the 70s. So, you know, the actual card that you and I would use today without NSC, with a magnetic stripe on it, really only started in the 70s. And it was started, as I said, by American Express. And they only adopted IBM's technology. So IBM's advanced systems team in the 60s, it was headed by two guys called one was Jeremy Sevegals and Forrest Perry. and they were looking just for a cheap way to speed up credit card transactions at the point of sale and they used some adhesive magnetic tape applied it to the back of any of their existing credit cards oh and at the time they weren't even made of plastic and away they went they had invented essentially what we consider to be the credit card so anyway. Interesting. Yeah it is interesting and the funny thing is of course there's so many different sizes they eventually they standardized the size. I tried to find the date when they standardised the size but I couldn't find it. I thought it would be interesting but I imagine sometime in the 70s or late 70s or early 80s they standardised the sizes. So there's actually an ISO IEC standard 7810 and ID-1 size which is 85.6 x 53.98mm and that's about 3.4 x 2.1 inch. That's the standard size for credit cards these days. And it's also been adopted by a lot of other cards as well. So store cards and drivers licenses and all that sort of stuff. So now you have a wallet, the wallet has standard size slots for your standard size cards. So everything all fits or doesn't fit now because you've got so many damn store cards, you can't fit them all in your damn wallet. Especially rough if you got a tri-fold wallet like I do. Do you have a tri-fold or a bi-fold wallet? My current one is a bi-fold. I've used both. It's kind of sort of, I guess you could consider to tri-fold but if you if you try fold it out it makes an L so it's a bifold and then you unfold it and then you can flip the driver's license part over and you can hide even more cards underneath of that and it becomes an L. My problem is I shove my business cards in the third section of my tri-fold and I'm at the point now I got so many damn cards in my wallet that I I can't actually close it and have it sit in my pocket in any way that's comfortable unless I've only keep like three or four business cards. The wallets just become painful. Yeah, they do. And if you put them in your hip pocket, your back hip pocket and you sit down, it's just so uncomfortable. I've got to the point where it's so ridiculous that I can't drive any distance with it in my back hip pocket. And I've just got out of the habit. I just keep it in my front pocket now, which feels weird, but it's safer anyway from a pickpocketing point of view. although only marginally, good pickpockets will still get it. Anyway, okay. Yes. So right. Where are we up to? Oh, right, of course, NFC. So magnetic stripes, all well and good. That's all dandy and lovely and everything. So what it does is it encodes all the information on the back of the card or on both sides of the card, actually, because it's they still embossed the front for manual and transactions. And the magnetic stripe on the back contains the actual card number itself as well as the expiry date and your name. I think that's mostly all it contains but the other thing that doesn't contain is the card verification code. Some of those called the CVC or CVV and it's a three-digit code that's not encoded with it such that if you swipe the card you still have to quote the three numbers on the back and you'll often see that on web forms and everything and this is nothing new and anyone that's used a credit card knows all of this or most of it anyway so nothing all that new and exciting there. I have an interesting security thing that you may or may not be aware of. Yeah sure. There's actually a mathematic formula that you can run on simply the credit card number alone to tell if it's actually a valid credit card number or not. Yeah I had heard of that. I'm trying to look it up because I can't remember it but when I was in school one of the first computer science classes, one of my entry level programming projects was one that would actually tell you whether or not a credit card number was valid by that math equation. Yeah and the number somehow is encoded with your name and it's also something to do with the first few digits of the card number are unique based on whether it's a Visa or MasterCard or you know whatever else and the number of digits is also based on the kind of card that it is or the yeah It's yeah, I didn't look into that very much, but it's if you do find it, you know, let me know. And it's just the NFC. Okay, so the magnetic stripe made things quicker, but it also made it quicker for people to steal things because they could then that's what leads to the whole concept of skimming. So skimming a card in order to commit credit card fraud now with a magnetic stripe became possible. So you could hide a second strip, a second reader head unit directly behind or in front of the actual head unit. If you have a point of sale terminal that has been tampered with, you can actually put that in there. And if it's associated with a pin number, you know, what scammers will do is they will modify an automatic telemachine, let's say, because they're easier to, it's more fruitful and easy to hide in some respects. But anyway, and they'll put a pinhole camera and that'll watch the keypad for watching you type in your pin number. So if they grab that information from the magnetic stripe and they see, can observe your pin number from the camera, the pinhole camera, then they have the two pieces that they need to