Posts Tagged: chip and pin

Mar 16

Credit Unions Feeling Pinch in Wendy’s Breach

A number of credit unions say they have experienced an unusually high level of debit card fraud from the breach at nationwide fast food chain Wendy’s, and that the losses so far eclipse those that came in the wake of huge card breaches at Target and Home Depot.

wendyskyAs first noted on this blog in January, Wendy’s is investigating a pattern of unusual card activity at some stores. In a preliminary 2015 annual report, Wendy’s confirmed that malware designed to steal card data was found on some systems. The company says it doesn’t yet know the extent of the breach or how many customers may have been impacted.

According to B. Dan Berger, CEO at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, many credit unions saw a huge increase in debit card fraud in the few weeks before the Wendy’s breach became public. He said much of that fraud activity was later tied to customers who’d patronized Wendy’s locations less than a month prior.

“This is what we’ve heard from three different credit union CEOs in Ohio now: It’s more concentrated and the amounts hitting compromised debit accounts is much higher that what they were hit with after Home Depot or Target,” Berger said. “It seems to have been been [the work of] a sophisticated group, in terms of the timing and the accounts they targeted. They were targeting and draining debit accounts with lots of money in them.”

Berger shared an email sent by one credit union CEO who asked not to be named in this story:

“Please take this Wendy’s story very seriously. We have been getting killed lately with debit card fraud. We have already hit half of our normal yearly fraud so far this year, and it is not even the end of January yet. After reading this, we reviewed activity on some of our accounts which had fraud on them. The first six we checked had all been to Wendy’s in the last quarter of 2015.”

All I am suggesting is that we are experiencing much high[er] losses lately than we ever did after the Target or Home Depot problems. I think we may be end up with 5 to 10 times the loss on this breach, wherever it occurred. Accordingly, please put this story in the proper perspective.”

Wendy’s declined to comment for this story.

Even if thieves don’t know the PIN assigned to a given debit card, very often banks and credit unions will let customers call in and change their PIN using automated systems that ask the caller to verify the cardholder’s identity by keying in static identifiers, like Social Security numbers, dates of birth and the card’s expiration date.

Thieves can abuse these automated systems to reset the PIN on the victim’s debit card, and then use a counterfeit copy of the card to withdraw cash from the account at ATMs. As I reported in September 2014, this is exactly what happened in the wake of the Home Depot breach. Continue reading →

Oct 15

Trump Hotel Collection Confirms Card Breach

The Trump Hotel Collection, a string of luxury hotel properties tied to business magnate and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, said last week that a year-long breach of its credit card system may have resulted in the theft of cards used at the hotels. The acknowledgement comes roughly three months after this author first reported that multiple financial institutions suspected the hotels were compromised.

Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

In a Web site created to share details about the hack, The Trump Hotel Collection said the breach affects customers who used their credit or debit cards at the hotels between May 19, 2014, and June 2, 2015.

“While the independent forensic investigator did not find evidence that information was taken from the Hotel’s systems, it appears that there may have been unauthorized malware access to payment card information as it was inputted into the payment card systems. Payment card data (including payment card account number, card expiration date, and security code) of individuals who used a payment card at the Hotel between May 19, 2014, and June 2, 2015, may have been affected.

The Trump compromise is just the latest in a long string of credit card breaches involving hotel brands, restaurants and retail establishments. In March, upscale hotel chain Mandarin Oriental disclosed a compromise. The following month, hotel franchising firm White Lodging acknowledged that, for the second time in 12 months, card processing systems at several of its locations were breached by hackers.

On Sept. 25, this author first reported that the Hilton Hotel chain is investigating reports of a pattern of card fraud traced back to some of its properties.
Continue reading →

Jul 15

Spike in ATM Skimming in Mexico?

Several sources in the financial industry say they are seeing a spike in fraud on customer cards used at ATMs in Mexico. The reason behind that apparent increase hopefully will be fodder for another story. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at a pair of ATM skimming devices that were found this month attached to a cash machine in Puerto Vallarta — a popular tourist destination on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

On Saturday, July 18, 2015, municipal police in Puerto Vallara arrested a man who had just replaced the battery in a pair of skimming devices he or an associate had installed at an ATM in a busy spot of the town. This skimming kit targeted certain models of cash machines made by Korean ATM manufacturer Hyosung, and included a card skimming device as well as a hidden camera to record the victim’s ATM card PIN.

