Improving secure Internet transactions is valuable but cannot operate properly without the support of Smart Cards and hardware devices, according to an official at Mastercard International Inc. Checks placed on Internet credit card transactions through software controls such as encryptive methods may not be enough to prevent frauds, said Robin Townend, senior vice-president of Mastercard, addressing IBM Corp’s conference on financial services technology in Singapore. The number of hackers that are picking up card numbers keyed in for Internet credit transactions is on the rise, he said. Mastercard and Visa International are working on improving security checks of Internet transactions, said Townend, but he was unable to give precise details of such frauds, claiming they were difficult to track. To date, on-line security work has focused on improving the software side of the business. Townend urged more efforts to put in place hardware such as Smart Card features to increase security. At the same conference, Smart Card experts insisted there was no evidence linking the use of Smart Cards to an erosion in saving habits or an increase in spending on credit. They said Smart Cards have been used as tools to replace cash and reduce fraud. Smart Cards, they said, are also useful devices for budgeting and payment systems. Catherine Allen, vice-president of Citibank for business development and alliances, said most governments believed it was too early to jump in to regulate the proliferation of Smart Card technology. However, some of the concerns on Smart Cards under discussion are the impact of the cards on money supply, credit creation, fraud and difficulty in tracking money movements and cross-border transactions. There was also the question of who should be allowed to issue Smart Cards, said Ms Allen. Undesirable effects arise from the application of cards, not the technology itself; it is therefore up to the regulators to decide how users should apply it, she said.