Chip and PIN flaws leave users open to theft

Remember when chip and PIN was first introduced? We were assured that this bright new technology was the safest and securest way to purchase goods. But a fatal flaw in the chip and PIN armour has been identified by scientists.

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Professor Ross Anderson, from the Cambridge University Computer Lab, has discovered a way to beat the PIN system and it could leave users open to theft.

According to Prof Anderson, thieves could be able to make purchases and even withdraw cash without any need for the magical four-digit PIN. Apparently, with the use of a small circuit board containing a computer chip, a transmitter concealed up the sleeve, and a backpack computer, a communication occurs so that a criminal, faced with the till or cash machine, can simply key in any random four-digit code to authorise the transaction.

The flaw was detailed and demonstrated on the BBC's Newsnight yesterday and Professor Anderson insists that banks may now need to rewrite the security software of the entire system. Consumer lawyer, Stephen Mason, told Newsnight: "The loopholes in the chip and PIN system are serious and I don't think they have been properly addressed by the banks. "They really have to think about this seriously."

Though credit card fraud initially fell following the introduction of the method, by the end of 2008 the number had risen by 43 per cent to £610 million. But the banks trade body, the UK Cards Association, refused to accept that the issue was a serious one, saying: "We believe that this complicated method will never present a real threat to our customers' cards."

Now if that isn't a red rag to a criminally inclined bull, we don't know what is.

Do you trust the chip and PIN system, or should the banks be doing more to protect us from theft?