extract whatever money they want from your card. They can clone the card. They don't have the CVV of course, cause that's not contained in the magnetic but they don't need that because you don't enter the CVV when you extract money from an automated telemachine So yeah, it's kind of... I got it You got it? I got it. It's called Coda Bar and it's all about the 16th digit, it's not random Okay Only the first 15 numbers are random The last 16th number is a check digit and it's calculated using a formula on the first 15 digits There's an algorithm that you can run on it that reverses it and tells you exactly what the 16th number has to be and if it's anything but that then it's not a valid credit card number. Okay, cool. I sent you a link. Now that's irrespective of whether or not you've actually got a credit limit or availability of such. Oh sure, absolutely. It's just to tell you whether or not a number's fraudulent right at the beginning. It was one of my entry level computer science projects was to code one of these. The system's called Codabar. Okay, cool. Excellent. Well, thanks for that. I, it's one of those things that I could have swore the first one or two digits was reserved by either the bank or whether it's a Visa or MasterCard. They still could be. They very much could be. Yeah. When you look at this, when you read this over later, you'll see. Basically, it's not that the 16th digit is predetermined before the rest of the number. It's that you determine the rest of the number and then run it through this equation to get the 16th digit. - Yep, I understand. All right. So the next thing to talk about is the NFC, progression to NFC and why we would do that. So, but before we do, I just want to talk quickly about our first sponsor and that's Now is an easy and affordable way to learn. You can instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in their fields of business, software, web development, graphic design, audio, and lots and lots more. Way too many to list. They have an enormous library of titles to choose from with new courses added every day to make sure their library is both relevant and up to date. They work directly with experts from many different industries and software development companies to provide timely training. 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And of course, to add confusion to all of this, each of the major players in the game, in the banking industry just had to call it something different, didn't they? So, let's see which ones you know and which ones you don't. I'm going to start with the American ones I've never heard of because you stand a better chance of knowing what they are. What do you reckon? Cool. See, I'm stacking the deck in your favour right now. Don't say I don't do anything for you. Okay, Discover Card. What do they call it? The Discover Card? Okay, they call their contactless payment technology, they call it Zip. Okay. American Express, they call it what? I don't know that either. They call it Express Pay. Okay. Which is really unimaginative. American Express, Express Pay. It's like, come on, can you... Surely you can come up with something better than that. Anyway, whatever. All right. MasterCard, they call it... I do not know. Paypass. And the other big one is Visa and Visa call it PayWave. I don't know that. I don't know that either. Okay, you don't pay with contacts very often then I guess, but... No, I'm a swiper. You're a swiper? Swipe or no swiping? Oh, God. So, Apple... It's like every time I tried to use those back when they first started coming out, it didn't work and I ended up swiping and eventually I just abandoned the attempt to tap the thing and I just swipe. I actually hate it when there's other, like, for example, Gloria Jeans. This is an Australian thing. Gloria, I'm sure there are other retailers around the world that have this thing, right? They have a store card that has NFC in it as well. So the store card, not a credit card. And they have a reader at the front that reads the store card, but it looks just the same as a point of sale terminal for PayPass, PayWave, and so on, right? So you go up there with your credit card and you try and swipe it and it's not working. And you keep tapping and swipe, you wave it in front and nothing's happening. And you're feeling like, is this broken? Is my card busted? And they're like, oh no, I'm sorry, that's for our store card. Okay, fine. Well, here's my card so we can do the tap thingy on your FPOS terminal, your POS terminal, right? interact, whatever you want to call it. Oh, no, we don't support that. We only have swipe or we only have chip or pin. So you've got NFC for your store card, but you don't have NFC on your point of sale terminal for my credit card. Great. Anyway. Ridiculous. So anyway, Apple, what are Apple calling theirs? Apple Pay. One out of five. Okay, great. Anyway. Yeah, so that's exactly right. Yes, they're calling it Apple Pay. So it doesn't matter what you call it. It's all they're all using NFC. But the paywave, PayPass, Zip, Express Pay, Apple Pay systems, where they're different is how they manage tokens, how they manage encryption, how they manage, you know, who gets paid what fraction of what, you know, and having a terminal that supports paywave, PayPass, Apple Pay, it simply means, well, if I'm using that technology, this terminal will understand it. But, you know, using PayWave, obviously, it'll go back through Visa system, using PayPass, it'll go back via MasterCard system. And Apple Pay is a little bit more complicated insofar as it'll piggyback on, you know, either of those, they have agreements