Pledge for motorists on website security

By Mathew Dearnaley

Improvements will be made to a website for the Northern Gateway toll road between Orewa and Puhoi to assure motorists their credit card details are safe from hackers.

Transport Agency registry centre manager Brett Dooley said last night he was confident the website was secure - in the lead-up to the 7.5km motorway's opening on January 25 - despite concerns expressed by computer industry professionals.

But he acknowledged that was "not all that clear" to people using the site (www.tollroad.govt.nz) to set up automatic payment accounts by offering credit card or bank account details.

"Changes will be made as soon as possible to rectify the website to assure people that it is secure," he said.

North Shore computer programmer David Williams said his wife was trying to set up an account when she noticed the absence of an internet tag verifying that sensitive information would be encrypted.

She cancelled the transaction immediately.

Mr Williams was adamant the lack of the "https" tag before the web address meant information could be intercepted by outlaws using "sniffer" programs.

Mr Dooley said 1160 accounts had already been opened, ready for the payment of tolls of $2 for cars and $4 for trucks. More than 900 were set up through the website and the rest through a freephone number, 0800-40-20-20.

But Mr Williams said those going via the internet "had better keep an eye on their transactions and jump on it as soon as there's something awry".

Mr Dooley said all the banks set up for website transactions had "verified and certified all our banking arrangements".

That was despite the lack of the https tag and of a padlock icon on the transaction page, which was also criticised yesterday by Internet NZ executive director Keith Davidson.

"It's a very specific internet protocol that means the site is secure," Mr Davidson said.

Without seeing the website, he could not tell whether there could be a security feature not immediately apparent to those logging on.

But he said he would not risk sending his own credit card details through the site.

Automobile Association spokesman Simon Lambourne was "surprised and concerned" at the omission, especially as the Transport Agency is relying on most regular users of the new $365 million road to set up accounts rather than face possible delays at payment kiosks at each end.

He feared the four kiosks would be overwhelmed at peak holiday times, such as the end of Auckland Anniversary Weekend, when the toll road will be open for the first time to home-coming motorists.

- NZ Herald

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