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Cyber forensics lab develops device to detect scammers

Cyber forensics lab develops device to detect scammers

Cyber forensics lab develops device to detect scammers
December 07
10:11 2018

The UNT Cyber Forensics Laboratory is working with local police departments on a project to detect skimmers — devices placed over swipe slots and sometimes keypads at sale terminals, gas pumps and ATMs. Project manager Scott Belshaw said the project is almost complete.

The project started about six months ago when the UNT Cyber Forensics Lab was contacted by the Criminal Justice Department at UNT to help understand skimmer technology, Belshaw said.

Other members of the project include three Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students and the Cyber Defense Lab — a Dallas-based forensics lab.

Belshaw said skimmers connect directly to the gas pump’s power supply and the device includes a Bluetooth chip, which enables thieves to retrieve stolen data wirelessly by pulling up to a pump or even opening up a laptop.

“We have developed a method to break into the memory chip for law enforcement and we are currently working on active criminal cases,” Belshaw said. “This enables them to get the information quicker by utilizing our method to retrieve data.”

Ritik Patnaik, a sophomore TAMS student, said he has been working in the Cyber Forensics Lab with Belshaw for the past two years and has had fun working on the skimmer project.

“There was an urgency to notify the card holders of the skimming attacks as soon as possible,” Patnaik said. “Cracking into the skimmers and sending the sensitive card data to the police departments was really satisfying as a student researcher because it showed me the positive impact my work can have.”

Time is valuable when working with skimmers, both Belshaw and Patnaik said, the quicker the skimmers are detected and “cracked” the more time the police department has to contact the victim and let them know their card(s) have been compromised.

“We have developed two technologies,” Belshaw said. “We have developed a quick way to access the memory on the skimmer to get the data from the chip. This can be tricky because the sophistication of the people [who] are building them. Sometimes they include passcodes that need to be broken to obtain the information. We can bypass this protections and get the information for the police.”

Belshaw said the lab is finalizing a patent on the “Skimmer Wand,” a technology device that will allow anyone to go to a gas pump and detect the presence of a skimmer, whereas other methods use Bluetooth detectors where the fault in Bluetooth technology is that it is “around everywhere.”

“Our wand will detect if the skimmer is in the gas pump,” Belshaw said. “This will help law enforcement and the gas station community in detecting these quickly so identities are not compromised.”

Studio art senior Wiley Reid said he is not surprised UNT researchers are working on ways to detect and prevent skimmers.

“I also think this project is good because even if they develop a technology or something that makes it easier, not everyone has access to that,” Reid said. “Just everyone being aware of [skimmers] as an issue will. That will probably solve the problem to some extent through just people being aware of it.”

Featured Image: The Unt Cyber Lab is working with local police to help cut down on gas pump skimmer, which send a customer’s card information to a source other than the gas station. Trevor Seibert

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Jacqueline Guerrero

Jacqueline Guerrero

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1 Comment

  1. marina michael
    marina michael December 17, 19:15

    Is it coding or programmable? Anyway, this should be appreciated and amazing work guys! it gonna be helpful

    Reply to this comment

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