with different banks. And it's sort of like, it's a layer over the top, as it were. Which is, yeah, which is fine, I guess. I I don't really want to go into too much of the detail of the agreements between them because frankly, I'm really not all that interested. I'll be honest. There are certain things that I really don't care about and frankly, I really care about that stuff. So I'm sorry. There's a bunch of other podcasts that have covered it. And if you really want to know that stuff, then I suggest you listen to them. So, all right. In store, how it works with an NFC card. So I've got a credit card that's got an NFC chip built into it. What do I do? I walk up to the terminal, they punch in the numbers about how much it's going to cost and they present the terminal to you or if it's there adjacent to you on the counter you simply hold the card up in front of it. Usually there's a bunch of LED bars, like two, three, four of them or one big large bar that just lights up and sometimes it even beeps at you. Hopefully it goes green, green is generally good. And at which point it'll usually say a little sign, say come up with approved on the LED LCD screen and you smile and you're happy, they've taken your money and hopefully you get some goods or services for the money you have just given them. And then hopefully everyone is happy and you don't have buyer's remorse. Or it's not a crummy coffee. Anyhow, so bottom line is that's it. Okay, pretty straightforward. Now, Apple Pay works very similarly. And at the moment we have no Apple Watch but with Apple Pay it comes up currently on your new and brand new iPads the iPad Air 2 I think the ones the iPads that have got the Touch ID in them and of course you also have the Apple ID on the iPhone 6 and 6 plus the Touch ID coming involved there as well so you know that's got NFC built into it so away you go and you do the your NFC by you hold the phone up to the terminal, it comes up with a message that says, yeah, thumbprint and we're all good or whatever, you know, touch here to and you're good and touch there and it pays and you're done, right? That's how it's supposed to work, right? So it's not that much simpler. In fact, it's much the same as using an NFC card, except the difference is that, well, you don't need the card. And the theory goes, you'll always have your phone on you and you won't always have your wallet on you. therefore it's more convenient. Yeah. Now, the Apple Watch isn't 100% clear. I just I am going to circle back to that in a minute. There's other good reasons for doing it. So we'll get to that though. So it's not 100% clear at this point, because all we've got is scraps and pieces of information. But there's enough for us to discern that with Apple Watch, you put on your wrist, you enter a passcode, and then so long as the watch stays on your wrist, you're then approved to use the Apple Watch for Apple Pay. But the problem with that is that I think the watch needs to be within range of your phone that has the Apple Pay credentials or something on it. And if you take it off your wrist and you put it back on again, you have to type that code in again, again, once your phone is within range of it or something like that. So there's a little bit of handshaking going on, a little bit of back and forth security to make sure that it is on your wrist. Or that someone's held a gun to your head and said, "Hey, can I, I'm gonna put the Apple Watch on my wrist now when your phone's within range, can you type in the password please? And yeah, for whatever reason I would do that, I honestly don't. - They could shut off your, they could chop off your forearm. - That is a messier solution, but also effective, indeed. So if someone's coming up with a hatchet and say, hey, I don't want to shake hands, but can I borrow your arm, your iPhone and... - Actually, I don't think it would work 'cause I think they're using your pulse. - I would suspect, yeah, yeah. So I don't, I don't, look, I get some of this is speculative, okay? But what I'm... Nobody cut anybody's hand off. Okay. No arms were cut off in the making of this episode, clearly. Okay. Moving on. So the point is that that's the idea is that you can then do the same thing with Apple Watch. But what's not clear to me is that once you've approved it, does that mean you can just swipe the watch in front of the terminal and you're done? And there's no other verification? I believe so, yeah. Well, I would hope or expect that there is some kind of how should I put it? That there's some kind of verification, like, you know, you have to at least tap the screen, you know, like there's some kind of- Even if it's not password. Oh, I think there is that. I think there is that. Like a tap to confirm. Yeah. And I'm pretty sure that there would be. And the reason is- You don't want to be paying for people's clothes as you walk by on your way out the door. Exactly. So that's what you have to prevent. Maybe not a passcode, but some kind of an acknowledgment from you, the user and wearer of the watch. So, and that just avoids having to have touch ID on the watch. But at the same time, you know, you have the convenience of the Apple Pay system. Just for our passcode when you put the watch on. Okay, so that's kind of what we know. That's half of what I want to talk about later. So hold that thought. But the user choice before the transaction is approved as a critical point, but we'll come back to that. So now we're going to get to the thing that started me thinking about this in the damn first place and the whole impetus of why I started this episode and throwing your hands up in