Here’s a look at the hidden camera installed over the compromised card reader. Would you have noticed anything amiss here?

The tiny pinhole camera was hidden in a molded plastic fascia designed to fit over top of the area directly above the PIN pad. The only clue that something is wrong here is a gap of about one millimeter between the PIN capture device and the actual ATM. Check out the backside of the false front:

The backside of the false fascia shows the location of the hidden camera.

The backside of the false fascia shows the location of the hidden camera.

The left side of the false fascia (as seen from the front, installed) contains the battery units that power the video camera:

Swapping the batteries out got this skimmer scammer busted. No wonder they included so many!

Swapping the batteries out got this skimmer scammer busted. No wonder they included so many!

Continue reading →

Jul 15

Banks: Card Breach at Trump Hotel Properties

The Trump Hotel Collection, a string of luxury hotel properties tied to business magnate and now Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, appears to be the latest victim of a credit card breach, according to data shared by several U.S.-based banks.

Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Contacted regarding reports from sources at several banks who traced a pattern of fraudulent debit and credit card charges to accounts that had all been used at Trump hotels, the company declined multiple requests for comment.

Update, 4:56 p.m. ET: The Trump Organization just acknowledged the issue with a brief statement from Eric Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions: “Like virtually every other company these days, we have been alerted to potential suspicious credit card activity and are in the midst of a thorough investigation to determine whether it involves any of our properties,” the statement reads. “We are committed to safeguarding all guests’ personal information and will continue to do so vigilantly.”

Original story:

But sources in the financial industry say they have little doubt that Trump properties in several U.S. locations — including Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York — are dealing with a card breach that appears to extend back to at least February 2015.

If confirmed, the incident would be the latest in a long string of credit card breaches involving hotel brands, restaurants and retail establishments. In March, upscale hotel chain Mandarin Oriental disclosed a compromise. The following month, hotel franchising firm White Lodging acknowledged that, for the second time in 12 months, card processing systems at several of its locations were breached by hackers.

It is likely that the huge number of card breaches at U.S.-based organizations over the past year represents a response by fraudsters to upcoming changes in the United States designed to make credit and debit cards more difficult and expensive to counterfeit. Non-chip cards store cardholder data on a magnetic stripe, which can be trivially copied and re-encoded onto virtually anything else with a magnetic stripe. Continue reading →

Sep 14

Breach at Goodwill Vendor Lasted 18 Months

C&K Systems Inc., a third-party payment vendor blamed for a credit and debit card breach at more than 330 Goodwill locations nationwide, disclosed this week that the intrusion lasted more than 18 months and has impacted at least two other organizations.

cksystemsOn July 21, 2014, this site broke the news that multiple banks were reporting indications that Goodwill Industries had suffered an apparent breach that led to the theft of customer credit and debit card data. Goodwill later confirmed that the breach impacted a portion of its stores, but blamed the incident on an unnamed “third-party vendor.”

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity obtained some internal talking points apparently sent by Goodwill to prepare its member organizations to respond to any calls from the news media about the incident. Those talking points identified the breached third-party vendor as C&K Systems, a retail point-of-sale operator based in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

In response to inquiries from this reporter, C&K released a statement acknowledging that it was informed on July 30 by “an independent security analyst” that its “hosted managed services environment may have experienced unauthorized access.” The company says it then hired an independent cyber investigative team and alerted law enforcement about the incident.

C&K says the investigation determined malicious hackers had access to its systems “intermittently” between Feb. 10, 2013 and Aug. 14, 2014, and that the intrusion led to the the installation of “highly specialized point of sale (POS) infostealer.rawpos malware variant that was undetectable by our security software systems until Sept. 5, 2014,” [link added].

Their statement continues:

“This unauthorized access currently is known to have affected only three (3) customers of C&K, including Goodwill Industries International. While many payment cards may have been compromised, the number of these cards of which we are informed have been used fraudulently is currently less than 25.”

