A new study finds that credit card fraud has not declined since the introduction of chip cards in the US. The majority of stolen card information comes from hacked point-of-sale terminals.
The reasons seem to be twofold. One, the US uses chip-and-signature instead of chip-and-PIN, obviating the most critical security benefit of the chip. And two, US merchants still accept magnetic stripe cards, meaning that thieves can steal credentials from a chip card and create a working cloned mag stripe card.
Boing Boing post.
Posted on November 15, 2018 at 6:24 AM •
Visa is reporting that introducing chip cards into the US has cut counterfeit cards by 70%.
Posted on February 5, 2018 at 6:13 AM •
The way forced authorisation fraud works is that the retailer sets up the terminal for a transaction by inserting the customer’s card and entering the amount, then hands the terminal over to the customer so they can type in the PIN. But the criminal has used a stolen or counterfeit card, and due to the high value of the transaction the terminal performs a “referral”—asking the retailer to call the bank to perform additional checks such as the customer answering a security question. If the security checks pass, the bank will give the retailer an authorisation code to enter into the terminal.
The problem is that when the terminal asks for these security checks, it’s still in the hands of the criminal, and it’s the criminal that follows the steps that the retailer should have. Since there’s no phone conversation with the bank, the criminal doesn’t know the correct authorisation code. But what surprises retailers is that the criminal can type in anything at this stage and the transaction will go through. The criminal might also be able to bypass other security features, for example they could override the checking of the PIN by following the steps the retailer would if the customer has forgotten the PIN.
By the time the terminal is passed back to the retailer, it looks like the transaction was completed successfully. The receipt will differ only very subtly from that of a normal transaction, if at all. The criminal walks off with the goods and it’s only at the end of the day that the authorisation code is checked by the bank. By that time, the criminal is long gone. Because some of the security checks the bank asked for weren’t completed, the retailer doesn’t get the money.
Posted on December 7, 2015 at 5:35 AM •
This paper describes what is almost certainly the most sophisticated chip-and-pin credit card fraud to date.
News article. BoingBoing post.
Posted on October 23, 2015 at 6:58 AM •
Interesting research paper on a bank card chip-and-PIN vulnerability. From the blog post:
Our new paper shows that it is possible to create clone chip cards which normal bank procedures will not be able to distinguish from the real card.
When a Chip and PIN transaction is performed, the terminal requests that the card produces an authentication code for the transaction. Part of this transaction is a number that is supposed to be random, so as to stop an authentication code being generated in advance. However, there are two ways in which the protection can be bypassed: the first requires that the Chip and PIN terminal has a poorly designed random generation (which we have observed in the wild); the second requires that the Chip and PIN terminal or its communications back to the bank can be tampered with (which again, we have observed in the wild).
Posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:01 PM •
Well, new to us:
You see, an EMV payment card authenticates itself with a MAC of transaction data, for which the freshly generated component is the unpredictable number (UN). If you can predict it, you can record everything you need from momentary access to a chip card to play it back and impersonate the card at a future date and location. You can as good as clone the chip. It’s called a “pre-play” attack. Just like most vulnerabilities we find these days some in industry already knew about it but covered it up; we have indications the crooks know about this too, and we believe it explains a good portion of the unsolved phantom withdrawal cases reported to us for which we had until recently no explanation.
Paper here. And news article.
Posted on September 11, 2012 at 12:38 PM •
When you pay a restaurant bill at your table using a point-of-sale machine, are you sure it’s legit? In the past three months, Toronto and Peel police have discovered many that aren’t.
In what is the latest financial fraud, crooks are using distraction techniques to replace merchants’ machines with their own, police say. At the end of the day, they create another distraction to pull the switch again.
Using information inputted by customers, including PIN data, the criminals are reproducing credit cards at an alarming rate.
Presumably these hacked point-of-sale terminals look and function normally, and additionally save a copy of the credit card information.
Note that this attack works despite any customer-focused security, like chip-and-pin systems.
Posted on June 19, 2012 at 1:02 PM •
Nice attack against the EMV—Eurocard Mastercard Visa—the “chip and PIN” credit card payment system. The attack allows a criminal to use a stolen card without knowing the PIN.
The flaw is that when you put a card into a terminal, a negotiation takes place about how the cardholder should be authenticated: using a PIN, using a signature or not at all. This particular subprotocol is not authenticated, so you can trick the card into thinking it’s doing a chip-and-signature transaction while the terminal thinks it’s chip-and-PIN. The upshot is that you can buy stuff using a stolen card and a PIN of 0000 (or anything you want). We did so, on camera, using various journalists’ cards. The transactions went through fine and the receipts say “Verified by PIN”.
So what went wrong? In essence, there is a gaping hole in the specifications which together create the “Chip and PIN” system. These specs consist of the EMV protocol framework, the card scheme individual rules (Visa, MasterCard standards), the national payment association rules (UK Payments Association aka APACS, in the UK), and documents produced by each individual issuer describing their own customisations of the scheme. Each spec defines security criteria, tweaks options and sets rules—but none take responsibility for listing what back-end checks are needed. As a result, hundreds of issuers independently get it wrong, and gain false assurance that all bases are covered from the common specifications. The EMV specification stack is broken, and needs fixing.
Read Ross Anderson’s entire blog post for both details and context. Here’s the paper, the press release, and a FAQ. And one news article.
This is big. There are about a gazillion of these in circulation.
EDITED TO ADD (2/12): BBC video of the attack in action.
Posted on February 11, 2010 at 4:18 PM •
“Optimised to Fail: Card Readers for Online Banking,” by Saar Drimer, Steven J. Murdoch, and Ross Anderson.
The Chip Authentication Programme (CAP) has been introduced by banks in Europe to deal with the soaring losses due to online banking fraud. A handheld reader is used together with the customer’s debit card to generate one-time codes for both login and transaction authentication. The CAP protocol is not public, and was rolled out without any public scrutiny. We reverse engineered the UK variant of card readers and smart cards and here provide the first public description of the protocol. We found numerous weaknesses that are due to design errors such as reusing authentication tokens, overloading data semantics, and failing to ensure freshness of responses. The overall strategic error was excessive optimisation. There are also policy implications. The move from signature to PIN for authorising point-of-sale transactions shifted liability from banks to customers; CAP introduces the same problem for online banking. It may also expose customers to physical harm.
EDITED TO ADD (3/12): More info.
Posted on March 5, 2009 at 12:45 PM •
The readers were hacked when they were built, “either during the manufacturing process at a factory in China, or shortly after they came off the production line.” It’s being called a “supply chain hack.”
Sophisticated stuff, and yet another demonstration that these all-computer security systems are full of risks.
BTW, what’s it worth to rig an election?
Posted on October 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.