15 January, 2009

The Perils of Sushi Bars

This is the story of how my credit card was almost stolen by a Samurai in a sushi bar in Salt Lake City. If you're interested, read on.

About 2 months ago I went to a sushi restaurant here in Salt Lake City. After paying our bills and while we were walking out, Kevin (one of my co-workers) noticed that his receipt had his full credit card number printed on it. Rightly concerned, he immediately talked with the restaurant's manager and asked to see the restaurant's copy of his receipt - sure enough, the restaurant was storing hundreds of credit card numbers in their little dinky cash register.

The whole incident got me thinking about credit card transactions. Every time I buy something with a credit card it's like I'm handing my wallet over to the clerk and saying: "Here's my wallet. Take whatever you need and just hand it back when you're done." Who knows what the POS machine is doing with my credit card number! And that's the least of my concerns: What about the lame payment gateway that stores millions of credit card numbers on servers that will likely be hacked in the next 5 years?

Interestingly enough, however, the whole credit card thing seems to work remarkably well. I mean, there's little risk in the sushi bar overcharging; after all, I know where they're at, and I also have the the credit card company on my side: one call to the them and the restaurant we'll have to pay the bill. As far as the payment gateway is concerned, even thought there's the PCI standard, when they get hacked we all pay the cost (either thorough higher interest rates, more taxes, etc)... that's why I'm really concerned about them - I worked at a place where we were PCI compliant, but there were still gaping holes in our security model.

This particular sushi story, however, has a happy ending. We recently went back to the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to see that our full numbers were no longer being printed on receipts. It's good to see that non-IT folks are finally starting to get the importance of securing information.


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