University Researchers Develop App to Detect Card Skimmers at Gas Pumps
A group of university researchers have developed an app that can detect card skimmers on gas pumps. The app is called Bluetana, and is being used by law enforcement officials in several U.S. states.
Credit card skimmers were once bulky devices that required an extensive amount of effort to install. Over time, criminals have transformed them into thin, discreet scanners that are virtually undetectable. Computer scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, San Diego wanted a way to identify these devices without dismantling an entire gas pump.
Most skimmers utilize Bluetooth technology. This is how criminals gather the card data from the machine. Bluetana can pinpoint the presence of Bluetooth-enabled skimmers.
Other programs on the market are known for picking up false signals such as speed limit signs. The Bluetana developers used data from 1,185 Bluetooth skimmers to narrow down which signals were truly from skimming devices. The app has already identified 64 skimmers that were previously overlooked using other scanners.
Bluetana claims to complete its scans faster than its predecessors, identifying a skimmer within seconds compared to minutes.
Debit and credit cards are the most popular payment methods at fuel pumps. A single skimmer can collect data from hundreds of cards if left undetected.