Security & Fraud

University Of Florida Researchers Develop Device To Detect Skimmers

Credit Card Skimmer Shows Up At Walmart

Aiming to detect skimmers that are placed on credit card readers, University of Florida researchers  Nolen Scaife, Christian Peeters and Patrick Traynor showcased the Skim Reaper, a new device that can tell when signs of a skimmer are present.

According to a report in Ars Technica citing the research that was presented at the USENIX Security Symposium this week, the researchers used data provided by the New York City Police Department to figure out which type of credit card skimmer devices the bad guys are using and found four that were popular. They include: overlays, which are skimmers that are placed on ATMs; deep inserts, which are skimmers that are placed inside the card readers; wiretap skimmers, which are placed between a payment terminal and the network it's connecting to; and internal skimmers, which are placed between the card reader and the rest of the payment terminal hardware.  According to the report, Scaife said overlays and deep inserts are the most popular card reader skimmers and are becoming harder to detect. The Skim Reaper was developed for overlay and inserts detection, relying on a card-shaped sensor that can detect voltage spikes. If there are two or more spikes there is likely a skimmer on the device, noted the report.

The report noted that based on tests the researchers did, it found the Skim Reaper had a 100 percent track record for detecting skimmers — which has resulted in the New York Police Department adopting the Skim Reaper. Meanwhile, seven other police departments have signed up for the Skim Reaper. Scaife said at the conference that demand is surpassing the researchers’ ability to make the devices.

Earlier this year ALDI, the grocery store operator, was being targeted by scammers who were installing credit card skimmers on top of point-of-sale terminals in plain sight. According to news from sources at the time, police in Lower Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, had pinpointed a group of thieves as the culprits. They had been installing camouflaged skimmers on ALDI credit card terminals right in front of surveillance cameras. Because the skimmers look exactly like legitimate credit card terminals, employees and customers alike were tricked.

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