the air now if you're frustrated with me, but here you go. Drive-thru. Yeah. Now, think about that for a second. Think about drive-thru. Now, I-- This could get messy. This could get messy. Okay. And I mentioned this because... You think it's annoying being stuck behind somebody still writing out a check in the supermarket. Yeah. Well, okay. The reason that this is problematic is that I was going... Well, last week I was going through a drive-thru and I don't go through drive-thru that often, but I go through from time to time often enough to have this thought occur to me. Let's pause on the drive-thru. what kind of drive-through isn't particularly relevant necessarily, but think about where it started. The first drive-through is like toll booths and stuff. You would hand the money to someone standing in toll booth, they would take the money, give you a change and open the gate and you'd drive through. There you go. That's a drive-through. And that sort of went partly automated when they now had these, the plastic chutes or funnels or whatever. We just threw the coins in, it would separate out the coins. and those coin separators are really cool to program, I'm reliably told by an old guy. Anyway, so it's sorted into different slots and weights and figures out how much money you've given it. And then it says, yes, you've given me enough or no, you haven't. Yeah, if you're gonna throw the money, you're gonna hand money out of a window, you could drop the money. Okay, that could go wrong. And that happened to me on more than one occasion. So that's not a good result. So obviously then you go to e-tags, just like the little touch tag things. It's like a little plastic tag with a little knob on the end of it, like a steel knob on the end, you would push that against the terminal as you go past, you know, and that was sort of like a precursor to, you know, so I had one of those for a few years. Now, of course, if we're going to talk about drive-thrus in the sense of like a McDonald's, well, you know, you don't throw the money out of the window into a coin collector, shoot or funnel, it's always handed to a person, or at least that's always been my experience. Some of them will have a little funnel for donations for change, you know, but the whole idea is that you've got money going from inside the car across a gap to a person in a window and it's possible to drop that money and that's a pain in the neck. So touch tags notwithstanding now we move to the credit cards or debit cards with a magnetic strip on them. So all of that stuff now I'm handing them a card, they take the card, they do what they've got to do with it and they hand the card back. Sometimes you've got to sign something which is the good old fashioned way of doing it or it's a pin number so they push this thing out the window and they're going to punch in a pin number and then the cord isn't long enough or the cord's all stretchy and it's all been stretched too far and then when it contracts it stretches back in on itself and it twists itself up into a big knot and then the next time you've done it or the next hundred times you try and do it then the knotting is so bad you can't untangle it so you're trying to untangle it so you can reach this thing out the window to the customer trying to pay and it won't go and it's knotted up too badly and you know what I'm talking about right? Okay, so that sucks, right? Entering in a pin number, handing this thing into someone's card, in someone's car window. That's a bad experience. So, NFC seems like a good idea. Because what it means is, I can now have a terminal which is much easier to reach, I can move over slightly closer to the car, they don't have to punch a pin number in, no coordination necessary, really, you just need to put a card up in front of it and you're done. Or now we're going to NFC in a smartphone, I can hold the phone up to it. Or if I've got an Apple Watch, well, I can hold my Apple Watch up to it, couldn't I? But... In theory. But what side am I wearing my wrist on, my wristwatch on? What wrist am I wearing it on? Traditionally, the left. Hang on. Is it really? Because the tradition as I understand it is that wearing a wrist watch, it's worn on the wrist that is non-dominant. Hmm. Well, then I guess it's just a side effect of the fact that the majority of the population is right-handed. Ah, yes. So, because I'm me and this is the sort of stuff that goes through my head, unfortunately, is 10% of the world's population, I did a bit of checking on this, approximately 10% are left-handed. Okay. Now then, let's think about the side of the car you're on. Okay. Because the side of the car that you're on is the side of the car. Well, here in America, when you drive on the correct side of the road, you're on the left hand side. It is called the right hand side of the road, not the correct side of the road. Let's just be clear about that. But anyhow. Okay, fine. I am forced to drive on the side of the road that I'm forced to drive on, and there is nothing I can do about that. So, let's not dwell on that too much. But you raise a good point. So, what percentage of the world's population drive on the right hand side of the road? Not the correct, the right hand side. Do you know the percentage? I do not. Okay, well, I do because I looked it up. 65%. I would not be surprised to find out that we here in America are unique to that. No, no, no, no, no, you're not. No, America actually and Europe and large continental areas drive on the right hand side of the road. that 65% of the world's population live in countries that drive on the right-hand side of the