Thursday, November 3, 2011

What is it about Germans and Online Security?

Online banking, the debit card, and ATM’s have changed the way we pay bills, eliminated the need for paper checks, and reduced our visits to the bank. In the old days, we had to go to the bank to deposit a check, withdraw money, inquire about an account balance, or take care of an overdraft. Banks were usually open until 3 PM and until 6 PM on Friday. If you were lucky, some banks were even open on Saturday for a few hours.

My Kartenleser
Today, banking is just a click away. However, as banking has become more convenient so has online theft. Accordingly, banks have devised more and more ways to ensure online security. No place exemplifies this trend toward more sophisticated and complicated security measures than Germany. In the USA, online banking usually requires just a PIN code and PassMark Image. In Germany, online banking has become an elaborate procedure that requires a PIN code, a NetKey Code, a debit card, a TAN code, and a Kartenleser (a debit card reader: a small electronic devise that works in conjunction with your computer and debit card).

The Kartenleser is especially complicated since it requires:
  1. Inserting the debit card into the Kartenleser;
  2. Placing the Kartenleser on the computer screen so that the arrows on the Kartenleser match the arrows generated on the computer screen;
  3. Adjusting the width of the computer screen arrows with your mouse; and
  4. Waiting for the Kartenleser to generated a TAN code, which you use to activate online banking.
Sound complicated? It is! I was telling a German friend that this kind of procedure would never fly in the USA. First of all, despite our willingness to embrace all that is new and electronic, Americans like things simple and not complicated. And while a significant number of Americans are computer savvy, many of us still have trouble using an ATM or remembering a PIN code. Throw in another electronic gizmo and a few more codes, and most Americans will say good-bye to online banking, and revert to paper checks and the US Postal Service.

Online security is one area where Americans can't match the obsessive zeal of the Germans. Thank goodness for that!

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