Computer Crime Research Center


Chip-and-pin against credit card fraud

Date: September 06, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: complied by CCRC staff

The increased use of technology may actually make identity theft worse, according to research from the University of East Anglia.

In a speech at the BA Festival of Science on Wednesday 7 September criminologist Dr Emily Finch will report that human vigilance is the best bulwark against identity fraud, and that the increasing use of technology is taking humans out of the loop and making them less trustful of their own intuition.

Dr Finch will argue that studies of criminal behavior have shown that technological fixes like ID cards have little effect in cutting offending.

It was easy to obtain pin numbers by spying because many people did not bother to shield the pad properly as they entered the number. Criminals would then track the owner until a suitable occasion arose to steal the card. Dr Finch said her academic group won the trust of career criminals, interviewed them about their techniques and observed the way customers and retail staff responded to cards under varying circumstances.

"Our research has shown that fraudsters are tenacious, merely adapting their strategies to circumvent new security measures rather than desisting from fraudulent behaviour," she said.

The fundamental problem, said Dr Finch, was that "excessive reliance on technology to combat fraudulent behaviour leads to a breakdown in the vigilance that is customarily exercised, thus increasing rather than decreasing the opportunities for fraudulent behaviour". This was seen in shops, where chip-and-pin technology has made cashiers far less vigilant than they were.

The conclusions Finch reaches parallel those of some security experts who warn government attempts to sell identity cards as a means to combat ID theft are misguided. These and other objections to the UK government's ID card plans were outlined in a London School of Economics' study involving more than 100 academics published in March.

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