world. So you are in the majority and I'm in the minority. Now, the percentages are very different if you cover the amount of kilometers of road that are, or miles of road, or furlongs of road, I guess, I don't know, perches, whatever. The distances of road, the lengths of road of right-hand drive countries, is it's even more skewed towards right-hand drive. But that's only because a lot of the countries that drive on the right-hand side simply have more roads built. So that's not really fair. It's really fair about we're talking about wrists and wrist watches. So we do it based on population. So 65% of the world's population live in the right hand, live in a country driving on the right hand side. 10% of the world's people are left handed. So if you assume that 80% of the people that wear a watch wear it on their non dominant risk because you got to think that one out of five people will wear it on their other hand or something like that. So, let's just go with 80%. So, the majority of people, but not all, will wear their wrist on their non-dominant hand. Okay. So, if we figure this out, we have two bad combinations. The bad combinations, therefore, are the people that have to reach their arm across from the opposite side to the drive-thru that their Apple Watch is on in order to reach across to get to the NFC scanner. Those are the people that are going to curse this, because if you take it off your wrist, you've just obviated, you've just cancelled it, right? Which case there's no point. So, okay, bad combinations are left-handed people in right-hand drive countries and right-handed people in left-hand drive countries. Well, guess what? I'm in a left-hand drive country and I'm right-handed. So, my watch is on my left hand. So, it's on the wrong side for the damn drive-thru, isn't it? So, I figured, well, you know what? I wonder what that works out to. It works out to 30.4% approximately of the world's population that drive a vehicle through a drive-through are going to have this problem. So, just under a third. Wow. Interesting, isn't it? So, A. It's a much higher number than I would have speculated. Well, it's, you know, you've got to add both combinations in, right? So, here's the thing. All of that presupposes that, A, they drive a vehicle for starters, hence necessitating, well, not necessitating, but even that, okay, let's say they drive a vehicle. Well, the other thing, next thing is that, you know, the food or drink that they wish to purchase has a means to purchase that involves a drive-through and that they have a drive-through that they can locally access with the vehicle that they have. So, lots of people don't have a car, lots of people live in places where they don't do drive-through. It's true, right? There are plenty of cities I've been through where you can't find drive-throughs historically, and it's only become a more recent thing. So, anyway, it also assumes that they are lazy enough that they would go through a drive-through rather than getting out of the car and walking in. There's other advantages to walking in. Some people say, "Oh, don't you do the drive-through?" I mean, if you listen to Lethal Weapon, you know, what does Leo Goetz say? He says, "They f*** you at the drive-through. They f*** you at the drive-through." That's my best Leo Goetz voice. So, you know what I'm saying, if you remember that line. So, yes, some people on principle won't go through drive-throughs. So, maybe you're one of those people. And of course, that all presupposes that it also, that the NFC payment method is even supported in that drive-through and that that NFC method involves Apple Pay and that you have an Apple Watch and that your iPhone or iPad also supports Apple Pay as well. So if you meet all of those conditions, that subset of that 30.4% may end up being significantly smaller, a lot smaller. But it's all about ratios and percentages. So, you know, and it all assumes an even distribution of all of those things and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it's- I don't- So what's the result of all that? I actually don't know what the number is. So I've given you numbers that don't actually give you an idea of what the number is. I just know that it's greater than zero people. I am one data point. There you go. So there you go. Excellent. So now I want to talk a little bit about stealing, and I don't mean like physical stealing. I mean about stealing credit card information via NFC. But before we do, I'd like to talk about our second sponsor for this episode. And that is once again, our friends at ManyTricks. Now ManyTricks, they are a great software development company whose apps do, you guessed it, many tricks like their name suggests. Now their apps include Butler, Kimo, Leech, Desktop, Curtain, TimeSync, Usher, Moom, NameMangler and Witch. And there's a new one they're working on too, which is cool. But we'll not talk about that one. Let's see, there's so much to talk about each app, but we'll touch on four of them. So let's start with Which. You should think about Which as a supercharger for your command plus tab app switcher. Now, Which is great for, and it's very popular with X Windows users like myself. 