Credit card skimmers evolve – the sparkles are here

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Credit cards are loaded with security features, but the cat-and-mouse game continues. Infamous unions continue to develop technologies to steal data in new and innovative ways. After SparkFun dismantled illicit material, they were visited by local law enforcement officials, who again asked for their help.

[Nick] from SparkFun describes the device in question as “shimmering”. It is intended to be installed inside the chip reader of a credit card terminal, between the terminal and the user’s credit card. Manufactured on a flexible film PCB, it is thin enough to be glued inside without being visible even during maintenance.

The investigation begins with the identification of the main components on board, followed by attempts to communicate with the aircraft. Unfortunately, the hardware was generally unresponsive, even when plugged into a card reader. To find out more, a diagram has been produced. [Nick]The analysis raised more questions than answers, and the suspicion is that the material may have been damaged at some point. However, the basic capabilities of the device are obvious, given the hardware’s ability to interact with a card through its contacts and offload data through the onboard nRF24L01 radio module.

Thanks to people like [Nick], and previous work by SparkFun, we all now have a better understanding of the risks of using payment terminals in the wild. Unfortunately, unless your local gas station is willing to let you spend 20 minutes disassembling their card reader before paying, there isn’t much the individual can do about it. Stay alert, and if you get lean on a skimmer, drop us a line.


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