Why we need the EMV card

The tiny devices that steal credit card data are getting impossibly hard to detect


ATM skimmers, the miniature devices that stealthily help fraudsters capture your credit and debit card data, are getting smaller and harder to detect. Skimmers have always been designed to blend in with any ATM they're attached to, but for years a discerning eye or tug of the card reader were often enough to uncover them. That's not the case anymore. Krebs on Security has been researching a number of devices recovered in Europe this year, and several of them were small enough to fit inside the ATM card slot itself. The ultra-thin profile of these "insert skimmers" makes them far less obvious to your average person making a quick stop at the cash machine.

And thieves often pair them with hidden spy cameras that are equally difficult to spot; many victims never realize their banking data has been compromised until fraudulent charges begin showing up. Other modern skimmers include mobile chips capable of sending off your credit card data in a text message, so the perpetrator can avoid the risk of returning to the host ATM and picking up the device.

The United States and its snail-like pace to adopting chip and PIN debit / credit cards can be blamed for the growing skimmer problem. Until the US is fully on board, international banks have little choice but to keep manufacturing cards with the vulnerable magnetic stripe. For now, the best protection is covering an ATM's keypad when entering your PIN — and keeping your eyes open for card slots that show signs of tampering.
Comment: Image source.  More on the EMV card. Kathee's big project is the EMV debit card.

1 comment:

  1. On why "Chip and Pin" did not develop in the US:

    While Europe, Canada and Mexico have had chipped cards for years — usually with a chip and a PIN (personal identification number), the U.S. card issuers have studiously avoided the more secure, but more expensive, cards. To some extent American issuers didn’t need the card-based security. Unlike Europe, the American card industry had grown up with cheap telecommunications, so merchants could check cards in real-time as they accepted a card in payment. American technology vendors also developed very sophisticated, if sometimes alarmist, tools to detect fraudulent card use. Really, should a New Jersey resident’s $30 gas purchase in Massachusetts trigger an alert just because she rarely ventured so far from home?


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