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You can take advantage of a special discount out off of all of their apps. Simply use the code Pragmatic25. that's Pragmatic the word and 25 the numbers in the discount code box in the shopping cart. And you'll receive 25% off all of their any of their apps. This offer is only available to Pragmatic listeners for a limited time. So please take advantage of it while you can. Once again, thank you so much to ManyTricks for their continued support of Pragmatic. OK, I said I was going to circle back to stealing information. Well, actually, I didn't specifically call it out, but there you go. That's what I was alluding to. So, have you ever heard of people saying NFC is less secure than magnetic stripes because you can read it from a distance and you can have your credit card details stolen without you even knowing? Have you heard that one? I have heard some buzz about that. Yeah, well, I thought it might just be interesting before we wrap this up to talk about that quickly. Stealing NFC card information. Well, so here's the idea. If you had a scanner, an NFC scanner, you should be able to, if you are within 40 to 50 millimeters, which is, you know, one and a half to two inches away from the card, you should be able to scan the information just like a legitimate terminal and use that information to make purchases. Now, that's sort of easy if the other person you're trying to steal it from is standing up, It's in their hip pocket or if there's a visible bulge in their clothing that is most likely a wallet or a purse or something. Yeah, it's probably possible to get away with that if it's on a packed, if you're on a packed train or a bus or somewhere in public where it's, you know, where it's not obvious. If you walked up to someone and rubbed an NFC reader up against their ass, they're going to notice. Excuse me, sir, please stop rubbing up your NFC reader against my butt. Thank you. Anyway, but seriously, you know, it's going to be, it is possible. It has been done. And the question is, though, do you have anything, have much to fear from that? The thing is, there's one feature that contactless cards do offer, a security feature that traditional cards of the magnetic strip don't and can't. And that's because they have a microchip built into them. Is they provide a one time CVV code with every scan. And that's it's essentially it's a rolling code. And that rolling code can only be used for one transaction as in the next transaction. So when you query a card, it gives you the current transaction code. But once that transaction is put through with that code, that code has been used and you need a fresh code that's generated in the correct sequence in order for a subsequent transaction. And because the code is uniquely generated and it's a rolling code, you can't predict what the next code will be unless you go back to the card and query it again. So essentially what you're up for is if I'm standing around in a crowd and someone is able to read my card information and they are able to decrypt it And they are able to take that CVV code. So long as they use that information before I use that card again, then they are able to extract value from my card. So, it's true, it can be done. However, if, for example, I use the card first and I beat them to the punch, the bank will then see their attempted transaction and will instantly know, "oops, that same code's been used more than once it'll disable the card and set off all sorts of alarm bells and trained ninjas from the bank will come and hunt them down and decapitate them or something I don't know. Excellent. Yeah I know apparently they're low rent these days. Your bank is better than mine. Yeah well you know. My bank doesn't have any trained ninjas. One time they nicely suspended my card because they thought there was fraudulent card activity and they didn't bother to tell me that they suspended my card because they thought there was fraudulent activity. And it actually did turn out that there was fraudulent activity. So, in the end, I was grateful for that. But I wasn't so grateful when I got an email from the cell phone company that my auto pay payment that I had set up on said card was declined. Oh, dear. Well, see, but the ninjas, they need to have a coffee break or a smoke break every now and then too, you know. So, you know, they just were busy at that point. They help you. But the point is that alarm bells will go off. So the first stumbling block is that most of these cards with contactless payments have a fixed limit. And I think the universal limit in Australia at least is $100 per transaction. I've heard that it's a similar amount in North America. I believe so, yeah. Yeah. So if you exceed that, they're going to say, no, need the PIN number. And a lot of people said, oh, that whole that obviates the whole advantage of doing NFC in the first place to try and get away from it. The whole point of NFC was to make small fast, small dollar value fast payments more quickly. If you're making a transaction that's got a dollar value of two or $300, chances are you're buying groceries or you're buying something more expensive. Well, you know what, you can hang around for another 10 to 15 seconds and punch in a pin number for your own safety. Because that $100 limit basically means that that's the maximum these people are going to be able to get out of your card without reading it a second time. So that it's really you're saving you from being ripped off and screwed for more than $100 a pop Okay, so I think that that's perfectly reasonable. In time we might see that value increased certainly as encryption improves. So ultimately though in order for it to be an effective scam it needs to work like this. The persons that are performing the scam really need to have someone remote So someone locally to scan the card information person to person in a crowded area and then someone and transmit that data to someone remote and that person remotely then runs through a bunch of $99 and 99 cents transactions