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Enabling Secure Web Payments with GNU Taler

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GNU Taler is a new electronic online payment system which provides privacy for customers and accountability for merchants. It uses an exchange service to issue digital coins using blind signatures, and is thus not subject to the performance issues that plague Byzantine fault-tolerant consensus-based solutions.

The focus of this paper is addressing the challenges payment systems face in the context of the Web. We discuss how to address Web-specific challenges, such as handling bookmarks and sharing of links, as well as supporting users that have disabled javascript. Web payment systems must also navigate various constraints imposed by modern Web browser security architecture, such as same-origin policies and the separation between browser extensions and Web pages. While our analysis focuses on how Taler operates within the security infrastructure provided by the modern Web, the results partially generalize to other payment systems.

We also include the perspective of merchants, as existing systems have often struggled with securing payment information at the merchant's side. Here, challenges include avoiding database transactions for customers that do not actually go through with the purchase, as well as cleanly separating security-critical functions of the payment system from the rest of the Web service.


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