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Harvesting High Value Foreign Currency Transactions from EMV Contactless Credit Cards Without the PIN

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Martin Emms, Dr Leonardus Arief, Dr Leo Freitas, Joe Hannon, Professor Aad van Moorsel



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by ACM, 2014.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In this paper we present an attack, which allows fraudulent transactions to be collected from EMV contactless credit and debit cards without the knowledge of the cardholder. The attack exploits a previously unreported vulnerability in EMV protocol, which allows EMV contactless cards to approve unlimited value transactions without the cardholder’s PIN when the transaction is carried out in a foreign currency. For example, we have found that Visa credit cards will approve foreign currency transactions for any amount up to €999,999.99 without the cardholder’s PIN, this side-steps the £20 contactless transaction limit in the UK. This paper outlines our analysis methodology that identified the flaw in the EMV protocol, and presents a scenario in which fraudulent transaction details are transmitted over the Internet to a “rogue merchant” who then uses the transaction data to take money from the victim’s account. In reality, the criminals would choose a value between €100 and €200, which is low enough to be within the victim’s balance and not to raise suspicion, but high enough to make each attack worthwhile. The attack is novel in that it could be operated on a large scale with multiple attackers collecting fraudulent transactions for a central rogue merchant which can be located anywhere in the world where EMV payments are accepted.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Emms M, Arief B, Freitas L, Hannon J, van Moorsel A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 21st ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS)

Year of Conference: 2014

Pages: 716-726

Print publication date: 03/11/2014

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Date deposited: 02/09/2014

Publisher: ACM


DOI: 10.1145/2660267.2660312

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781450329576