Companies are forcing customers to make insecure payments.
On the one hand, if you’re using public WIFI you want to use a virtual private network — a VPN — to secure the connection, especially if you’re buying something. On the other hand, companies have started blocking purchased made with VPNs because they can’t validate the IP addres,s which they feel eis a security issue.
So what are you to do?
I began using VPNs during the years that I was traveling in China. China is the country which coined the term “Internet sovereignty,” and they have a literal army of people working to control what websites can be shown in the country and what websites will be blocked. This sounds alright — governments are going to do what governments are going to do — until you realize that you can no longer check your email, use social media like Facebook and Twitter, or read the un-censored international news (i.e. NY Times). Basically, if you go into China you drop off the face of the internet — which is something that I can’t do because my work depends on being able to access information and communicate with people. So I used a VPN which allows me to browse the internet from other countries, effectively bypassing China’s Great Firewall.
China has cracked down hard recently on VPN use, but this is a topic for another post. Right now I’m going to tell a different story.
For Father’s Day my wife bought me a $50 gift certificate for NFL Shop. I’m from Buffalo, I wear Bills shirts, that’s just the way it is. So I logged onto NFL Shop and I bought myself a couple Bills shirts with the gift certificate combined with additional funds coming from a debit card. So far, so normal.
Then the order never arrived.
I log onto the site to find that my order had been canceled. Why? I had to sit on the phone with customer support for nearly an hour to find out why.
“We couldn’t secure the IP,” the lady said. “Maybe you were using a VPN.”
Yup. Whenever I make a purchase on a WIFI connection I turn on my VPN. WIFI is not secure — especially when it is public. It is a very easy way to lose your credit / debit card info, personal identity details, etc, without even knowing it.
If you physically lose a credit / debit card or have it stolen — or eaten by an ATM, as the case may be — you know it and can quickly call the card’s issuer and have it canceled, which often mitigates the potential damage. But if you have no idea that you’re account has been compromised you stand to lose a lot more have have a way bigger problem.
So you should just use a VPN — it’s too easy, and the services tend to be relatively cheap. This is just a basic standard operating procedure of travel, and ensures that your purchases are going to be secure end to end.
However, if companies are going to start prohibiting the use of VPNs — I don’t believe NFL Shop is an isolated actor in this — then they are sacrificing the security of their customers. They are essentially forcing their customers to make insecure online payments to save their own asses from potential fraudulent sales, etc.
This is how the world works in this era. We create these incredible technologies that allow ourselves to communicate and make monetary transactions seamlessly and then companies enact a scorched earth campaign against these technologies in the name of security, essentially sending the customer back to the Stone Age of commerce.
I’ve never had order canceled when paying cash.