using those card numbers that have just been lifted and doing all of that, stringing that together to a bunch of purchases that's going to be really difficult because it's going to limit how much you can actually purchase with it but you're limited to a bunch of small transactions. And that's beyond the capabilities of most credit card scammers, you know, certainly there'll be some that would do it. Certainly it's a possibility, but honestly, it's going to be difficult. And that all presupposes, you know, that you actually can get a terminal that can scan these cards and can break the encryption. So here's the next the next problem. So you actually going to need an authorized terminal that can decrypt the information because the information going across the air is encrypted. Now, banks have introduced end to end encryption in more recent times. So it's even harder to break that because, I mean, it's getting incrementally more difficult. But I think the final stumbling block to all of this is the idea of I now have to have a Touch ID authorization or I need to have a tap on the screen on my Apple Watch after I enter the code in and it's on my wrist in order to say, yes, I'm good to go, because that is the final kick in the pants, because it means that the transaction simply cannot go ahead without your OK using Apple Pay. So let's assume that you don't carry a credit card anymore. You all you have is your iPhone or your Apple Watch or something like that. It all supports Apple Pay. There is now no way a scammer can extract the information that they need. And even if they could extract it, there's no way they could initiate a transaction without your Touch ID, without your input at that moment of transaction. So I just think, how can they do that apart from stealing your iPhone is the only option left. And frankly, if they stole your credit card, you'd be in the same for you'd be in the same problem, right? You'd just go from shop to shop and do a ninety nine dollar ninety nine cent transaction. That's what they do. and it couldn't and wouldn't stop them. So you're never going to be protected against theft, but you're going to be pretty much as protected as you can get. And it's, you know, in many ways it's better than then because it prevents the skimming problem, right? So the skimmer card with the pin number is a problem because if they get your pin number and they've skimmed the numbers, then you're vulnerable until you cancel the card. Whereas this way, you're only vulnerable for the next transaction. And that's assuming that they can decrypt the information. And if you move to Apple Pay, you've just taken that off the table as well. I can't even read the data and I can't initiate a transaction unless you initiate it. So. Or they cut off your forearm. Or they cut off your forearm, yes, with that hatchet you keep mentioning. Yes, your hatchet and arm severing fixation starting to disturb me. But there you go. Turns out you are actually, well, you're not an axe murderer, you're like a limb severer, which is a step up from, a step down from an axe murderer. Yeah. Bless your Lord and Peter. I have severed no limbs. You have severed no limbs in the manufacturing making this podcast. Good. Excellent. So before we wrap this up and call it a day, there's one last thing I want to talk about, and that is forget Apple Pay, forget Google Wallet or any of the other mechanisms that are building these things into phones. Let's say you've got a card right now that has NFC built into it. And you want to protect it from being skimmed. There are people that make these wallets or inserts for your cards, you can store them in that supposedly protect them from being skimmed or scanned. Just like a Faraday wallet? Like a Faraday wallet, yes. Some people even call them that. And I refer you back to episode one, Faraday Cage of this podcast where I talk about Faraday cages. That was the name of the episode, in fact. So the idea is you put a conductive material and completely encompass a device that conducts electromagnetic radiation and by killing the electric field you are killing the magnetic field and hence no electromagnetic wave propagates. This therefore means that it is not possible for you to extract any data from RFID chip if you are contained within a Faraday cage. The problem is that for a Faraday cage to be perfect at all frequencies, it has to be solid. For it to be perfect at most frequencies, it has to be a mesh, but it has to be a continuous mesh and it has to be sealed correctly. Now, I learned very early on when I was doing testing, I've done EMI MC compliance testing previously in my career, and you learn very quickly in the anechoic chamber if you haven't got a correctly sealed plate on the device you are testing, because you will get leakage from these things. So and that's when there's a radio source inside them. So anyway, what's the point? The point is that many of the ones that you buy will not protect you. To a reasonable enough degree, the ones that are solid metal, keep it inside a solid box. Yep, that'll work. But here's the here's the question that that puzzles me. That protects you events of being accidentally read when it's in the box. You still have to take it out of the box to use it. So, you're still vulnerable in that time period. However, you are significantly less vulnerable because you're physically handling the card and it's far more obvious that someone's going to be that close to you, you'll notice. Yeah. And most of us will still just hand it off to a waiter to take and completely disappear with it. But that's a North American thing. And