Posts Tagged: EMV

May 16

Skimmers Found at Walmart: A Closer Look

Recent local news stories about credit card skimmers found in self-checkout lanes at some Walmart locations reminds me of a criminal sales pitch I saw recently for overlay skimmers made specifically for the very same card terminals.

Much like the skimmers found at some Safeway locations earlier this year, the skimming device pictured below was designed to be installed in the blink of an eye at self-checkout lanes — as in recent incidents at Walmart stores in Fredericksburg, Va. and Fort Wright, Ky. In these attacks, the skimmers were made to piggyback on card readers sold by payment solutions company Ingenico.

A skimmer made to be fitted to an Ingenico credit card terminal of the kind used at Walmart stores across the country. Image: Hold Security.

A skimmer made to be fitted to an Ingenico credit card terminal of the kind used at Walmart stores across the country. Image: Hold Security.

This Ingenico “overlay” skimmer has a PIN pad overlay to capture the user’s PIN, and a mechanism for recording the data stored on a card’s magnetic stripe when customers swipe their cards at self-checkout aisles. The wire pictured at the bottom is for offloading the data from the card skimmers once thieves have retrieved the devices from compromised checkout lanes.

This particular skimmer retails for between $200 to $300, but that price doesn’t include the electronics that power the device and store the stolen card data.

Here’s how this skimmer looks when it’s attached. Think you’d be able to spot it?


Image credit: Hold Security.

Walmart last year began asking customers with more secure chip-enabled cards to dip the chip instead of swipe the stripe. Chip-based cards are more expensive and difficult for thieves to counterfeit, and they can help mitigate the threat from most modern card-skimming methods that read the cardholder data in plain text from the card’s magnetic stripe. Those include malicious software at the point-of-sale terminal, as well as physical skimmers placed over card readers at self-checkout lanes. Continue reading →

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 →

Feb 16

The Great EMV Fake-Out: No Chip For You!

Many banks are now issuing customers more secure chip-based credit cards, and most retailers now have card terminals in their checkout lanes that can handle the “dip” of chip-card transactions (as opposed to the usual swipe of the card’s magnetic stripe). But comparatively few retailers actually allow chip transactions: Most are still asking customers to swipe the stripe instead of dip the chip. This post will examine what’s going on here, why so many merchants are holding out on the dip, and where this all leaves consumers.

chiptransVisa CEO Charles W. Scharf said in an earnings call late last month that more than 750,000 locations representing 17 percent of the U.S. face-to-face card-accepting merchant base are now enabled to handle chip-based transactions, also known as the EMV (“Europay, Mastercard and Visa”) payment standard.

Viewed another way, that means U.S. consumers currently can expect to find chip cards accepted in checkout lines at fewer than one in five brick-and-mortar merchants.

Why are so many chip-capable checkout terminals already installed that have not been enabled to actually accept chip cards? Allen Weinberg, co-founder of Menlo Park, Calif. based management consulting firm Glenbrook Partners, examined this very question in a recent column that pointed to several factors holding retailers back from enabling dip-the-chip.


New MasterCard and Visa rules that went into effect Oct. 1, 2015 put merchants on the hook to absorb 100 percent of the costs of fraud associated with transactions in which the customer presented a chip-based card yet was not asked or able to dip the chip. The chip cards encrypt the cardholder data and are far more expensive and difficult for card thieves to clone.

Despite the increased risk of eating the entire loss from counterfeit card use in their stores, many merchants are taking a wait-and-see approach on enabling chip card transactions. Weinberg said some merchants — particularly the larger ones — want to turn the often painful experience of training customers how to use the chip cards and terminals into someone else’s problem.

“They see [chip cards] as just slowing down lines and chose to wait until consumers learned what to do — and do it quickly — at someone else’s store,” Weinberg wrote.

Weinberg adds that for many larger merchants, switching on the chip readers also can be a big and expensive project. Part of the problem, he says, is that many integrated point of sale systems — particularly the electronic cash register software for these systems — were just not ready in time for the Oct. 2015 liability shift.

