Feeds

Canadian TV station wails: NFC bonking... it's not SAFE

Credit card cloning? Sigh, we've been here before

Seven Steps to Software Security

Another North American TV network has discovered credit card numbers can be read using a phone, and whipped itself into a media frenzy due to its failure to understand how NFC works.

This time it's Canadian outfit CBC News, last time it was Memphis-based News Channel 3, but the facts remain the same: an NFC-equipped card will hand over its number, owner's name and expiry date, to an unauthenticated reader, but it won't hand over the three-digit CVC or the cryptographic keys used to authenticate bonked payments.

Back in 2010, News Channel 3 had to use a laptop and snuggle up close to card-holders' wallets, but these days the same tech is built into dozens of mobile phones, which makes snuggling easier - even if the information lifted is of little value.

Ordering anything online will need the Card Verification Code (CVC), which is printed on the back of the card and not disclosed over the radio link. Pay-by-bonk transactions use a cryptographic challenge/response which differs every time, so knowing the card number won't help criminals there.

The expert called upon by CBC News is adamant that just a card number and expiry date can be used to buy “anything from a $1.50 drink from a machine to a $4,000 to $5,000 laptop.” El Reg would be interested to know which retailers sell five grand's worth of kit without checking the CVC, the home address or even the signature.

That's not to say the credit card number can't be used at all. Some merchants don't check the CVC or card holder's home address, but such merchants don't last long. One can also imagine a careful thief lifting the card number from someone they know, or someone whose PIN they've discovered by shoulder surfing at a cash point.

With the card number and the PIN our thief could make a duplicate card, then take it to a country (such as the USA) where Chip 'n'PIN security isn't universal and withdraw cash, but it's a convoluted process at best and knocking the user on the head is probably much easier.

Scare stories of this type are easy news, just as they were in 2010 and no doubt will be again in 2015. Yes, NFC has its problems, but there's really no need to go around conjuring up new ones - or rehashing discredited ideas into new TV. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.