C&K System’s full statement is posted here. Continue reading →

Aug 14

Stealthy, Razor Thin ATM Insert Skimmers

An increasing number of ATM skimmers targeting banks and consumers appear to be of the razor-thin insert variety. These card-skimming devices are made to fit snugly and invisibly inside the throat of the card acceptance slot. Here’s a look at a stealthy new model of insert skimmer pulled from a cash machine in southern Europe just this past week.

The bank that shared these photos asked to remain anonymous, noting that the incident is still under investigation. But according to an executive at this financial institution, the skimmer below was discovered inside the ATM’s card slot by a bank technician after the ATM’s “fatal error” alarm was set off, warning that someone was likely tampering with the cash machine.

A side view of the stainless steel insert skimmer pulled from a European ATM.

A side view of the stainless steel insert skimmer pulled from a European ATM.

“It was discovered in the ATM’s card slot and the fraudsters didn’t manage to withdraw it,” the bank employee said. “We didn’t capture any hidden camera [because] they probably took it. There were definitely no PIN pad [overlays]. In all skimming cases lately we see through the videos that fraudsters capture the PIN through [hidden] cameras.”

Here’s a closer look at the electronics inside this badboy, which appears to be powered by a simple $3 Energizer Lithium Coin battery (CR2012):

The backside of the insert skimmer reveals a tiny battery and a small data storage device (far left).

The backside of the insert skimmer reveals a small battery (top) and a tiny data storage device (far left).

Flip the device around and we get another look at the battery and the data storage component. The small area circled in red on the left in the image below appears to be the component that’s made to read the data from the magnetic stripe of cards inserted into the compromised ATM.


Virtually all European banks issue chip-and-PIN cards (also called Europay, Mastercard and Visa or EMV), which make it far more expensive for thieves to duplicate and profit from counterfeit cards. Even still, ATM skimming remains a problem for European banks mainly because several parts of the world — most notably the United States and countries in Asia and South America — have not yet adopted this standard. Continue reading →

Nov 12

Beware Card- and Cash-Trapping at the ATM

Many security-savvy readers of this blog have learned to be vigilant against ATM card skimmers and hidden devices that can record you entering your PIN at the cash machine. But experts say an increasing form of ATM fraud involves the use of simple devices capable of snatching cash and ATM cards from unsuspected users.

Security experts with the European ATM Security Team (EAST) say five countries in the region this year have reported card trapping incidents. Such attacks involve devices that fit over the card acceptance slot and include a razor-edged spring trap that prevents the customer’s card from being ejected from the ATM when the transaction is completed.

These devices were made to capture the ATM user’s card after the user withdrawals cash. Credit: EAST.

“Spring traps are still being widely used,” EAST wrote in its most recently European Fraud Update. “Once the card has been inserted, these prevent the card being returned to the customer and also stop the ATM from retracting it. According to reports from one country – despite warning messages that appear on the ATM screen or are displayed on the ATM fascia – customers are still not reporting when their cards are captured, leading to substantial losses from ATM or point-of-sale

According to EAST, most card trapping incidents take place outside normal banking hours with initial fraudulent usage taking place within 10 minutes of the card capture (balance inquiry and cash withdrawal at a nearby ATM), followed by point-of-sale transactions.

A twist on this attack involves “cash traps,” often claw-like contraptions that thieves insert into the cash-dispensing slot which are capable of capturing or skimming some of the dispensed bills. Here are a few pictures of a cash-trapping device from an EAST report released earlier this year.

Claw-like cash trap devices found inserted into ATMs in Europe. Source: EAST.

Continue reading →

Sep 12

Researchers: Chip and PIN Enables ‘Chip and Skim’

Researchers in the United Kingdom say they’ve discovered mounting evidence that thieves have been quietly exploiting design flaws in a security system widely used in Europe to prevent credit and debit card fraud at cash machines and point-of-sale devices.

The innards of a chip-and-PIN enabled card.

At issue is an anti-fraud system called EMV (short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa), more commonly known as “chip-and-PIN.” Most European banks have EMV-enabled cards, which include a secret algorithm embedded in a chip that encodes the card data, making it more difficult for fraudsters to clone the cards for use at EMV-compliant terminals. Chip-and-PIN is not yet widely supported in the United States, but the major card brands are pushing banks and ATM makers to support the technology within the next two to three years.