“Even if the software was ahead of the game, they faced long certification queues at many acquirers,” Weinberg wrote. “I believe this is going to be a problem for a while.”

Visa said based on recent client surveys it expects 50% of face-to-face card accepting merchants to have chip card transactions enabled by the end of this year. But even 50 percent adoption can mask a long tail of smaller merchants who will put off as long as they can the expensive software and hardware upgrades for accepting chip transactions.

“My dry cleaner isn’t worried about someone using counterfeit cards at his cash register,” Weinberg said, noting that many businesses meanwhile discount the chances that hackers will siphon customer cards by sneaking malicious software onto point-of-sale devices — a problem that has lead to one breach after another at brand name retailers, restaurants and hotels over the past several  years. 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 →

Apr 15

‘Revolution’ Crimeware & EMV Replay Attacks

In October 2014, KrebsOnSecurity examined a novel “replay” attack that sought to exploit implementation weaknesses at U.S. financial institutions that were in the process of transitioning to more secure chip-based credit and debit cards. Today’s post looks at one service offered in the cybercrime underground to help thieves perpetrate this type of fraud.

Several U.S. financial institutions last year reported receiving tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent credit and debit card transactions coming from Brazil and hitting card accounts stolen in recent retail heists, principally cards compromised as part of the October 2014 breach at Home Depot. The affected banks were puzzled by the attacks because the fraudulent transactions were all submitted through Visa and MasterCard‘s networks as chip-enabled transactions, even though the banks that issued the cards in question hadn’t yet begun sending customers chip-enabled cards.

Seller in underground forum describes his "Revolution" software to conduct  EMV card fraud against banks that haven't implemented EMV correctly .

Seller in underground forum describes his “Revolution” software to conduct EMV card fraud against banks that haven’t implemented EMV fully.

Fraud experts said the most likely explanation for the activity was that crooks were pushing regular magnetic stripe transactions through the card network as chip card purchases using a technique known as a “replay” attack. According to one bank interviewed at the time, MasterCard officials explained that the thieves were likely in control of a payment terminal and had the ability to manipulate data fields for transactions put through that terminal. After capturing traffic from a real chip-based chip card transaction, the thieves could insert stolen card data into the transaction stream, while modifying the merchant and acquirer bank account data on-the-fly.

Recently, KrebsOnSecurity encountered a fraudster in a popular cybercrime forum selling a fairly sophisticated software-as-a-service package to do just that. The seller, a hacker who reportedly specializes in selling skimming products to help thieves steal card data from ATMs and point-of-sale devices, calls his product “Revolution” and offers to provide buyers with a list of U.S. financial institutions that have not fully or properly implemented systems for accepting and validating chip-card transactions. Continue reading →

Oct 14

‘Replay’ Attacks Spoof Chip Card Charges

An odd new pattern of credit card fraud emanating from Brazil and targeting U.S. financial institutions could spell costly trouble for banks that are just beginning to issue customers more secure chip-based credit and debit cards.

emvblueOver the past week, at least three U.S. financial institutions reported receiving tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent credit and debit card transactions coming from Brazil and hitting card accounts stolen in recent retail heists, principally cards compromised as part of the breach at Home Depot.

The most puzzling aspect of these unauthorized charges? They were all submitted through Visa and MasterCard‘s networks as chip-enabled transactions, even though the banks that issued the cards in question haven’t even yet begun sending customers chip-enabled cards.

The most frustrating aspect of these unauthorized charges? They’re far harder for the bank to dispute. Banks usually end up eating the cost of fraud from unauthorized transactions when scammers counterfeit and use stolen credit cards. Even so, a bank may be able to recover some of that loss through dispute mechanisms set up by Visa and MasterCard, as long as the bank can show that the fraud was the result of a breach at a specific merchant (in this case Home Depot).

However, banks are responsible for all of the fraud costs that occur from any fraudulent use of their customers’ chip-enabled credit/debit cards — even fraudulent charges disguised as these pseudo-chip transactions.