that's not the way... Is it? Yes, it is. That's not the way it's done here. Handing over a credit card here is just weird. It should be weird here too. Well, it's become practice because I guess it's one of those things, it's like make the transaction as pleasant as possible for the customer because it's all of it. So we've talked about that. Didn't we? I think I covered this with tipping a little bit a few episodes back when I talked about sales and stuff in working retail, right? We talked about this. So it's one of those things that in Australia, And cultures outside the United States, handing over your credit card to a stranger and trusting them with it is sort of considered to be a little bit insane. And we generally would not do that. So we would go up to the counter, we would pay at the counter. Yeah, that's what we would do. Although I'll bring up more becoming more prevalent these days is they'll bring the point of sale terminal to you like they do at an Apple store. And there are some restaurants where they'll do that now. Where it's all like that's what you mentioned in the previous episode. Yeah, exactly. So I refer you to that, that episode. So I mean, should you do it? Should you not do it? Should you protect your cards? Some people even say fry them in the microwave. Three seconds is good, but don't do it for five because you'll make the card explode. Like, oh, well, that doesn't sound very reliable to me. So I think I'll pass. But no, I wouldn't be shoving my card in the microwave. No. And I wouldn't be bothering to put it in a protective shield because I don't think a protective shields going to feel particularly comfortable shoved in my pocket. And secondly, I don't think the ones that I'm going to get are going to be that good anyway. Yeah, the wallets are already three quarters of an inch thick as it is. Yeah, pretty much. All righty, so there you go. Any other thoughts, comments, criticisms, things you want to mention? No, I think we've covered it pretty good. Okay, very good. So there you go, short show. Hour and however many minutes, whatever it is, I don't know, maybe just about an hour. There you go. That is short-ish. Oh dear, if you want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @JohnChedji and you can check out my writing and this podcast and others I've made. I host it at my site at with its brand spanking new, with its brand new layout. If you'd like to get in touch with Vic, what's the best way they can get in touch with you, Vic? They can find me on Twitter @vickhudson1. Excellent. And you also make a podcast, apparently. I do. That will be App Story podcast. Indeed. And recently, you just, who was your last guest? Was someone? Greg Pierce from Drafts. Yes, that's right. So it's a good episode. I really enjoyed doing it. It's one of my favorite apps. It was a pleasure to have him on. Yeah, I'm not just saying this because you're my co-host on this show, but honestly, that episode was very, very interesting to hear him talk about some of the ex-callback URL stuff. So I think it was a good episode. So I encourage you guys to listen to it if you haven't listened to it already. If you'd like to send any feedback, please use the feedback form on the website, and obviously that's where you'll find show notes for this episode under "Podcasts Pragmatic." You can follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter to see show announcements and other related stuff. I'd like to also finally thank our two sponsors for this episode. Firstly, thank for sponsoring. If there's anything you'd like to learn about and you're looking for an easy and affordable way to learn, then can help you out. Instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in their fields of business, software, web development, graphic design, and lots and lots more. Kickstart your new year and challenge yourself to learn something new. Visit to get a free 10-day trial. There's something for everyone. So if you've ever want to learn something new, what are you waiting for? I'd also like to thank ManyTricks for their continued support of the show. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do ManyTricks, remember specifically visit this URL, ManyTricks, all one word dot com slash pragmatic for more information about their amazingly useful apps and use the discount code pragmatic 25. That's pragmatic the word and 25 the numbers to save 25% off the total price of your order. Hurry, it is only for a limited time. Make sure you check them out everybody. And don't forget the t-shirts if you've ever wanted one, they are available now. So go grab one while you can. No guarantees I'll be doing this again. So this is your chance. And thanks again, everyone for listening. And yeah, thank you as always Vic. Thank you, John. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [Music] We'll catch you next week. Not physically. Because that would, yeah, I think I've made that joke before. I'm recycling my jokes, Vic. This is what it's come to. Old Lulos. Yeah, it's only, it's downhill from now. I've used up all my good jokes. That of course presupposes I ever had good jokes to start with, which is not necessarily the case. all this talking. Why is it every time I say it's gonna be a short show we're 50 minutes in? - I thought about making a joke when you said it, but I passed. - Good God, I'm becoming... - Syracuse. - I'm not gonna say that, you said it. - You can clip it out, I won't be offended.
Duration 1 hour, 8 minutes and 37 seconds Direct Download
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Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.