EMV standards call for cards to be authenticated to a payment terminal or ATM by computing several bits of information, including the charge or withdrawal amount, the date, and a so-called “unpredictable number”. But researchers from the computer laboratory at Cambridge University say they discovered that some payment terminals and ATMs rely on little more than simple counters, or incrementing numbers that are quite predictable.

“The current problem is that instead of having the random number generated by the bank, it’s generated by the merchant terminal,” said Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge, and an author of a paper being released this week titled, “Chip and Skim: Cloning EMV cards with the Pre-Play Attack.”

Anderson said that the failure to specify that merchant terminals should insist on truly *random* numbers, instead of merely non-repeating numbers — is at the crux of the problem.

“This leads to two potential failures: If the merchant terminal doesn’t a generate random number, you’re stuffed,” he said in an interview. “And the second is if there is some wicked interception device between the merchant terminal and the bank, such as malware on the merchant’s server, then you’re also stuffed.”

The “pre-play” aspect of the attack mentioned in the title of their paper refers to the ability to predict the unpredictable number, which theoretically allows an attacker to record everything from the card transaction and to play it back and impersonate the card in additional transactions at a future date and location.

Anderson and a team of other researchers at Cambridge launched their research more than nine months ago, when they first began hearing from European bank card users who said they’d been victimized by fraud — even though they had not shared their PIN with anyone. The victims’ banks refused to reimburse the losses, arguing that the EMV technology made the claimed fraud impossible. But the researchers suspected that fraudsters had discovered a method of predicting the supposedly unpredictable number implementation used by specific point-of-sale devices or ATMs models.

Continue reading →

May 10

Fun with ATM Skimmers, Part III

ATM skimmers, or devices that thieves secretly attach to cash machines in order to capture and ultimately clone ATM cards, have captured the imagination of many readers. Past posts on this blog about ATM skimmers have focused on their prevalence and stealth in attacking cash machines in the United States, but these devices also are a major problem in Europe as well.

According to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a not-for-profit payment security organization, ATM crimes in Europe jumped 149 percent form 2007 to 2008, and most of that increase has been linked to a dramatic increase in ATM skimming attacks. During 2008, a total of 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe. Below is a short video authorities in Germany released recently showing two men caught on camera there installing a skimmer and a pinhole camera panel above to record PINs.

EAST estimates that European ATM fraud losses in 2008 were nearly 500 million Euros, although roughly 80 percent of those losses resulted from fraud committed outside Europe by criminals using stolen card details. EAST believes this is because some 90 percent of European ATMs now are compliant with the so-called “chip and pin” or EMV (an initialism for Europay, Mastercard and VISA) standard.

ATM cards store account data on magnetic strips on the backs of the cards, and thieves have focused their attention on lifting the data from customer cards — either through handheld skimmers — or via magnetic strip readers on ATM skimmers. The data can then be re-encoded onto blank ATM cards, and used at ATM along with the victim’s PIN to withdraw cash. The EMV approach uses a secret algorithm embedded in the chip planted into each ATM card. The chip encodes the card data, making it harder (but certainly not impossible) for fraudsters to read information from them or clone them. RSA‘s Idan Aharoni wrote an informative post about this technology earlier this year.

Needless to say, U.S. based financial institutions do not require chip-and-PIN, and that may be a contributor to the high fraud rates in the United States. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that annual losses from ATM fraud totaled about $1 billion in 2008, or about $350,000 each day.

While many of the images below are not new, they showcase some of the actual ATM skimmers deployed against European cash machines (click any of the images to view a slideshow).


Have you seen:

All-in-one Skimmers…ATM skimmers come in all shapes and sizes, and most include several components — such as a tiny spy cam hidden in a brochure rack, or fraudulent PIN pad overlay. The problem from the thief’s perspective is that the more components included in the skimmer kit, the greater the chance that he will get busted attaching or removing the devices from ATMs. Thus, the appeal of the all-in-one ATM skimmer: It stores card data using an integrated magnetic stripe reader, and it has a built-in hidden camera designed to record the PIN sequence after an unsuspecting customer slides his bank card into the compromised machine.