The bank I first heard from about this fraud — a small financial institution in New England — battled some $120,000 in fraudulent charges from Brazilian stores in less than two days beginning last week. The bank managed to block $80,000 of those fraudulent charges, but the bank’s processor, which approves incoming transactions when the bank’s core systems are offline, let through the other $40,000. All of the transactions were debit charges, and all came across MasterCard’s network looking to MasterCard like chip transactions without a PIN.

The fraud expert with the New England bank said the institution had decided against reissuing customer cards that were potentially compromised in the five-month breach at Home Depot, mainly because that would mean reissuing a sizable chunk of the bank’s overall card base and because the bank had until that point seen virtually no fraud on the accounts.

“We saw very low penetration rates on our Home Depot cards, so we didn’t do a mass reissue,” the expert said. “And then in one day we matched a month’s worth of fraud on those cards thanks to these charges from Brazil.” Continue reading →

Jul 14

The Rise of Thin, Mini and Insert Skimmers

Like most electronic gadgets these days, ATM skimmers are getting smaller and thinner, with extended battery life. Here’s a look at several miniaturized fraud devices that were pulled from compromised cash machines at various ATMs in Europe so far this year.

According to a new report from the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a novel form of mini-skimmer was reported by one country. Pictured below is a device designed to capture the data stored on an ATM card’s magnetic stripe as the card is inserted into the machine. While most card skimmers are made to sit directly on top of the existing card slot, these newer mini-skimmers fit snugly inside the card reader throat, obscuring most of the device. This card skimmer was made to fit inside certain kinds of cash machines made by NCR.

An NCR mini-skimmer designed to slip inside of ATM's card acceptance slot. Image: EAST.

A mini-skimmer designed to slip inside of an NCR ATM’s card acceptance slot. Image: EAST.

“New versions of insert skimmers (skimmers placed inside the card reader throat) are getting harder to detect,” the EAST report concludes.

The miniaturized insert skimmer above was used in tandem with a tiny spy camera to record each customer’s PIN. The image on the left shows the hidden camera situated just to the left of the large square battery; the photo on the right shows the false ATM fascia that obscures the hidden camera as it was found attached to the compromised ATM (notice the tiny pinhole at the top left edge of the device).

The hidden camera used in tandem with the insert skimmer. Source: EAST.

The hidden camera used in tandem with the insert skimmer. Source: EAST.

EAST notes that the same country which reported discovering the skimmer devices above also found an ATM that was compromised by a new type of translucent insert skimmer, pictured below.

A translucent mini-skimmer made to sit (mostly) inside of an ATM's card acceptance slot. Source: EAST.

A translucent mini-skimmer made to sit (mostly) inside of an ATM’s card acceptance slot. Source: EAST.

Continue reading →

Mar 13

Cash Claws, Fake Fascias & Tampered Tickets

Credit and debit card skimmers aren’t just for ATMs anymore. According to European anti-fraud experts, innovative skimming devices are turning up on everything from train ticket kiosks to parking meters and a host of other unattended payment terminals.

Recently, at least five countries reported skimming attacks against railway or transport ticket machines, according to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a not-for-profit organization that collects data on skimming attacks.  Two countries reported skimming attacks at parking machines, and three countries had skimming incidents involving point-of-sale terminals. EAST notes that Bluetooth devices increasingly are being used to transit stolen card and PIN data wirelessly.

Skimming devices found at train ticket kiosks in Europe. Source: EAST

Skimming devices found at train ticket kiosks in Europe. Source: EAST

The organization also is tracking a skimming trend reported by three countries (mainly in Latin America) in which thieves are fabricating fake ATM fascias and placing them over genuine ATMs, like the one pictured below. After entering their PIN, cardholders see an ‘out-of-order’ message. EAST said the fake fascias include working screens so that this type of message can be displayed. The card details are compromised by a skimming device hidden inside the fake fascia, and the PINs are captured via the built-in keypad, which overlays the real keypad underneath.

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 →