If words like hacker, spyware, phishing, keystroke loggers, spammers, memory sniffers and viruses strike fear in your heart, this week's featured gadget may help you sleep more soundly.

If words like hacker, spyware, phishing, keystroke loggers, spammers, memory sniffers and viruses strike fear in your heart, this week's featured gadget may help you sleep more soundly.

If you really think there might be a Nigerian prince who needs your assistance in getting money out of his country, SmartSwipe (available for $93 at smartswipe.ca) might be your knight in shining armor. The fact that Canada's NetSecure Technologies gave their product a name more indicative of a cleaner-upper for a baby's backside should be ignored.

If you're concerned about being "taken" on the web for thousands, or possibly tens of thousands, of dollars, SmartSwipe is a financial-protection tool designed for those occasions when you pay for products or services - or simply desire to donate, deposit or otherwise distribute dollars - on the web.

Connected to a USB port on your computer, this gadget looks like a miniature black plastic miner's helmet. Six blue-colored lights at the top of the unit give it a bit of flash ... literally.

In reality, this product is a credit card reader. When you're connected to Amazon, Best Buy, eBay or other online stores, once you're ready to check out and pay for your purchases, you swipe your credit card to record your payment information rather than filling in the prescribed boxes on an online form.

You're right to wonder how you benefit from paying a C-Note for this contraption. Aside from the convenience of not filling in your credit card number and your-name-as-it-appears-on-the-card and expiration date and security code, this gadget protects you from one part of the online buying process that can still be hacked.

Only doing business with merchants you trust isn't enough. Making sure your browser sports an https:// (indicating a secure socket connection with the merchant) isn't enough. Having browser software that aids you in avoiding phishing tactics isn't enough.

Despite all those precautions, the simple act of entering your payment information via your computer keyboard can still be captured by online vandals. SmartSwipe is designed to plug that hole by encrypting your financial data before it ever reaches your computer for transport to an online merchant.

This past weekend, I purchased EA Sports' NCAA Football 10 video game using SmartSwipe. It was easy and probably more secure than any previous online purchase I've ever made.

Was it $100 worth of added security? I'll leave that decision to you, your fears and whether or not that nameless Nigerian prince has you on his mailing list.

Got a gadget question or a high-tech toy to recommend? E-mail gspot@columbusalive.com