A new mechanism helps to fight against the cloning of credit cards

Un nouveau mécanisme permet de lutter contre le clonage des cartes de crédit

Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The canadian Press
Most of the copiers of maps install a second playback head to the inside or the outside of the machine.

The expert cyber security Patrick Traynor was in New York in February to help the police to fight the scourge of cloning credit cards when he received an alert informing him that her own information had been stolen while he was in town.

This was not the first time. In five years, his personal data had been stolen by a half-dozen times by copiers of maps installed on atms or gas pumps.

“I have 15 years of experience in the field of information security,” he stressed. If I am not able to protect myself effectively, that is what the others can do ? “

Mr. Traynor teaches information science and engineering at the University of Florida.

After three years of work, Mr. Traynor and two of his students have developed a device they have dubbed the ” Skim Reaper “, a gadget as thin as a credit card that can be slid into the slot of the card reader to detect, quickly and easily, if the atm or the pump has been tampered with.

The New York police department (NYPD) is testing the Skim Reaper and a testament to some success. The Associated Press has obtained exclusive access to the laboratory where the device is manufactured, as well as the tests conducted on the ground by the NYPD.

The Secret Service of the United States — among other responsibilities, the fight against financial fraud, claimed that the copiers of cards to steal more than a billion dollars each year to american consumers. Funds which are often found in the coffers of organized crime.

Most of the copiers of maps install a second playback head to the inside or the outside of the machine. This additional head that allows criminals to clone the card information when the consumer uses it. The Skim Reaper has been designed to detect the presence of a second read head, ” says Mr. Traynor.

The NYPD has four detectives assigned full time to the fight against this scourge, and it should be that the problem is much too extensive to be offset with resources too thin.

“The problem does not stop moving, they [the criminals] will arrive, install the device and leave. At the beginning of the month of January, it was a real massacre, ” recognizes the inspector Christopher Flanagan, squad financial crimes of the NYPD, in reference to an explosion of this kind of crime at the beginning of the year.

Mr. Traynor gave five Skim Reaper to the NYPD in February for the police to do the test. The device looks like a long credit card that you can slide in the slot of the atm or the gas pump. It is connected by a cable to a box about the size of a mobile phone, that displays a message if more than one reading head is detected.

A very simple

The appeal of Skim Reaper stems in part from its simplicity. Mr. Flanagan indicated that the police officers who use, have recently detected a first copier of cards on a desk in Brooklyn.

“I fight for the cloning of the cards for about five years and I’ve never seen anything like this or heard of something of the kind,” said detective James Lilla, also a squad of financial crimes for the NYPD. It is undoubtedly an asset that we can use to combat the problem. “

The arrival of the debit card or credit with chip protective, has allowed some retailers to combat cloning. But the higher cost of the new drives and the complexity of the migration to a new technology discourage many small companies or gas stations that are the prey of evildoers.

Steven Weisman, an expert on cyber security who teaches at the University of Bentley, believes that the Skim Reaper could be a “moment of turning point, a revolutionary” in the fight against the cloning of cards.

“If we manage to reproduce this technology in an affordable way, it could eliminate the copiers of maps. It could help save millions of dollars and tons of problems to people, ” he says.

It currently costs about US $ 50 (64 canadian dollars) to produce each Skim Reaper, ” said Mr. Traynor, but his team is working to reduce the cost.

In New York, detective Flanagan says that the first results are impressive, but that other tests are necessary. The Skim Reaper in particular allows you to take advantage of police officers who have received no special training, instead of using only the investigators are well-trained to spot the copiers of maps.

“I have four detectives who deal with [the problem] full time,” he said. They are all very busy with all the work that we have, so when I can take someone who has no training, or who has the free time to conduct inspections, it certainly helps. “

One of the students of Mr. Traynor, Nolen Scaife, revealed that they hoped to reduce the size of the Skim Reaper to that of a normal card, which would allow all consumers to have one in their pockets and use before proceeding with a transaction.

“There’s nothing better than having the impression that your work really changes anything,” he says. We are happy to produce something that will reverse the trend. “