Crooks are selling a skimmer that works on all chip card readers

chip pin credit card reader
Credit: Zach Miners

Think that your new EMV-compliant chip-reading point of sale terminal will keep crooks from stealing your customer credit card info?

Think that your new EMV-compliant chip-reading point of sale terminal will keep crooks from stealing your customer credit card info?

Think again.

Researchers have spotted a website setting EMV skimmers -- at, if it hasn't already been taken down -- that claims to sell "the most advanced EMV chip data collector in the world."

And it's a scary piece of equipment.

According to the seller, it's powered by the point of sale terminal, and can hold information on up to 5,000 credit cards in its memory. It can also be used on machines made by Ingenico and Verifone, as well as terminals on gas station pumps, ticket purchase stations, and on small ATMs, specifically those manufactured by Triton.

The primary market for this device is Latin America, according to Andrei Barysevich, director of Eastern European research and analysis at Flashpoint.

The reason is that Latin America, an early adopter of EMV, is still heavily reliant on static data authentication chips, which allow the criminal using it to create usable new chip cards with the data it catches.

The rest of the world uses dynamic data authentication, where the codes sent to the terminal change with every transaction. The criminals can still get the data, but can only use it to create magnetic stripe cards.

"So it's not as scary as it could be," Barysevich said.

In Latin America, the crook can then go into any store with their new chip cards and make purchases.

"The bank will not know that the card has been stolen and that someone is attempting to use it illegitimately," he said.

Elsewhere in the world, if the crook uses the data to create new magnetic stripe cards and uses them in a store that has chip card readers, some banks will let the purchase go through, others will stop the transaction because they know that the card is supposed to be a chip card, and some will flag it as a potential risk.

"And if they know you used your card in New York and two hours later someone swiped the card in California, it's a good indication that the card has been compromised," he said.

But the U.S. is currently lagging behind on its EMV migration.

[ BACKGROUND: Why have most merchants missed the EMV deadline? ]

That means that a crook can install the skimmer at a location that is already accepting chip cards, collect the numbers, create magnetic stripe cards, then go across the street to a big electronics retailer that hasn't switched over yet and use the magnetic stripe cards to make big purchases.

The skimmer is also easy for the criminal to use and hard for a merchant to spot, said Barysevich.

"This technology can be used in any point of sale device," he said. "It literally takes less than 10 seconds to install, and once installed, it stays there forever. The criminal just uses a little bit of glue on the device, installs it on the machine and leaves it there. Then he comes back a few days later, inserts a special card and every stolen record will be copied. Then he goes home, connects it to his computer and transfers the information."

The skimmer fits so neatly into the chip card slot that it's almost invisible, he said.

"Old-fashioned skimming devices are overlays installed on top of the machine," he said. "But this particular device is so much harder to identify. "The merchant will have to get a flashlight and see if they can spot anything in the slot. I don't see how store managers will do it on a daily basis."

Barysevich said that the terminal manufacturers have been notified about the issue.

"I always try to alert businesses about impending dangers and attacks," he said. "But once we get the information to them, the ball is in their court. Sometimes companies move very slowly."

Meanwhile, one solution could be to take one of these skimming devices, duplicate its form -- without the data-stealing functionality, of course -- and install it into the terminals.

There wouldn't be any room for the crook to insert their own skimmer, he said.

Somebody should start selling the blanks until the manufacturers come out with a permanent fix, or everyone switches over to the dynamic chips and the whole issue becomes moot.

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